What Does It Mean To Cry OutTto God?
The Power of Crying Out: Relying on God in desperate times
Throughout history, believers have cried out to God in times of distress. Sometimes after years of praying, a single cry brings direction or deliverance instantly. Many have wondered why there are such powerful results from simply crying out to God, yet the promise is clear: “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15). Throughout Scripture, believers are instructed to cry out to God in times of trouble. Here are a few examples: “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15). “Cry to me and I will hear thee: and I will shew thee great things, and sure things which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 33:3). (Although not a command this next verse shows what God does when we cry out to Him.) “The just cried, and the Lord heard them: and delivered them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17). “When I cry unto thee, Then shall my enemies be turned back. In what day soever I shall call upon thee, behold I know thou art my God.” (Psalm 56:9).
Crying Out in Scripture
The following Hebrew and Greek words, their definitions, and the descriptions of how they are used in Scripture gives a clear picture of what it means to cry out.
- A cry of deep distress: zaaq (Hebrew) God
“And thou sawest the affliction of our fathers in Egypt: and thou didst hear their cry [zaaq] by the Red sea . . . and . . . didst divide the sea before them, and they passed through the midst of the sea on dry land” (Nehemiah 9:9–11).
- To cry out for help: tsaaq (Hebrew)
When the Israelites could not find fresh water in the wilderness, Moses “cried [tsaaq] to the Lord, and he shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, they were turned into sweetness.” (Exodus 15:25).
- To call with a loud sound: qara (Hebrew)
“Jabez called [qara] upon the God of Israel, saying: If blessing thou wilt bless me . . . . And God granted him the things he prayed for.” (I Chronicles 4:10).
- To shout a war cry: ruwa (Hebrew)
“And all the men of Juda shouted [ruwa]: and behold when they shouted, God terrified Jeroboam, and all Israel that stood against Abia and Juda.” (II Chronicles 13:15).
- A cry for help: shavah (Hebrew)
“He will do the will of them that fear him: and he will hear their prayer [shavah], and save them.” (Psalm 145:19).
- A cry of deep distress: tsaaqah (Hebrew)
“. . . he hath not forgotten the cry [tsaaqah] of the humble” (Psalm 9:12).
- To cry out: krazo (Greek)
When the Apostle Peter walked out on the water at the invitation of Jesus, Peter was “afraid: and when he began to sink, he cried out [krazo], saying: Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretching forth his hand took hold of him” (Matthew 14:30–31).
- To implore with strong voice: boao (Greek)
A blind man in Jericho heard that Jesus was passing near him. “And he cried out [boao], saying: Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. . . . And Jesus said to him: Receive thy sight: thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 18:38–42).
Characteristics of a Cry
Crying out to God is an act of desperation and total concentration. It is a fervent expression of faith in God and trust in His goodness and power to act on your behalf. Crying out to God expresses the following traits:
- Genuine humility
It is hard for people to admit that they cannot solve a problem or overcome an obstacle, but it is true that we need God’s help. He delights in a broken and contrite heart that humbly seeks His aid. “. . . he hath not forgotten the cry of the humble.” (Psalm 9:12; see also Psalm 10:17).
- Unconditional surrender
When a situation becomes so desperate that only God can deliver you, a cry represents total, unconditional surrender. Don’t try to bargain with God—leave your life in His hands. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).
- A plea for mercy
Apart from Christ, we have no value that merits God’s favor. When driven to a point of despair or destruction, your unworthiness before God often becomes more apparent, and it can motivate you to cry out to Him for mercy. “The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed: because his compassions have not failed. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23).
- Personal helplessness
Do you tend to believe that you need God’s help with only the really hard things? Remember, Jesus said, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
- Faith in God’s power and resources
Your cry to God acknowledges God’s ability to do what no one else can do. During the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples acknowledged Jesus’ power to rescue them when they cried out, “Lord, save us: we perish” (Matthew 8:25.)
Crying out to God is an admission of one’s need for God. The psalmist declared, “In my affliction I called upon the Lord, and I cried to my God: And he heard my voice from his holy temple: and my cry before him came into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6).
Examples of God’s Response to Crying Out
The Bible is filled with examples of times when God answered the cries of His people. Below are a few examples of occasions on which individuals cried out to God and God heard their cries and delivered them:
- Elijah cried out, and God revived a dead child:
“ And he cried to the Lord, and said: O Lord my God, hast thou afflicted also the widow, with whom I sojourn, so as to kill her son? And he stretched, and measured himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, and said: O Lord my God, let the soul of this child, I beseech thee, return into his body. And the Lord heard the voice of Elias: and the soul of the child returned into him, and he revived.” (I Kings 17:20–22).
- Jehoshaphat cried out, and God delivered him from death:
“So when the captains of the cavalry saw Josaphat, they said: This is the king of Israel. And they surrounded him to attack him: but he cried to the Lord, and he helped him, and turned them away from him.” (II Chronicles 18:31).
- Hezekiah cried out, and God gave him victory:
“Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed against this blasphemy, and cried out to heaven. And the Lord sent an angel who cut off all the stout men and the warriors, and the captains of the army of the king of the Assyrians: and he returned with disgrace into his own country. And when he was come into the house of his god, his sons that came out of his bowels, slew him with the sword.” (II Chronicles 32:20–21).
- Jesus’ disciples cried out to Him in a storm, and Jesus calmed the sea:
“And when they were sailing, he slept; and there came down a storm of wind upon the lake, and they were filled, and were in danger. And they came and awaked him, saying: Master, we perish. But he arising, rebuked the wind and the rage of the water; and it ceased, and there was a calm.” (Luke 8:23–24).
- Blind Bartimaeus called to Jesus, and He restored his sight:
“And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho, with his disciples, and a very great multitude, Bartimeus the blind man, the son of Timeus, sat by the way side begging. Who when he had heard, that it was Jesus of Nazareth, began to cry out, and to say: 'Jesus son of David, have mercy on me.’ And many rebuked him, that he might hold his peace; but he cried a great deal the more: 'Son of David, have mercy on me.’ And Jesus, standing still, commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying to him: 'Be of better comfort: arise, he calleth thee.' Who casting off his garment leaped up, and came to him. And Jesus answering, said to him: 'What wilt thou that I should do to thee?' And the blind man said to him: Rabboni, 'that I may see.' And Jesus said to him, 'Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole.' And immediately he saw, and followed him in the way.” (See Mark 10:46).
An Invitation From the Living God
Psalm 50:15 declares this Word from the Lord: “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” As children of the living God, our heavenly Father appeals to us to cry out to Him for deliverance. Let us be quick to cry out to Him with humility, sincerity, and faith. God “will do the will of them that fear him: and he will hear their prayer, and save them.” (Psalm 145:19).