What does it mean to cry out to God?
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).
- “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).
- “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17).
- “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me” (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 “didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry [zaaq] by the Red sea . . . and . . . didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the 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] unto the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet” (Exodus 15:25).
- To call with a loud sound: qara(Hebrew)
“Jabez called [qara] on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed . . . . And God granted him that which he requested” (I Chronicles 4:10).
- To shout a war cry: ruwa(Hebrew)
“Then the men of Judah gave a shout [ruwa]: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel” (II Chronicles 13:15).
- A cry for help: shavah(Hebrew)
“He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry [shavah], and will save them” (Psalm 145:19).
- A cry of deep distress: tsaaqah(Hebrew)
“. . . He forgetteth not 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 beginning to sink, he cried [krazo], saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught 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 [boao], saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. . . . And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee” (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 forgetteth not 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. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 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 distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even 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:
“He cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (I Kings 17:20–22).
- Jehoshaphat cried out, and God delivered him from death:
“It came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the king of Israel. Therefore they compassed about him to fight: but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him; and God moved them to depart 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 and cried to heaven. And the Lord sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land” (II Chronicles 32:20–21).
- Jesus’ disciples cried out to Him in a storm, and Jesus calmed the sea:
“As they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they 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 was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.’ And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:46, ESV).
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.” 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 fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them” (Psalm 145:19).
This article is adapted from materials in the Anger Resolution Seminar.