How to Know if God Really Hears You
- Elisa Morgan Author
- 2020 13 May
How do you know that God hears you when you pray? I mean, really hears you? I asked this question on social media and received two clear responses over and over again: answered prayer – and the fact that God says He hears us in Scripture.
In 1 John 5:14 we read, “If we ask anything according to his name, he hears us.” The word for “hears” is akouo and it means to pay attention and to respond on the basis of having heard.
God Hears You through Answered Prayer
Over my lifetime, I can count on one hand the number of occasions when God specifically and personally revealed that he does, indeed, listen to my cries.
- My Hannah-like pleas for a child that were answered after nearly five years through adoption.
- My late-night prayer coverage of a teen who was tardy for curfew but who did eventually arrive home.
- Communal prayers for a ministry’s financial need breaking forth into praise when the day’s mail arrived with a generous check.
- And a begging howl that God would return me across international miles to my husband’s side during a health ordeal when indeed, I arrived and he survived.
In each moment, I sensed God coming near to reassure me that yes, he was listening to my prayers. And not just listening but also, responding.
Despite these faith-bolstering memories, in much of my everyday life, I can still feel unheard as I murmur and struggle and yes, occasionally even whine. I’m pretty sure you struggle here too? Maybe especially right now in the midst of our world’s crisis and this new normal that nobody wanted. What is God allowing? Where has He gone? Does He still hear us?
God Shows That He Hears You in Scripture
When God’s silence descends, I turn beyond His evidence in my days and review how He has heard His people over generations in Scripture.
Etched across millennium are myriad instances of God’s ear bending to listen.
- to Sarah’s prayers for a child (Genesis 16:11)
- to Israel’s groans under slavery (Exodus 2:24)
- to Moses on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 9:19)
- to Joshua at Gilgal (Joshua 10:14)
- to David crying out for deliverance from Saul (2 Samuel 22:7)
And onward into the New Testament where God became the spoken Word, Jesus, who walked this earth – and listened in the flesh (John 1:14). Today God’s Spirit hears the groans of all of creation as we wait for our ultimate union with him (Romans 8:26-27). Yes, God hears.
But We Still Wonder…Does God Hear Us?
Even though we’ve felt heard by God in some moments past, and even though we can see instance after instance of God hearing others in Scripture, we can sometimes struggle to feel heard in the now of life. We cry out to God. We fear for the vulnerable in our world. We ask that they be protected. The numbers of those infected grow. Does God hear us?
We worry about our jobs. Will we keep them or be laid off? The next round of cuts is just ahead. Does God hear us? We’re weary – more than weary – from homeschooling and corralling bored kids and now we stare ahead at summer without some of the normal activities. How will we find the energy to parent well? Does God hear us? We were busy - but now our days yawn empty and we wonder just what to do with them. We intentionally ask God each day, “Who do you want me to reach out to?” “Where can I make a difference?” Does God hear us?
You have your own list you can add in here. We ask God and tell God and cry and beg God. Does he hear us?
A Peek into a Prophet’s Prayer Journal
I’d like to turn to someone who cried out to God as well, who sometimes wondered if God would ever answer, and who learned some pretty powerful things about how to pray in a season when it must have tempting to think God wasn’t listening. I’m going to share just two of His principles today – you can find more from Habakkuk in the ten-part series, “Minor Prophet, Major Prayers” at discovertheword.org.
Reading the book of Habakkuk is a bit like reading the prayer journal of a servant of God from a few thousand years ago. The three chapters are pretty much a prayer, a conversation between a prophet and God. The main plea of Habakkuk’s prayer is that God would intervene on behalf of his people, Israel, who were suffering under corrupt leadership. For a very long time, Habakkuk heard nothing. Frustrated at God’s silence, he cries out in 1:2, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”
We get that, don’t we? Habakkuk asks the question we all ask, “Why are you being silent, God? Why do you allow evil to increase in our world?” In 1:5, God hears – and answers. “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” God goes on to reveal his plan to actually use idolatrous Babylon to accomplish his purposes. This makes little sense to Habakkuk.
But Habakkuk reminds himself that God is just in 1:12-17 and then commits himself to “…stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts,” to “look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give…” in Habakkuk 2:1.
Pray with a Willingness to Wait
Here is the first principle of how to pray when we wonder if God hears us. God prods Habakkuk to pray with a willingness to wait. A good word for us today, right?
God, please open life back up again so we can work, so kids can go to school, so we can visit friends and extended family. God, please make my unemployment check arrive soon. You know I need it. God, please help me to qualify for that paycheck protection program for my business to provide for my employees. We pray. And then we wonder why nothing is happening. What if we realize that waiting is often integral to praying? What if, like Habakkuk, we go to prayer with a willingness to wait for God to answer, to act on our behalf?
Several decades ago, author Catherine Marshall wrote, “Prayers, like eggs, don’t hatch as soon as we lay them.” Like eggs, prayers often incubate in God’s overarching purposes for our world and our lives. We tend to think waiting is a waste. That nothing happens while we wait. But waiting is an action. “Wait” is a verb. Are we willing to pray with a willingness to wait?
Wait with a Willingness to Keep Praying
Secondly, Habakkuk also learns that if he must wait, he can wait with a willingness to keep praying. In 2:2-3 the Lord replies a second time, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
What God doesn’t mention is that the “appointed time,” where Babylon eventually falls, will be six-decades away, creating a long gap between promise and fulfillment. A gap of seeming silence. A gap of waiting. Habakkuk’s prayer journal goes on for two more chapters, conversing with God as he waits for answers. He waits with a willingness to keep praying.
How to Pray in a Pandemic
We’re in unusual times. At the beginning of the pandemic, we responded with prayer. We moved our church services online. We phoned every church attendee to check in. We prayed for God to meet our needs and to show us what needs in others we could help meet. Now we’re being told to wait. We don’t know how long social distancing will go on. Will we ever shake hands or hug? Will a vaccine be ready – and by when? Will professional sports resume? Will our kids go back to school? Will the virus come back in a second wave?
When we’re forced to wait, Habakkuk shows us that we can wait with a willingness to keep praying. Not to check out. Not to unplug. Not to just grit our teeth and endure. But to go deeper in a relationship with the One we’re waiting for.
Habakkuk’s conversation with God illustrates that prayer is a relationship. Pray. Wait. Pray some more. Wait some more. Because when we keep praying while we’re waiting, we keep partaking of God’s presence. We are reminded that we’re not alone in our challenges and that God is shaping us and readying us to receive his answers. Author John White once said, “We are to keep our prayers active not for God’s memory but for ours.”
Habakkuk ends with a poetic prayer that recites God’s faithfulness in 3:17-19 – even though he hasn’t yet seen God’s answer to his prayers.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes in the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to go on the heights.”
Pray Waiting and Wait Praying
Habakkuk’s prayer journal reveals the confidence in God that he discovered in God and that we can as well. Pray waiting and wait praying because God hears us. He bends his ear to our hearts and cups our needs in his hands. “If we ask anything according to his name, he hears us.” Remember, akouo means to pay attention and to respond on the basis of having heard. Akouo. God hears.
So let’s pray with a willingness to wait, and then, when we have to wait, let’s wait with a willingness to pray. Because God hears us. This is the passion behind a new podcast that I’m co-hosting with my heart-friend, Eryn Eddy produced by Our Daily Bread Ministries. God Hears Her is a podcast for women where we explore the stunning truth that God notices you. God sees you, he hears you, he loves you because you are his. Will you join us?
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/kieferpix
Elisa Morgan is an author, speaker, co-host of Discover the Word and co-host of God Hears Her, a new podcast for Christian women seeking friends to come alongside them in the hurts, joys, and struggles of the everyday. Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google - listen, rate and review.
You can find out more about Elisa, book her to speak at your event and sign up for her blog, Really, which reaches thousands at www.elisamorgan.com. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram (@elisamorganauthor) and on Twitter (@elisa_morgan).