Psalm 116:1-2 say, “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.”
The famous author Ernest Hemingway once said, “Most people never listen.” Well, I can’t speak for “most people,” but I for one am a work in progress when it comes to listening. Listening is so hard! When I’m talking with someone, I want to interject! I want to disagree! I want to offer a solution! Listening requires that I put my own thoughts aside for a while and tune in to the person speaking, to what he or she is feeling, saying, and even not saying. The goal is to understand instead of make a point or win an argument. Sadly, despite forty-five years of marriage, it seems I’ve only recently come to understand the healing power of listening to my wife. She is far more skilled at listening than I am.
God, on the other hand, is the preeminent Listener! The writer of Psalm 116 says, “God has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.” The psalmist goes on to say, “[God] inclined his ear to me.” Of course, God doesn’t really have ears. As anyone who learned the Children’s Catechism knows, “God is a spirit, and has not a body like men.” The psalmist is putting something profound in simple, human terms: the Maker and Sustainer of the universe, as it were, stops everything to listen, attend to, and understand our situation. “His ears,” says David in Psalm 34, “are attentive to [our] cry.” When we pray, he doesn’t interrupt. He doesn’t condemn. He doesn’t give our prayers a grade. He listens, then acts. As the poet John A. Wallace put it, “There is an eye that never sleeps / Beneath the wing of the night; / There is an ear that never shuts / When sink the beams of light.”
I hope you’ve experienced the transforming power of pouring your heart out to someone safe, someone who loves you and really listens. It might have been a friend, counselor, mentor, spouse, parent, or sibling. These may fail you, but God will not. No matter your need or your mood, God hears you. As he listened to Hagar’s affliction in the wilderness (Genesis 16:11), so he listens to your prayers, spoken or groaned. And we know this to be true because he sent his Son Jesus! God’s ears are open to your cries because the hands and feet of Jesus were nailed to a cross. God has come to you in Christ so that you can go to him in prayer.
Pastor, boldly take your needs to the ears of your ever-listening God.