Always More Ready to Hear
Updated: Sep 4, 2018
DEAF and dumb: a combination that can be more isolating than blindness. I’ve been told that many people would prefer blindness over being deaf—for the silence cuts you off completely from the world, even a world you may see, but not hear. And being mute completes the isolation, when you can’t say what is on your mind, or in your heart. Hearing and speaking we often take for granted, but were they removed, we would be horrified.
The sounds of traffic, airplanes, the wind in the trees, children’s voices, music in the air—make us feel alive. We are in this world, and we’re made from the elements of it. Our bodies are formed of the things that spring to life from this earth, and are composed of the same elements that make dirt. It’s familiar. We need our contact with people, color, sound, communication, touch, shared food, and humor.
But something about us is not from this world, or of it at all. This is too often a side of our nature we ignore, or deny, or perhaps feel is stunted or sickly, deaf and dumb. And yet we are not just dumb animals. We are more than hairless, intelligent monkeys. A 9th Symphony could never be composed, or played, by a cat. We are more than creatures of this planet. But the side of us that speaks of another sphere is often simply deaf and dumb. It scarcely speaks at all.
That side of our dual nature gives witness to our spiritual nativity, to the Creator behind both our natures. The earth did not create us. The earth simply supplied the elements of our bodies. We love to talk to fellow creatures, and hear the sounds of people, of music. Can we not hear the voice of our Maker? Why don’t we have a talk with God?
Certainly, some people talk to and listen to God all the time, take to it like fish to water. But I think for most of us this is an acquired skill. I think the great majority of folk believe in a god, but don’t talk to him except in times of frustration, in dire need, or to lay blame. Many of us have bruised relationships with God and there’s a smoldering resentment surrounding the question of whether I will or I will not speak to Him. For some of us, it’s just fear and guilt. ‘I can’t talk to Him. He knows what I’ve done.’
For much of my life, I’d known about God and said prayers to Him, expecting that He heard these things, then filed them away. Perhaps He would act upon a prayer, but then that seldom happened. He just wanted me to log in some prayer time. That seemed to clear the slate, especially when I said I’m sorry. The notion that He should talk to me, ever, with specifics and detail about my circumstances and actual needs was simply out of the question. Anyone who claimed His voice spoke so into their lives was either arrogant or mentally unhinged. The God of the universe can’t be bothered with such small matters, can He?
But I have found that, in the stillness, at need, when I have earnestly asked of Him a question, an issue: then it comes. An impression. A few words. A comfort. The knowledge I needed. His kind forgiveness.
Today’s collect is my favorite of the year. A collect states something about God on which we base a request, then we ask it, and then hold up Jesus’ name before we end with Amen. Amen means “So be it.” Hear this wonderful collect again.
Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
God, powerful and eternal, is at all times ready to hear our prayers (always more ready than we are to pray them) and He wants to give us more than we can desire or than we even deserve. That’s a description of our stunted spiritual state, isn’t it? He is so great in spirit, and we are puny, unwilling even to talk to Him. We’re afraid to ask. But the prayer says He is willing to hear, and more willing to grant our requests than we are to make them. Be assured. He is listening. Then we ask. We seek the abundance of His mercy; His forgiveness; and all good things we’re not worthy to ask—except that Jesus is worthy and He mediates for us. He’s God’s only Son. So, we ask our little prayer. We open these mouths and we pray.
We pray to a God no one sees. Now, honestly: are we crazy to do this? Some would say we are. Have your prayers been answered? Have you sensed God speaking to you, if not in audible words, then in nature, in great comfort, in circumstances coming together that could never be a coincidence? This world is more than we see, and there’s yet another world we don’t see, but our very nature speaks of it, and speaks of it eloquently.
There are a hundred scriptures that assure us that God is listening and that He cares when we cry out our needs, our sorrows, our confessions to Him. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chron 7:14 “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.” Psalm 145:18-19 “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'” Isaiah 58:9 “It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24 “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jer 29:12-13
Jesus enjoined us not to hang back in fear of God, but to pray and ask what we will. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matt 7:7 “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23-24
It’s not a blank check. God will not do whatever you ask, regardless of what it is. He may, however, show you a desire of yours for you to express, then teach you a lesson about your desires being in the wrong place. This is not just a one-way telephone.
How does good prayer work? We were deaf and dumb. Let’s be neither. Let’s cure both maladies.
The full miracle of prayer is that we both hear and speak. If you have the indwelling Spirit of God, then you have your telephone installed, so to speak. Mahalia Jackson sang, “I’ve got a telephone in my heart and I can call God anytime.” Ok, that’s a metaphor. But it’s not far from the truth. In the best prayers, we are prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray a certain matter. If we ask for His expression in our prayers, His guidance, His empowerment, then our prayers are greatly helped. We will pray the things God already wants to hear from us. We form our heart-song to His music and ask for the things that truly matter—matter to Him, and also matter for us.
Praying for a parking place may be vital one day, and He may grant it just to show you He hears and He cares about even small things. But the real business of that prayer was that He hears and cares. Not your car. Next time, think of praying for help to be on time and not keep your appointment waiting. Or for the person you’re going to see. Or for your heart to be at peace while you’re going about town in traffic. Or for Him to be close to you as you travel around, pointing out to you someone to pray for or speak to or buy lunch for.
Deacon Philip’s story in the Acts of the Apostles illustrates a man who is so in tune with God that miracles simply pour out of him. He hears God tell him to go to Gaza, a desolate strip of highway. There he encounters the Treasurer of Ethiopia and at his request Philip gives him the explanation of Isaiah 53, the suffering servant, “By His stripes we are healed,” and he shares Jesus, and finally baptizes this influential man. From that day to this, there have been Christians in Ethiopia. There are millions of stories like this one: prayer that is two-way communication.
You were not really born spiritually deaf and dumb, but the bright colors and sounds of this world have so impressed your physical senses that your mind is too easily satisfied with this world’s sensations. Your spirit says there’s more. You were not made simply from mud. God speaks within you and you have a choice to make. Listen and respond, or else act deaf, act dumb. Walk away from the encounter and pretend you have no such thoughts.
Jesus took a man to a private place where He touched the man’s ears and spit on a finger and touched the man’s tongue. This man could not hear or speak. He was probably a Gentile, but Christ didn’t care about that. Holding the man’s head in His hands, Jesus looked to heaven and, giving a great sigh, He spoke one word: Ephphatha, Aramaic for Be Opened. For centuries thereafter, the word spoken over any newly baptized person was Ephphatha: Be opened. Let these deaf ears now hear God’s voice. Let this mute person now speak and be heard on high.
So now, people of God, you are not closed, no longer deaf to the voice of God, nor are your prayers mute, silenced by the roaring of this world. I say to you, Ephphatha! Be opened. Open your ears to God, open your hearts to hear and speak out your deepest desires: He cares and He hears your heart song. Tell Him, speak it out. Be opened. Ephphatha.