Sometimes simplest prayer can work wonders

The woman was definitely being a nuisance. She was following Christ and his disciples and calling out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!” It seems her daughter was being tormented by a demon, and she was desperate.

Unfortunately, the woman was a Canaanite, a group disdained by the Jews, which surely added to the annoyance factor. The disciples were so irritated, they asked Christ to send her away, perhaps forgetting cruelty wasn’t his style.

At first Jesus remains silent, despite her impassioned plea, and a less determined person might give up, but she holds her ground. Then he says something that could seem cold: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

This statement obviously excludes her, since she’s not Jewish, but instead of becoming discouraged, she shows him great respect by kneeling down before him and begging him: “Lord, help me.”

Keep in mind the disciples are right there, watching this interaction and no doubt wondering why their master is conversing with her. Also, keep in mind this meeting between the woman and Jesus, which occurs in Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, may seem accidental, but it was part of the big plan. You see, Christ knew the future and traveled to the region of Tyre and Sidon especially to meet her.

His next statement might discourage a person of lesser faith: “It is not good to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” He softens the blow by using the word for “pet dog,” which has an affectionate ring. And although Matthew doesn’t give us this detail, I imagine her smiling at Christ, as she comes back with a clever rejoinder: “Please, Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

What’s the lesson here? For one, this woman desperately wants her daughter to be healed, and is willing to humble herself. She will go under the table, she will take the scraps, as long as her daughter is healed! A haughty person might have walked away in a huff at the mention of dogs, but nothing will dissuade her.

Second, she is persistent and steadfast in her prayer, which reminds us to persevere. There may be times when we feel like God has bigger fish to fry and has stuffed our prayers into his in-box.

We may think he’s listening to people who know the “right” way to pray, but this story reveals how simple a prayer can be: “Lord, help me!” She receives the ultimate compliment, when Jesus rewards her persistence by saying, “O woman, great is your faith!”

In “Confidence in God,” Daniel Considine describes the simplicity of prayer: “If you find life difficult, tell him so; hard to be good, tell Him so. You are suffering, or at any rate you cannot pray — you regret it — tell God so, that is prayer.”

The Canaanite woman is the picture of humility, unselfishness and motherly love. She’s not asking anything for herself, only for her daughter — and the story ends on a happy note, when her daughter is healed.

Although she’s not named, countless people have read about this woman down through the ages, and, like Jesus, have marveled at her vibrant, unwavering faith.

Lorraine’s email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.