Does God Listen When We Pray?

“Listening is an act of love.”

That’s what she told me years ago as we sat around the table in our Bible study group.

She said it with a laugh, because she was a talker.  She liked chatting, chatting, chatting.  Listening was the sacrificial gift she gave to others.

Sometimes one phrase like that sticks with you years later.  It presses that impression deep into your clay-heart and you can trace your finger along the imprint over and over, to remember, to act, to transform, to put it into practice.

It changes you.

Listening.  That’s the act of love we give to others.

We quiet our own renegade thoughts, stop trying to think of what we want to say next, stop tuning others out in order to turn our selfish eyes inward once again.

We listen.  Really listen.  We listen so we can pray and ask the right questions.  Yes, we listen so we can show love.

I take this to heart.  Me, the mom perpetually in the minivan.  Some days, my kids want to babble on so.  I live in a world of noise.

But when I start to nod my head without hearing and insert appropriate “Mmmm—hmmmms” at well-timed pauses simply to pretend like I’m listening to them (while I secretly revel in my own private thoughts), I stop.

Now I choose to listen, choose to value who they are and what they have to say.

And I remind myself of this: Listening is an act of God’s love to me.

He doesn’t just ask me to give this gift to others.  He gives it first.

I don’t always feel it, of course.  Sometimes I push out those breathy prayers and feel like nothing is changing.  He isn’t listening, isn’t understanding my need or even caring about my little self in my desperate situation.

Those prayers sure feel at times like they are hitting that proverbial ceiling.

The Psalmists understood.

David wrote,

Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth (Psalm 54:2)

and

“To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 28:1).

Asaph prayed the same:

“God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God” (Psalm 83:1).

That’s what we feel perhaps, and yet we’re assured that God hears our pure hearts when we pray.

God doesn’t tune us out or ignore us.

Psalm 10:17 says,

“Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts.  You will listen carefully” (HCSB).

He listens.  Not distractedly, absentmindedly, or halfheartedly.

God listens “carefully” to the desire of the humble.

Indeed, the Psalmist could say, “You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh”  (Psalm 38:9 NLT).  Even when we can’t cram our needs and feelings into words, God hears the very longings of our heart and every sigh of our overwhelmed soul.

When Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, surrounded by wailing mourners who blamed him for Lazarus’s death, He prayed with these words:

Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You heard Me. I know that You always hear Me….” (John 1:1:41-42 HCSB).

Jesus prayed boldly on the basis of the promise of God’s character:  He is the God who always hears us. 

In Beth Moore’s book, The Beloved Disciple, she issues a prayer challenge:

Every time you pray for the next week, begin your prayer with Christ’s words straight out of John 11:42, “I know You always hear me.”  Then conclude it with Christ’s words in John 11:41, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” Practice God’s presence!  Pray as if He’s really listening because He is!”

This is my prayer practice this week, the way I am pursuing the presence of Christ through my prayer life.

This week, I’ll continue breathing out those short 5-word prayers from last week.

But  in my longer prayer times, I begin each with: “I know You always hear me.”  And before I say, “Amen, ” I pray, “Father, thank You that You have heard me.”

Because He does hear me.  I just need the reminder and reassurance at times.  This great God, so Mighty, so Awesome, loves me and chooses to listen to me as an expression of that merciful love.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I focus on Praying Simply?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Made it to the bus with 30 seconds to spare

“I think it’s Career Day at school today,” she announces.

“No, I think it’s tomorrow,” her older sister explains.  “I wrote it in my agenda.”  She pulls out the book as evidence and shows us where she penciled it in.

“See….Dress like what you want to be when you grow up…. That’s tomorrow.”

“Who told you it was tomorrow?” I ask.

“My teacher.  She had it written on the board like this and I copied it in my book like she said.”

“Okay,” I turn to the other sister, “did your teacher tell you it was today?”

“No, but all the smart kids in my class except for me heard it on the announcements and they said it was today.”  She lists the name of every “smart kid” in her class that she can think of.  It’s a long list.

I turn back to the oldest girl.  “Did you hear it on the announcements?”

“No, but my teacher said….”

We’re right back where we started.

Easy enough, though.  We have the largest dress-up collection on the East Coast.  (I really need to check into whether we can get into the Guinness Book of World Records or something).

I ask the daughter who thinks Career Day is today (as in starting 20 minutes from now when the bus will pull up in front of our house) “Okay, what do you want to dress up as?”

A magician. Or maybe a clown. Or maybe a rabbit who has his own children’s show and entertains kids on TV.

Magician it is.

I find the black cape.  I scramble through the largest dress-up collection on the East Coast and find the hat (a little crushed perhaps, but still a hat).  I shuffle through the magic kit and pull out the magic wand.

Bam.  Magician’s outfit.

Then I fold it all up, pop it in the backpack and declare the solution to our entire morning crisis:  If Career Day is today, you can wear the magician’s outfit today.  If it’s not, keep it in your backpack until tomorrow.

I then zip up the backpacks, hand them to my daughters and toss open the front door.psalm16

It’s raining.  I grab umbrellas and hand them out.

We make it to the bus with 30 seconds to spare.

Thirty whole seconds.

Because we’re awesome like that.

The sky is that curious ashen white of winter and the rain drips rhythmically on the roof as I flop down onto the sofa, cradling my baby boy close and holding my Kindle in the other hand.

I’m looking at dishes in the sink and the aftermath of the morning whirlwind of pajamas, blankets, ponytail holders, brushes, and more.

But then I open that Kindle up and there’s the Bible.  It tells me right there that even when the world was a nothingness of empty void, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).

Maybe that’s how I feel right then, like His Spirit hovers over the start of this new day.  Like He’s present and waiting for the invitation not just to enter in, but to roll up His sleeves and nehemiah8create something beautiful–something “good”— in the middle of the noise and mess and all the busyness.

Yesterday, my four-year-old pantomimed what looked to me like an outfielder in baseball, dropping a mitt to the ground and snatching up a ball.

As she did, she said, “God scooped up the dust of the earth and “whooo” blew His breath and made man.”

Just like that, she says it, like the sing-songy rhythm of a well-choreographed routine.

I read it this morning again, “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).

I take a deep breath, letting that air fill me up after the suffocation of the morning stress, and I pray—

Lord, don’t let it just be a day when Your Spirit hovers over my life.  Breathe Your breath right into me and let me feel Your presence.

Because even on the hard days, the sad days, the crazy days, ,the hectic days, the stressful days, the fun days, the unexpected days….

You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your presence is abundant joy;
in Your right hand are eternal pleasures
(Psalm 16:11 HCSB).

And you know something else, His presence isn’t just the  joy I need right here in the middle of  a rainy winter day after a morning rush.

It’s this:

For the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV),

In His presence, there is abundant joy, and that joy is the strength I so desperately need.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!
To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King