Does God Hear All Prayers?
A friend of mine asked the question:
Does God hear all prayers? Does God even hear those mindless prayers?
I guess I could just pull out the Heidleberg Catechism. Hang on. Oh yes here is something that might work.
What belongs to a prayer which pleases God and is heard by him?
we must from the heart
call upon the one true God only,
who has revealed himself in his Word,
for all that he has commanded us to pray.
we must thoroughly know
our need and misery,
so that we may humble ourselves
we must rest on this firm foundation
that, although we do not deserve it,
God will certainly hear our prayer
for the sake of Christ our Lord,
as he has promised us in his Word
Ok We all know that God hears everything, since he is all knowing. But there are some things to clarify. As the Catechism alludes to, there are reasons why God won’t hear or answer prayers. So let’s go to Scripture. In the book of James we read that,
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
King David says in Psalm 66:18,
“If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened,”
There are so many verses that mention why God will not answer prayers, but John gets straight to the point when he writes,
“We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.”
God will not heed an unbeliever’s prayer, because the unbeliever has no right to come before the holy throne of God due to his sin. In fact the prayer of an unbeliever is so tainted with sin, that it is an abomination to God, as Proverbs 28:9 states,
“If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
even his prayer is an abomination.”
Makes sense…but what about believers? Aren’t we sinners too?
Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned.” And 1 John 1:18 expands on this, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” It is true, as believers we are all sinners too, sometimes worse sinners. But there is a fundamental difference between us and unbelievers.
That difference is found throughout scripture, and is beautifully explained in Galatians 3:
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law,imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
We are all “sons of God.” It is important to note that we are not just random children, one out 4 or 5 or a dozen kids, but we are heirs, that is, in Christ, we obtain the status of being the first-born son along with Him. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it so succinctly and beautifully in Lord’s Day 23 when in answer 60 it says
Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.
Belgic Confession Article 26 states about prayer,
“it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own worthiness, but only on the basis of the excellence and worthiness of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith.”
I can say with 100% certainty that God hears your prayers and will answer them, (though we may not like the answer). Not because of how much we mean what we are praying. Rather he hears our prayers because of who He is, and because of our status, or who we are to Him. He is our Father, and we are His beloved in Jesus.
But what about the mindless ones? Those prayers which we pray that are tainted with selfishness, or done without thinking? I am guilty of mindless prayer. Sometimes after dinner I just go through the checklist…thank God for food, health, forgiveness of sins, the bible etc…check, check check…and so on.
And my heart is not necessarily in it.
But I still believe that God hears these prayers. He may not be over pleased with our rote mindless prayer; He certainly desires that our hearts are in prayer. But it is very important to remember that none of our prayers are perfect. Even the ones that are done with focus, and love, and even if we can “feel” the presence of God erupting like a volcano as we pray in His will. Even these prayers are not perfect. There is no such thing as perfection on this side of heaven. It is important to understand that in and of ourselves, we can never please God in prayer.
But that is not meant to discourage anyone.
Christ, when he died for us, redeemed not only our souls and our bodies, but our prayers as well, in fact he redeemed everything about us.
At his ascension, Christ sent us the promised Holy Spirit to dwell in us as believers. Paul in Galatians 4 writes,
“Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Paul also says, in his letter to the Ephesian Church,
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for usthrough wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
So if we are in Christ, if we are co heirs with Jesus, then we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and what flows out of us in prayer must be heard by the Father…even our mindless prayers must, for he has promised it to be so.
But let’s try to avoid those mindless prayers. Is it not exciting that we have access to the creator of heaven and earth? That he has called us sons and daughters? That He bids us to come before him? Why wouldn’t that excite us!? How could we be so nonchalant about prayer? So though He hears us regardless, we ought to have respect when we pray. SO let’s ask the Spirit to perfect our prayers on all occasions.
The Spirit, knowing all our needs,
perfects our prayers and intercedes
for us, who cannot on our own
gain access to God’s holy throne.
He is himself the guarantee
that we shall be forever free
when Christ returns on his great day.
“O come, Lord Jesus, come,” we pray.