“Are you listening to me?” I’ve asked this question hundreds of times throughout my years of teaching and parenting. The response “I heard you” is clearly not the answer for which I was hoping.
There is a definite difference between the two: hearing someone is simply perceiving the sound with your ears; listening takes notice of and acts on what someone says. Very few of us simply want to be heard. We long for someone to listen.
Psalms 116: 1-2 says “I love the Lord because he hears and answers my prayers. Because he bends down and listens. I will pray as long as I have breath!” What an intimate picture this brings to mind. Not only does God hear our prayers, he bends down and listens. He leans into us as we cry out to him. David knew that his God listened because he had answered his prayers over and over.
Somedays my prayers feel like whispers to the sky. I watch them flutter away and wonder where they will land. When I read David’s words in Psalms, I’m encouraged with a clear picture of what happens to those word wisps. God grabs them in his hand, puts them up to his ear, listens, and makes a plan to answer them. (If you want to be doctrinal, God already has a plan before my words are uttered.) It’s as if in that moment, the plan is unleashed and God begins moving the universe to answer. Oh, it might an imperceptible change that I cannot see, but a domino effect begins as the answer makes its way back to me.
Over the past few years, I’ve begun to look wholeheartedly for any hint of answered prayer. Usually, we look for one giant answer to arrive – like a package in the mail. God can answer that way, but often doesn’t. In fact, the answers most often come in bits and pieces.
Answered prayers aren’t only meant to met my earthly needs. They are radically important to my spiritual development. Learning to accept God’s answer even when it isn’t the one I formulated in my head is a huge part of spiritual maturity. Knowing God listens makes it so much easier to send those petitions skyward and wait confidently, which makes me agree with David: “I will pray as long as I have breath!”