‘How come God does not listen?’I hear this phrase pretty often. People point out that they have prayed and prayed and to no avail. Oftentimes they are regular Mass goers, if not daily communicants. ‘Not only does he not listen but I do not even feel him close’. The apparent lack of answer to prayer can often lead to other questions. These can range from does God care to is God there at all? Once we move this direction we quickly begin to blame God for all that is wrong in the world. On top of all this in today’s world we will find plenty to weaken and undermine our faith and more often than not little to fortify or nourish it. So then, how come God does not answer us? It is good for us to wrestle a little with this important question.
When you think of it on a purely human level when someone, indeed anyone, is not listening to us, it is quite annoying. Now when that person appears not to listen to us on a regular basis it can become infuriating. The art of listening has seldom been under such threat. We are a noisy people. Few generations have so undervalued the gift of sacred silence.
It is common today to see a family or a group of friends out together for a meal and it is clear from an even cursory glance that they are not really present to each other. Sure they will do just about enough to keep half connected but they do not give to each other the gift of real listening. They fail to give each other quality presence. They are there in body but very often, little else. In other words they fail to seize the opportunity to give honour and dignity by intentionally focusing on each other. When we are truly present to the other we convey through our body language and most importantly through our eyes that at that particular moment that person is the most important person in the world. To do anything else is to quickly ensure that we do not hear the other. So then if we fail to listen to the one physically and tangibly across the table from us, not even engaging our ears what chance then have we to hear the divine whisper? What chance have we to develop a listening heart? It’s much easier to blame God. He is not responding. He does not answer. Either he does not hear us or he does not care. The truth is that it is us who are not listening. It is us who are not hearing.
Is it possible that God is speaking and we cannot hear? When I say this people often think I mean that God is speaking to us through nature or art, and of course I do, and he does, speak through these and other forms of beauty, but I mean something else as well. I quite specifically mean that God is constantly whispering to us, seeking to gently invite us to come closer to him, giving us little nudges towards his kingdom. I believe it is not possible to properly hear the Lord without taking certain steps. So, before we accuse the Lord of not listening or not answering let’s take an honest look at our own communication skills. As we do so let’s remember who we are communicating with, namely the all powerful, all knowing, all loving Father. This is basic in any communication. To whom are we addressing our words, our request? How might listening to or for the Lord be different to other forms of listening?
Let’s keep a few basics in mind when considering communication with the Lord. Remember he wants us to talk to him. (I have called you by name you are mine, you are precious to me, come to me). He wants us to keep it short, no babbling like the pagans. Use the one mouth we have but listen twice as much with our ears and deeply with our hearts. Speak to him from the heart not the head. The heart of flesh not stone. All the evidence in the gospel tells us he rewards our faith and wants to move in closer to us when we are sick or simply sad. The idea that he does not listen, or worse that he does not care, simply does not add up. Wherever we get the notion of a deaf or uncaring God it is certainly not the God Jesus tells us about, and let’s face it, Jesus surely knows!