How to Help: Why Saying You’ll Pray About It Is Not Enough.

A man is marooned on a deserted island. There is no help in sight. However, this is a man of faith, and he is confident that his God will save him. He cries out in prayer, “Lord, save me! Get me off this island!”

In the distance, the man finally sees that a boat is approaching. The captain calls out to him, offering to pick him up.

“No thanks,” the man replied, “God is going to save me. I will continue to pray.”

Over the next week, another two boats pass by, but the man does not get aboard, insisting that the Lord will save him from inevitable demise.

The man prays every day and every night to be saved. Then he dies of starvation.

At the Pearly Gates he cries to God, “Why did you forsake me, your faithful and devoted servant?!”

God said, “I sent you three freaking boats, what did you want from me?”


Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with saying that you’ll pray for someone. Plenty of people pair this sentiment with action. Everyone relays this message with good intentions in his or her heart. But anyone can see that it’s become a very common crutch for us to lean on when we don’t know what else to do. When we feel helpless, when we want to offer some comfort, saying we’ll pray for someone makes US feel better, and we tell ourselves that it is making them feel better as well. As good intentioned as we may all be though, I’m willing to bet not even half of us, every single time we’ve uttered this promise, actually stop what we’re doing in that moment and even pray.


I’m not debating the power of prayer, either. The truth is, I don’t know. Although it’s been a tumultuous year for me, faith-wise, I still continue to pray- I always have. But if praying was enough, I can’t wrap my mind around the reason for humanity at all. If our Creator intended for us to just be able to pray all our problems away, what would be the point of you and me? And it has to be FAIR too, right? Because John Doe has cancer and a million of his social media followers and his wife’s prayer group gets the entire city he lives in to pray for him all hours of the day, is his cancer more LIKELY to be cured than the little girl’s cancer in a foreign country, that no one knows about and no one prays to be healed, herself included, because she doesn’t even know how to pray, because no one was around to even tell her there was a God?

I don’t think so.

What if ALL Mother Teresa did was pray? What if she wasn’t there holding the sick people’s hands and bathing them and talking to them? What if MLK Jr. only prayed? If they didn’t also take action we’d have very different history books than we do today. Even the Bible would look much different, if all Jesus did was pray. It would be a very short book.


Today we have more resources at the tips of our fingers than we can even comprehend. If we don’t know how to help, we can just google it. That’s what I did this morning.


Venezuela is in a state of crisis. This hits home especially  hard for me because my mom married an amazing woman from Venezuela, and all of her family still lives over there, and they are suffering. And it’s nearly impossible for them to leave. So when she took to Facebook yesterday to spread awareness to this crisis, her post was inevitably flooded with promises of prayer and well wishes. I wanted to write the same thing, to let her know I read it, to let her know I was thinking of her, to let her and everyone else know how much I loved her. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t enough. I always pray for her and her family. What ELSE could I do? I read every comment, hoping someone was feeling the same way I did, hoping that there would be some constructive link that was shared.

There wasn’t, so I did the leg work myself. It took less than 5 minutes for me to find this article: 6 Easy Ways You Can Help the Crisis in Venezuela.

Then I said a prayer for good measure.

And if you’re cynical like me and don’t trust that all charities have the best of intentions, you can also read the comments in the article. Plenty of people who have family in Venezuela are also posting ideas, and what has worked for them and what hasn’t.

Then there’s Aleppo. This situation in Syria has fortunately received more media attention, and therefore it’s even easier to find ways to help. I figured Time Magazine is one of the more reputable sources, so check out this article.


Praying and donating money are perhaps the easiest ways to try and help the world, but there are thousands of other possibilities, things you can do to help the people around you. When I went through a bad breakup years ago, all the well wishes were very appreciated and always will be, but one of my best friends stocked my pantry full of junk food and sat around with me and watched cheesy girl movies, and another made me a thoughtful playlist full of great breakup songs. When someone you know gets diagnosed with an illness, the best thing you can do for them is go see them. Be with them, make them laugh. When your friend gets sent to prison (don’t scoff, with our justice system it’ll happen more often than not), taking 20 minutes out of your day to write and send a letter makes all the difference in the whole world. Same thing goes for your loved ones serving in the military, although now it’s even easier, you could actually email them in most cases.

The point is, there are a plethora of constructive ways to start to heal the world, and it all starts with our willingness to step outside of our comfort zones and dig just a little deeper. Please feel free to comment on this post with links, ideas, or things you’ve personally experienced that have helped you in a time of crisis.




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