The God who listens

One of our basic human needs is the need to be heard. This fundamental truth can be seen by the way we communicate today. Simply peruse social media, and you will see legions of people who desire that their feelings and opinions be heard. You comment and you post and you share because you hope someone is listening. But even if everyone tunes you out, the one who matters will still hear you and answer.

1 John 5:14‭-‬15
This is the confidence which we have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

After years and years of learning about God and having a relationship with him, it still astounds me that He seeks to comfort us in our time of questioning. John talks about the remarkable confidence we have in knowing that God hears us and is listening. The reason we have confidence is that God confirms that He is listening. We cannot see him, and often we cannot feel him, but we can still have this confidence. It comes from seeing the hand of God work as we share our prayers with him. God’s movement shows us that He actively listens by responding to us with answers.

One key lesson about prayer is that God does not move outside of his will. What He causes to occur must conform to his character and perfect nature. This includes withholding from us that which we ask if it serves no holy purpose. When we ask God to move, we must desire that He move according to all that He is. This is why scripture instructs us to continue renewing our minds so that we may know the good and perfect will of our Father in heaven. We will know what to pray when we know his will. If we pray for that which is within his will, we will receive it. This is our remarkable confidence, but we only have this confidence when we approach as representatives of his Son.

John 16:23‭-‬24
In that day you will not ask Me about anything. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until now you have not asked for anything in My name; but now ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy may be full and complete.

This scripture describes the moment when Jesus gave his disciples a stamp of approval for prayer. Until then, they were not instructed to pray to the Father in the name of the Son. Even the prayer that Jesus instructed them to pray, which we commonly call the Lord’s prayer, makes no reference to the Son. Here, Jesus tells his disciples that they have the right and privilege to seek from the Father as if the Son were seeking from the Father. Approaching the Father and asking him for something in the name of Jesus is simply showing a credential giving the authority to approach the Father as Jesus did.

When we ask in the name of Jesus, we are asking as one of his. This means that we make our request as He would make his request. What stands out about the prayers of Jesus we read in scripture is that they sought the will of the Father for the good result. Even when Jesus asked for relief in the garden of Gethsemane, He was clear to tell the Father that He ultimately desired the Father’s will above all. Despite knowing what awaited him and asking for another way, He still submitted to the will of the Father in the end. Our model for prayer to the Father in the name of Jesus is clearly illustrated by the prayers of Jesus himself, seeking goodness according to the Father’s will.

Psa. 34:15
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry.

It is no surprise, then, that the Father should keep his eyes and ears focused on those who follow his Son. There are many reasons why we might think that God does not listen to us when we pray to him. One of those reasons is that we are fallen and imperfect. And although sin can get in the way of our prayers, repentance can change that. If we rely solely on ourselves, then repentance is not an option, and the Father’s ears are not inclined toward us. But if we walk according to the teachings of the Son, and we seek the forgiveness that He offers, then his righteousness is imputed to us. That is how the Father hears our cries as righteous people.

God answers the prayers that are in line with his will. Thus, it is fitting that He would respond to the prayers of those who carry the righteousness of Jesus Christ, as they walk according to the Spirit. We cannot carry or produce righteousness on our own. Jesus allows us to carry his righteousness and have the same type of prayer relationship that He had with his Father. God the Father hears us the same way He heard Jesus while He was on Earth. We can expect that He would answer us the same way He answered Jesus. We see in scripture the Father’s response to the prayers of this righteous man, and that is what is available to us today.

Jam. 1:5‭-‬6
If any of you lacks wisdom, he is to ask of God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a billowing surge of the sea that is blown about and tossed by the wind.

The manner in which we are instructed to pray for wisdom is the same manner in which we should pray for all things. It may seem obvious that we should pray in faith, but too often we do not. To pray in faith means that we do not question God’s ability to answer our prayers. We can be unsure of what God’s will is in a certain situation and still have complete faith that He will bring about his will. When we pray in faith, we believe and trust that He is listening and will respond even if that response is not the one we prefer. We are to pray with confidence that God is listening and faithful to carry out his will.

Praying out of doubt can take several forms. One form it can take is the attitude of being unsure whether God listens to our prayers. This can result from not seeing God move as we have requested in the past or from experiencing a crisis of our faith and questioning the reliability of God’s truth. Another form this can take is that of testing God. He invites us to test him only in the area of finances. Outside of that, we are to trust. When we ask God to move in a certain way in order to prove to us that He can do it, this is a prayer of doubt. It is not for us to ask our Father in heaven to prove his case. If we have faith, then we take him at his word and believe that our prayers are being heard by the One who can do anything.

John 9:30‭-‬31
The man replied, “Well, this is astonishing! You do not know where He comes from, and yet He opened my eyes! We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone fears God and does His will, He hears him.”

The attitude with which we lift our prayers to God matters. We are to fear and respect him, and our manner of living should reflect that. When the fruit of good living is produced by healthy fear, we know our prayers will be heard. Part of this godly fear is the recognition that we do not pray out of an emotional response to our circumstances. If we pray out of worry or fear of what we see in the natural, we bow down to something other than the Father. Our requests should not be born of earthly anxiety or insecurity. If we pray from this place, we have allowed our circumstances to control us.

Our prayers are to come from a place of confidence in God. When we fear him, we understand the magnitude of his greatness. We confess that He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. We understand that He is greater than anything that can come up against us in this world. We pray from a place of fearlessness because of our confidence in him. Regardless of whether He saves us from the furnace, we trust in his will and still have confidence in him. To pray with a right fear of God is to trust in his perfect response every time and to know that no trouble or circumstance can defeat us. He will work things out for our good, and we hold to that truth.

God hears those who share his heart and Spirit. When we come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, we tap into a great conduit of prayer. We can come to the Father as representatives of the Son, clothed in his righteousness, and ask him to intervene on our behalf. As we are sanctified and made more like Jesus Christ, we begin to learn the will of the Father and pray accordingly. When we carry his Spirit and his heart, and we transform into the likeness of his Son, we are praying no more than that which the Father desires himself. And when we pray according to his will with a proper fear for who He is, God listens and answers every time. In this He does not fail, and in this we cannot doubt.