During last week’s holiday we stopped off in the delightful town of Tenterden. Penny shopped while I sipped. Cafe Nero (there are no other coffee emporia) provided me with the perfect combination of caffeine and reading space.
I was not disturbed, but I was distracted. Two people were already sat a few seats away as I began my reading reverie. Snatches of their conversation reached my ears. Daughters, work, friends and church were some of the many topics covered. But though the subjects varied, one thing did not – the speaker. I called it a conversation, but in fact it was a monologue.
They left at the same time I did, about 1 hour later. The speaker looked refreshed, the listener did not! I have no idea as to the relationship between them, or whether the balance of speaking/listening was right or wrong (the context is a blank for me). However, the incident made me reflect on my listening ability – and that of God.
I’m a reasonably good listener, from what people tell me, as long as I am prepared and in the right mood. Catch me when I’ve got things on my mind, and you will see me struggle to focus. Isn’t it amazing that God is not like this? Here are three things that reassure me that God is always an eager and ready listener.
- He hears the prayers of those seeking Him. We see this with the Gentile Cornelius, “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour..Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter…Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”” (Acts 10:30–33 NIV11) Peter was able to bring the Gospel to his household because God heard the prayers of someone unknown to Peter or any of the Apostles. One reason we Christians share our faith is because we believe God arranges meetings today just like those of the book of Acts.
- He hears the prayers of those submissive to His Will. The book of Hebrews describes the prayer life of Jesus in this way, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7 NIV11) Not all of what Jesus wanted was granted – the struggle in Gethsemane shows us Jesus would rather not have gone to the cross. But that scene also reveals the heart of Jesus – that he was willing to submit himself to the will of the Father even if that will was different to his own. Many of his other prayers were granted, and especially moving is his prayer for Peter, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”” (Luke 22:32 NIV11). Indeed, Peter’s faith did not ultimately fail, he did turn back and strengthen many brothers.
- He hears our prayers because of Jesus. If you’ve even felt unworthy in your praying, you’re in good company. But our prayers are not heard because we are worthy, but because of Jesus. As Paul tells us, “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:33–34 NIV11). And then again, the writer to the Hebrews says, “…he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 NIV11). The key here is not that Jesus died only, but that he now continues his new life with a purpose – to intercede for us who bear the weight of sin, and, sometimes, unnecessary guilt.