Sometimes I feel as though God isn't listening to my prayers.
Is that feeling even biblical? Doesn't God hear everything and listen to all of my prayers?
I thought that Jesus listened to every single one of my prayers and then decided whether to answer yes or no. At least, that is what I had been told. I heard people say, "sometimes He answers yes, sometimes He answers no, sometimes He answers wait."
Regardless of the answer, the idea that God always listened was assumed.
Recently, though, I read a passage that made me think God might not be listening to my prayers at all. Not because He is limited and can only pay attention to a finite quantity of prayers, but because He is choosing not to listen.
Listening vs Hearing
The difference between hearing and listening is huge.
I might hear someone say something, but did I listen to them, pay thoughtful attention, have a conversation with them, and consider their ideas?
hear (verb) : to perceive or become aware of by the ear
listen (verb) : to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration
Even though God hears my prayers, He might not listen to them.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
'Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Fasting Doesn't Mean Much If We Aren't Loving Others
(4) Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.
I could spend all day praying and seeking God with passion, and yet He says that is not what He wants.
(6) Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Anyone who starts to look into the circumstances of garment workers will know that the industry's profit is built on what we would feel is unfair and oppressive if we were in the worker's shoes.
What's The Hold up?
I love sales. I love discounts. I love the feeling that I got a lot for my money. "I found this _______ for $___!" I enjoy saying.
What is holding me back from buying responsibly produced items? Often, it is the prices. They are more expensive.
Sometimes the extra effort required to find responsibly produced items is all it takes to discourage me from shopping with my neighbor in mind.
I don't want to put in the extra effort and feel as though I'm paying a lot for something. I would prefer to turn a blind eye to the worker's condition so that I can get lower prices and make my life easier.
"It would take me so long to search out an item made that way. And when I do find it, it's going to be way more expensive." That's my honest gut feeling a lot of the time.
No wonder God doesn't want to listen to what I say or what I am asking for.
"Ignorance feels better than disobedience." - Francis Chan, Letters to the Church
I often don't want to know what is going on behind the scenes. If I knew, I would have to act.
I want to stick my fingers in my ears and say la la la la so I don't have to hear about other people's troubles. I just want to go about my business the way I always have. I just want to stay out of it.
But, I know that ignorance is disobedience when I could have chosen to investigate. When I could have chosen to care.
The essence of Isaiah 58 is a spirit of caring. If I care, I investigate.
When I plan on making an expensive purchase, you better believe I do a lot of investigating. Big money = lots of investigating. Why? Because I care about my money.
In the same way, shouldn't I be doing a lot of investigating on EVERY purchase because it affects my neighbor? Why? Because I care about my neighbor.
If it was my sister working in those conditions, I would listen to her troubles and try do something. I wouldn't buy from the company that sourced from her factory. And I would tell others not to buy from them unless they change their ways.
I Talked To Him About My Heart
I was honest with Him. I told Him that I cared about these people, but these problems looked bigger than me. I just wanted to carry on.
It seemed as though He told me, "I know that you love low prices and getting more for your money instead of wanting fair pay and good working conditions for others. I want you to love Me and love others above all else. Do you love the people who produce what you buy?"
"Yes. I love them."
"Then stop buying from anyone who doesn't treat their workers the way I would treat them." He seemed to answer.
How amazing would it be to repent and tell Him, "I have sought out all forms of oppression that I might be supporting and have ended those actions."
He Will Listen
The great news is that God will listen to my prayers when I stop participating in a system that thrives on taking advantage of the poor. He will answer. He will draw close.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.