Seventeenth Sunday Ordinary-C

Does God Hear Your Prayers?

From a completely empirical perspective, the subject of prayer can be quite perplexing because God who is invisible doesn’t speak to us in the way we are accustomed to. While we certainly voice our words of intercession to God either silently, or even out loud, we do not hear God’s words spoken back to us in the same fashion. Nor do we have the luxury of reading non-verbal communication, the type that we are attuned to pick up when we visit with one another: the flash of a smile, the brightening of the eyes, the nod of the head, a frowned face.

In the midst of this, how do we know God is responsive to our pleas or our prayers? As believers our faith cuts through this objection and continually tells us that our God is a personal God, a God who implores us to constantly be in communication with Him. Jesus even tells us as much, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Jesus has given us the assurance that God indeed wishes us to call out to Him. But what about those times when our prayers seemingly go unanswered? The many times we have prayed for things we need or want and have seemingly been ignored.  

When we pray for assistance we may sound like Abraham pleading with God, Will you sweep away the Innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city? Or forty-five? Or thirty? Or twenty? Or just ten?” God responds to Abraham and assures him, “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy the city.” I would suspect that Abraham could have gone down even further, even to one solitary person. And I am sure that God would say, “For the sake of that one, that one, I will not destroy the city.” Even one person is enough to preserve, is enough to safeguard, is enough to save. We indeed have a God who cares about His people.

It was true with Abraham and those he prayed for, why isn’t the same response experienced when we beseech God at a certain point in time?  Why doesn’t he speak to us in a loving way just like the exchange with Abraham? Well, the truth of the matter is that He does. God does hear the prayers of all of His creation, and those prayers are answered, maybe not the way we had first conceived, but they are answered.

Looking at any situation when we have had the need to pray or nag God for something, for anything, it is difficult for us to think past the present moment. But God does not exist only in our present situation, He exists in the “eternal” present” which takes into account the enormity of all life, the full breath of each person’s life. So often, we are stuck in the present and it is almost like a “snapshot” of a particular time and place. All of us know that if we are to describe anyone’s life, a small snippet is woefully inadequate to explain such a life and so it is when we reflect on the efficacy of prayer. If this true, then why do we cling to such an outlook in our lives? Probably because it is very human to want the problem resolved immediately and to get on with life as usual. By being stuck in the ‘snapshot’ approach, it is no wonder that we feel that God does not hear our prayers. Further, it can explain why some do not believe that there is a God at all.

Our faith and trust in God must push us to look at prayer differently. Actually, this faith and trust moves us forward to look at life not from just a moment, but to see God’s providence in the wholeness of our life.  Once an urgent need has passed, and we have time to reflect the situation in retrospect, we can see the grace of God and notice our prayers answered, not necessarily in the way we would have expected a week ago, a month ago— but they are heard and answered. In faith we trust that God does lead us on paths that are in our best interests and He sees the whole picture clearly.

At the end of the day, we will not be disappointed with His response. It is often said that when a “door is shut, God opens a window or two.”

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