Have you ever been talking to someone only to figure out they were only looking at you, but not listening? It’s frustrating. You’re going through the emotions that you feel, describing each detail to them and they aren’t even paying attention. Would you go back to that person the next time you needed the support of a listening ear? No! You wanted someone to listen and to help you, and they weren’t even giving you the respect of listening.
Have you ever felt like God was that way? Have you felt like you poured out your heart to Him in prayer, but it was like He wasn’t listening? It’s frustrating to be in prayer and to feel like your prayers aren’t escaping the room you’re in. Maybe you’ve tried praying louder or just sat there weeping in that place crying out to God for mercy. In any case, God is not like us. He does not have selective hearing. He hears every prayer, even those that seem to fall flat on the floor.
In Psalm 116:1-2, the Psalmist wrote, “I love the Lord, because he hears me; he listens to my prayers. He listens to me every time I call to him” (GNT). God hears every prayer you’ve ever prayed from the silent ones that you could barely muster the energy to say to the loud “can you hear me” prayers. When you and I pour out our heart before God, we have a guarantee that He hears us and listens to us.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
I have a friend who has a favorite quote that he has to use often. He plans out his week, prioritizes things and works his plan. All week long people come to him and ask him to stop what he’s doing in order to help them. They give excuses and sob stories to try to get him to stop what he’s doing so he can work on their project. Some will even invoke the boss’ name to try to get him to work on their stuff. “The boss says you need to work on this right away.” He’s learned that rarely has the boss ever asked him to stop what he’s doing in order to do an immediate request. So his normal response is, “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” He then adds them to his list and gets to them later.
Being around him and watching people beg, barter and demand he do their project now always gets me to thinking how often I treat God that way. “God, if you get me out of this, I’ll do better next time.” “God, please! I need you to do this right now! Hurry!” “God, your Word says you have to do this and you can’t be untrue to your Word, so do it in Jesus name!” Sound familiar? I’ve prayed every one of those prayers in the last couple of weeks. I try to paint God into a corner in order to get Him to give me what I want. If that’s the on,y time we’re talking and that’s how I’m treating Him, there’s a spiritual maturity problem on my end. The phrase, “Thy will be done,” often comes to mind in those moment when I want it to be, “My will be done.”
In Psalm 69, David starts his prayer off, “Save me, O God! The water is up to my neck; I am sinking in deep mud, and there is no solid ground; I am out in deep water, and the waves are about to drown me” (GNT). He’s clearly in an emergency situation as he describes throughout this Psalm. However, in verse 13, his tone changes and he prays, “But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose.” Instead or telling God when to help or even how to help, a sign of maturity is asking God to help in His time and in His way. I often wonder how many of my prayers go unanswered or that I don’t recognize the answer because I tell God how and when to answer, but those aren’t what His plans are. Jesus started the Lord’s Prayer giving God permission to have His will be done. Since He was teaching us to pray, let’s focus on the words we use in our prayers to make sure we’re asking according to His will and not ours.
Hearing is one of your five senses. It’s something we all do passively. It requires no effort on our part to hear things. Everywhere we go, we’re bombarded by sounds that our ears have learned to tune out. Because of that, sometimes when someone is talking to us, we hear them, but we’re not listening to them. When we have something important to say to someone and they don’t respond, we usually ask, “Are you listening to what I said?” We don’t just need them to hear the sound of our voice. We need them to pay attention, to comprehend what we’re saying and to do something about it. There’s a big difference between passively hearing and actively listening.
There are times in our lives when we pray to God where we don’t just want Him to hear our prayers. We need Him to listen to them and take action. In those times of desperation, our prayers are cries from the bottom of our heart going straight to the Father. We need Him to listen to our requests, to pay attention and to intervene. I’ve prayed many of these prayers in my life. Some have been answered and some have gone unanswered. No matter what, I know that God listens to more than the words of our prayers. He hears our heart – the pain and desperation inside. Like a good father, He bends down and says, “Don’t fear. I hear you and am working out my plan for you.”
Here are some Bible verses on asking God to listen to our prayers.
1. Listen to my prayer, O God, And do not hide Yourself from my plea. Listen to me and answer me; I am restless and distraught in my complaint.
PSALMS 55:1-2 AMP
2. Lord, bend down to listen to my prayer. I am in deep trouble. I’m broken and humbled, and I desperately need your help.
Psalms 86:1 TPT
3. GOD, listen! Listen to my prayer, listen to the pain in my cries. Don’t turn your back on me just when I need you so desperately. Pay attention! This is a cry for help! And hurry—this can’t wait!
Psalm 102:1-2 MSG
4. I love the Lord, because he hears me; he listens to my prayers. He listens to me every time I call to him.
Psalm 116:1-2 GNT
5. You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!” Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.”
If you have lived very long, you’ve been through some diffuse times. Maybe you’ve cried out, “God where are you in all this? Why don’t you show up and intervene? Have you forgotten me? Why can’t you hear me? I need your help desperately and you’re not answering!” I know I’ve used those words in my prayers before. It seems sometimes that when we need God the most, He is quiet. When we pray those desperate prayers and it appears to fall on deaf ears, it hurts worse. Your mind may even start to wonder what you’ve done wrong because it feels like God has left you when you’ve needed Him most.
I don’t know why we go through these times, but I do know that you’re not the only one who has gone through them or felt that way. In Psalm 77, Asaph, who was King David’s chief musician, went through times like that and recorded his prayers. Can you hear the desperation in verses 7-9? “Would you really walk off and leave me forever, my Lord God? Won’t you show me your kind favor, delighting in me again? Has your well of sweet mercy dried up? Will your promises never come true? Have you somehow forgotten to show me love? Are you so angry that you’ve closed your heart of compassion toward me?” (TPT)
First of all, it’s normal to feel those feelings and to ask those questions, but don’t stay in that place. If you do, those feelings can allow bitterness in and it can drive you away from God. Instead, do what Asaph did and remember the character of who God is. Verses 11-12 say, “Once again I’ll go over what GOD has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts” (MSG). When you quit focusing on why God isn’t intervening and remember His character, you flip the table and your faith grows. You get the strength to begin doing what you need to be doing in your situation while you wait for God to show up and do His part.
Recently two Florida teens were swimming in the ocean when they were pulled away from shore. They found themselves two miles from shore. The waves were choppy and the current was strong. After treading water for two hours, their strength was giving out. Hope was gone as reality was setting in. In desperation they cried out to God, “If you really have a plan for our lives, just bring something!” It was about that time that a boat named “The Amen” was going by, thought they heard something in the water and found them. They were rescued from their situation and returned safely to shore.
I haven’t been in a situation like that before, but I have been desperate for God to answer in a hopeless situation. Desperate prayers cut through our religious jargon we like to say to God. They are the most authentic prayers and that’s why I believe God answers so many of them. Our need for God to move will increase our faith in Him and His ability to intervene. God desires that we would have that same desperation for Him even when our circumstances aren’t dictating that need. We are all eternally hopeless without Him. It’s time our lives, our prayers and our relationship with Him reflected that kind of desperation.
Here are some Bible verses on desperation.
1. I was desperate for you to help me in my struggles, and you did!
Psalms 120:1 TPT
2. When the woman realized she couldn’t hide any longer, she came and fell trembling at Jesus’ feet. Before the entire crowd she declared, “I was desperate to touch you, Jesus, for I knew if I could just touch even the fringe of your robe I would be healed.”
Luke 8:47 TPT
3. For when I was desperate, overwhelmed, and about to give up, you were the only one there to help. You gave me a way of escape from the hidden traps of my enemies.
Psalms 142:3 TPT
4. GOD is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, No matter how desperate the trouble.
Nahum 1:7 MSG
5. When I had nothing, desperate and defeated, I cried out to the Lord and he heard me, bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.
One of the stories on the Bible that speaks to me every time is in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah wasn’t able to have a child so she was ridiculed, taunted, bullied and shamed. Year after year this went on. One year she had enough. Instead of attacking her bully, she went into the Sanctuary to pray. She wept bitterly before God, crying out in prayer for a long time. As she prayed, her lips were moving, but the words were coming from her heart. She wasn’t leaving until God answered her prayer for a son.
Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). One of the first questions that comes to my mind is, “When is the last time I prayed with that kind of desperation?” Most of our prayers are simple ones with little emotion. I believe one of the reasons God answered Hannah’s prayer, and will answer ours, is because it was fervent and came from deep within her soul, not just her mind.
Verse 12 says, “Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time” (GNT). I’ve heard the saying, “Don’t pray until you’re through. Pray until you’ve prayed through.” This is where it is applied. Too many times, we ask God for something and when He doesn’t answer right away, we quit praying. Hannah didn’t just pray for a long time, she prayed a long time for years. God uses her internal torment to develop a life of prayer. She wasn’t going to stop until she got her answer. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is because of persistence.
After the Eli, the priest, had told her God would answer her prayer, verse 18 says, “Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (NLT). Hannah believed God would answer and acted accordingly. She didn’t let the years of God not answering prayer create doubt. She held onto the promise and acted in faith before God answered. She quit believing the words of the bully and held onto God’s Word instead. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is when we act in faith.
Several years ago, I attended a conference of authors for authors. One of them spoke on the importance of turning in your work by the deadline. In fact, he spoke of how he tries to beat the deadline by as much as he can. His reasoning was that the longer the editors have his work, the better it will be. Plus, he thought of it as the gift of time to them. He wanted to give them time to do their work instead of making them rush when he turns everything in at the last minute.
Sometimes I wish God had that philosophy! In all my years of praying and needing something from God, it’s never been early. I’ve been sweating it out, praying so hard that I can’t sleep and God showed up just in the nick of time with the answer. I’ve figured out He doesn’t work on my timetable. Many times I felt like He was late in answering my prayers, but it turned out that it was right on time.
There have been times where I’ve prayed for Him to respond because I thought it was critical, but He didn’t. In those moments, I felt crushed, defeated and disappointed. Looking back on those moments, I can see why God didn’t answer. There was something better waiting that I couldn’t see. Though I felt crushed in the moment, overall, God has proved that He will do what is right for my life and just barely beat the deadline.
Micah 7:7 shares my sentiments and confidence in God to do the right thing in my life. It says, “As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me” (NLT). Even though I have many seemingly critical prayers that have gone unanswered, I still look to God for help when I need it. I’ve learned to confidently wait for Him to meet a His deadline, not mine, and I know He hears me when I pray.
Recently I was working on our dishwasher. At one point, I got on my knees and looked up. As I looked around the kitchen, I thought, “This is the way my four year old looks at the kitchen.” My mind went back to when I worked at a childcare center. The owner used to make us crawl around on our hands and knees so we could see what the kids saw. We could then move things into their view and know their perspective.
I think that’s what Jesus did when He came in the flesh. He only had one view of earth and that was from the top down, just like I had in the childcare center. Until He walked this land, He had never imagined where Heaven was. He had never looked up and experienced man’s view of the heavens and understood how powerless we feel to reach them. He truly felt our limitations and feelings of insignificance in this universe.
Hebrews 2:17 says, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God” (NLT). Now that He has our perspective, He can be our greatest intercessor. Since He came from Heaven, walked the earth, and returned to Heaven, He can empathize with our prayers and speak to God the Father on our behalf.
The next verse says, “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” He became like us to help us. He humbled Himself, got on His hands and knees so to speak, to become frail like us so He could fully understand us. We can’t pray and tell God He doesn’t understand because He does. We can’t hide our emotions because He’s experienced them. So whatever you’re going through, be open and honest in your prayers, and let Jesus help you through it. He’s been in your shoes.