Anyone involved in worship or production ministry is all too aware of the critical role that volume plays in worship services. Can the congregation hear the drummer? Do the people in the back row hear the Scripture reading? Are the words being sung loud enough to be understandable?
But whatever the ambient volume of the sanctuary, there is a more critical matter of volume and understanding at play. And it is one of the most glorious truths in the universe. It is implicit in our worship, but too seldom is it mentioned. When we gather to worship at our local churches, behind all our prayers and all our songs, behind all our exhortations and all our encouragements, is this stunning truth: God hears.
Has that simple, astonishing truth recently escaped you? Do you realize that, though God is all-powerful and present everywhere, he is not required to hear you? Would your engagement in corporate worship differ if you were more aware of that truth than the volume of the instruments?
Why We Don’t Hear
Consider the reasons why we cannot hear when someone calls to us.
Perhaps there is something wrong with our ears. My children often wonder if, after decades of performing live music, there is something wrong with dad’s hearing. Perhaps they are right and my hearing is failing — I prefer to think they are too far away when they are calling.
Perhaps the distance between the speaker and our listening eardrums is too far for the sounds to be intelligible. Or perhaps there is a social or relational gap between speakers and listeners, such as when a celebrity walking past a crowd believes himself too important to stop and listen to all the shouts from his adoring fans.
The God Who Hears
But consider the glorious God of the universe. First, God’s ears never fail. His hearing, after millennia of listening, is not fading. Second, God is never too far away to hear our cries. Though he is high, he regards the lowly (Psalm 138:6). These insights are precious.
Yet the glorious reality of God’s listening becomes clearest to me when I consider how God listens across the social and relational chasm between us. Philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, “By listening to what we say to God, the unsurpassable great God brings it about that this puny, defective act of ours becomes a link between us” (The God We Worship, 77). He continues, with understatement: “This is astonishing.”
It is astonishing that God — who is infinitely rich and never lacking — crosses the chasm and answers the poor and needy (Psalm 86:1). That God, who is completely righteous, hears those who need deliverance and rescue (Psalm 71:2). Even those in the midst of the darkest situations (Psalm 88:2, 6), the most distressing times (Psalm 102:2), and failing spirits (Psalm 143:7) can turn to God in prayer. Those facing adversaries (Psalm 64:1) or tearful sojourns (Psalm 39:12) can bring these concerns to the Lord.
Scripture promises us that God hears the prayers of the needy (Psalm 69:33) and the cries of the afflicted (Psalm 22:24). God hears at all hours of the day (Psalm 55:17), even in the day of trouble (Psalm 86:7), and begins his answer even before our request is fully spoken (Isaiah 65:24).
His Attentive Ear
Faith believes that God will hear and answer prayers (Psalm 17:6). This faith provides patience as believers await his answer (Psalm 40:1). Because God has previously brought relief in times of distress, believers call on him again and again (Psalm 4:1).
And while it’s true that God hears and delivers the righteous from their troubles (Psalm 34:17), even undeserving sinners can be sure that God hears their cries for mercy (Psalm 55:1). Because God is gracious, he hears our cries (Psalm 27:7), even to the point that he makes the words of our mouths acceptable in his sight (Psalm 19:14).
Amazingly, we can have even more confidence of this truth than the psalmist because his own Son purchased our access with his blood (Ephesians 2:18), pioneered our way into the Father’s presence (1 Peter 3:18), and sits in the place of honor at his right hand interceding for us (Hebrews 8:1).
So, believer, how would you pray today if you knew that God was listening? How would you sing if you knew God could hear?
God’s word tells us to call on him and bring our most difficult and most trying circumstances to his attentive ear. He is listening.