The Beatles may have sung about ‘Help!’ but they never sang about ‘Please!’ We cry ‘Help!’ because we recognise in the complexity that is our daily life that we cannot do this alone. But, when our prayer life itself grows and becomes thus more complex we realise that prayer is more than crying ‘Help!’ for ourselves. We learn to also cry ‘Please!’ for others in their time of need.
The cry of ‘Help!’ rarely happens in the Gospels, it is dwarfed by the number of times people come to Jesus and cry ‘Please!’. When Jesus hears this cry of ‘Please!’ his response is often summarised by the Gospel writers using a really fantastic verb; the verb is ‘splanchnizomai’. This Greek verb, one of my favourites, describes Jesus as being moved by a powerful and intense emotional response that comes from the depth of his very being. In the King James, they chose the word ‘bowels’ to describe how deep an emotional response it is. A more contemporary way of saying this is to compare it to the intense pain a woman feels in the depths of who she is when in childbirth; a pain I personally have no experience of!!
‘Help!’ describes the intensity of what petition is, that is when we pray for ourselves when we feel utterly being out of our depth and helpless. ‘Please!’ describes that same intensity but this time is for intercession, of when we pray for others.
We are not to imagine that ‘Please!’ is a better form of prayer than ‘Help!’ since Jesus himself commands us to do both. Instead, we are to discipline ourselves to include both within our praying as both are legitimate and appropriate responses to the complexity of life itself.
To pray ‘Please!’ is a sign that we have lifted our heads above those things which legitimately dominate our hearts, our minds and our souls.
It is a sign that we have understood Jesus’ prayer because we have allowed it to enter not just who we are but for it to mould and shape the way we ourselves pray.
It is a sign that we are learning to become a little bit more like Jesus in how we think, we see, we hear, we feel and how we even pray.
‘Splanchnizomai’ is a wonderful verb. It is the heart and soul of ‘Please!’ because it is the heart and soul of our own response to those we see in need.