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What does it mean to cry out to the Lord?

translate cry out to the Lord

We may be assured that God is neither callous nor indifferent toward His people during times of distress. He sees our tears, shares in our grief, understands our sorrows, and hears our cries of anguish and suffering. Our God is not deaf. He does not turn away from those who cry out to Him seeking comfort and relief.

To cry out is to speak loudly, often in an excited or anguished voice. Scripture speaks of the object of our crying out: we cry out to the Lord. That is, we lift our voices to Him in an appeal for help (see 1 Samuel 7:8; Psalm 38:8; 107:13, 19). When Peter was sinking in the waves, he cried out for Jesus to save him, and Jesus did (Matthew 14:30–31). Our cries to the Lord do not always have to be verbal. Hannah prayed in “deep anguish . . . but her voice was not heard” because she was “praying in her heart” (1 Samuel 1:10, 13). God hears our silent cries as well.

To cry out to the Lord is to reveal our absolute dependence upon Him. In our tearful pleas, we acknowledge our human frailties, weaknesses, and shortcomings—our inability to overcome the mounting problems before us. Our cries show that our trust is in Him to act on our behalf. We freely surrender self-will to His perfect, sovereign will.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15, ESV).

“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:15–18, ESV).

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!” (Psalm 56:8–9, NLT).

“The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them” (Psalm 145:14–19, ESV).

God lends His ear to the cries of individuals in their times of sorrow, but God also hears and responds to the corporate pleadings of His people. As the Hebrew people multiplied in Egypt, so did their suffering under the iron-fisted rule of Pharaoh. Hearing the mournful cries of His chosen people, God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and led them to the Promised Land. Nehemiah, who supervised the rebuilding of Jerusalem, wrote, “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters” (Nehemiah 9:9–11, ESV).

God also hears the cries of repentant sinners seeking forgiveness and deliverance. In Jesus’ parable of two men in prayer, one man is well pleased with himself; the other has a contrite heart. Hear what our Savior has to say about these two men:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10–14, ESV).

The corrupt tax collector, a Jewish traitor steeped in guilt and sin, approached God with a broken heart and begged for forgiveness. The Pharisee, an esteemed religious leader, saw himself as a shining example of godliness. Of these two men, God only heard the voice of the tax collector. Both men prayed, but only the tax collector truly cried out to the Lord.

Scripture does not teach that we are to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps; rather, we are to go to Him in times of trouble. God cares. He loves us. He stands with us and for us. He delights in coming to our rescue. We may rightly conclude that self-sufficiency is not an attribute of an obedient believer. In times of trouble, we are to cry out to the Lord.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022