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St. Paul's Staff Blog

A Thought on Prayer

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A common complaint against the sensibility of Christianity is that while God - as a higher being, powerful, living outside of our dimension and yet interacting with it - can be believed to exist, the idea that he could listen to the prayers of everyone, all at once, is simply too implausible.

From a certain point of view, this complaint seems to have legitimacy. For example, let's say that we accept the claim that there are 2 billion believers in God on the planet at the moment. Next, let's say that only 1% of them can all be praying at any one specific moment. If 1% seems too small a number, consider that at any given hour, at least 50% of believers should be asleep. After all, 50% of the planet is always in the time of night. If we then consider that not every believer prays every moment of their day, we can divide the remaining 50% by the 16 hours of wake-time. This gives us a number of roughly 3%. We can naturally reduce that number because not all believers pray continually (-1%) and we can reduce it further because not all people who claim to believe in God actually do, and therefore are not likely to be praying, occasionally, if at all (-1%).

But I have gone off course. Let's return to the 1% who might be praying all at the same moment. How many voices is 1% of 2 billion persons? It is 2,000,000. In a time when million, billion, and trillion have become somewhat meaningless words, consider that if you lived 2 million days, you would be 5,475 years old. If you took 2 million steps you would have walked 1,000 miles. And if 20 people talked to you at the same time, you could still only manage to understand about 2 of them. How can God possibly hear every person praying to him?

The difficulty we imagine for God comes as a result of us trying to make God be a human person. "We cannot hear 20 conversations, let alone, 2,000,000, so how could God?" - we think. But God is not a human person with two ears and a single bio-chemical brain. We are limited by vibrations of sound and neurons and a brain with two hemispheres, but is God?

The solution is to understand that God is not limited as we are. In fact, to be God, he must be unlimited in every way. (We can say that God self-limits according to his character and nature, but that's a discussion for another time.) We might imagine the brain of God (if what he has is comparable to our brain) to have infinite hemispheres and infinite receptors for visual, auditory, and sensory information. In this way God can hear all, and process everything, instantly.

God is also not limited by time like human persons are. God exists outside of time. 1,000 years to him is 24 hours to us and 24 hours to him is a 1,000 years to us. God does not sleep, die, begin, or end. We might imagine God to be able to hear a prayer today that we prayed many years ago, and yet still be able to reach back into our lifetime and answer that prayer the moment we have spoken it.

So, we can see that this common complaint - How can God hear every prayer? - is not very substantial. By letting God be God, instead of making him be just like one of us, the problem vanishes. Absorb this truth: God hears your prayer; anytime, every time.   

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