How Do We Know That God Hears Us?
Today and tomorrow I'll be continuing my thoughts on prayer with reflections on how to understand how/if our prayers are really heard/answered by God.
My youngest son Jacob almost drowned in our pool when he was a little boy.
We lost track of him for a second, and when I looked out at the pool, to my horror I saw a flash of his shirt in the water by the edge of the pool.
In seconds, I was at the edge where he'd fallen in and saw him underwater with his eyes open in terror as he was drowning. It was a horrible sight that I will never forget.
When I got him out, I turned him over and started pounding his back, and he choked up all the water in his lungs and began screaming bloody murder.
I remember holding him and saying over and over to God, "You gave my son back to me, you gave my son back to me." I hadn't even realized that I'd been praying before, pleading with God for him to live.
As I reflected on it all much later, I remembered a family who had come into the emergency room of the hospital where I was serving as a chaplain. Their little boy had drowned in their pool. I still can see him. It looked like he was just sleeping there on the gurney.
I am sure they prayed over him--even as they pulled him out of the water. And afterward, and to the bitter end of it all.
Why did God seem to answer my prayers and not theirs? Were mine better? And what about all of the times that I've prayed and there has been nothing but silence?
Honestly, I can't even begin to answer those kinds of questions in a short devotion--it would take pages, and even then whatever I might say wouldn't be enough.
So, I come back to this... When I take these doubts and questions to God in prayer, I begin to get a sense of where God is in the middle of all our desperate petitions and cries for help or anguish. God is with us.
God is with us when the outcome is in our favor--rejoicing with us as we rejoice. God is with us when we suffer loss, unimaginable sorrow, brokenness, and fear--mourning with us as we mourn.
My prayers in those moments are the words of Jesus himself: God! Where are you? Why aren't you here? Why am I alone?
God's own words... God's own heart... God's own cry for help... God's own presence all around me, in me and through me--feeling all that I feel and knowing exactly what it means to be me...
God hears because God is there.
May you feel the presence of God today as you pray--no matter what your situation might be. Know that God is with you as you rejoice, and will most certainly be with you when you are in anguish and in need.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.