'Yes, I really do hear you'

By Moira Billinge

Tim had reached the point where he was tired of leaving the house for work at five o’clock each morning and not getting home until late in the evening. He begrudged it in the summer, when he had to leave his beautiful garden behind. He would much rather be out in the warmth and the birdsong, tending his flowers and plants.

In winter, he begrudged getting out of his bed at all. He loathed the heavy, oppressive, all-consuming darkness of each new day, and the knowledge he would be greeted by more of the same in the evening. Nothing ever seemed to go well for him, and he knew something drastic was needed to make his existence a little more palatable.

He concluded that the only way to escape his lacklustre life was money – and lots of it. It was a realisation quickly reinforced the next day when he encountered Hurricane Henry on his way to work and had to navigate his way over fallen trees and battle against howling winds and torrential rain. It was then he decided enough was enough.

During his lunch break he walked into a nearby church and prayed, ‘Please God, let me win the Lottery.’ For the next few weeks Tim repeated this request, and when there was no sign of his prayer being answered, he embarked on a nine-day novena to St Jude, patron saint of hopeless cases. It didn’t work.

In desperation, he knelt down and shrieked, ‘Hello, God, are you listening to me? You said, “Ask and you shall receive.” Well, I’m still waiting! What more can I say to you, to persuade you to help me win the Lottery? I need the money now! Why the delay?’

Exasperated by this further request, when there were so many more urgent things to attend to, God decided to offer an explanation and get Tim off his back. He stopped what he was doing and said, with as much authority as he could muster, ‘Please, Tim, will you meet me halfway on this issue and at least buy a lottery ticket?’

Joking aside, it is naive to assume that every prayer we offer will be answered immediately, and sometimes we do expect Almighty God to answer our prayers without any real effort on our part. Even Aesop, the ancient Greek writer, noted that, ‘It is vain to expect our prayers to be heard, if we do not strive as well as pray.’

When we pray, we can do so with confidence because we know God loves and wants to help us and desires only what is best for us. He will sometimes answer our prayer in a different way to what we expect. We often recognise, with the benefit of hindsight, that the answer is far better than we could have imagined.

God knows our every prayer, word and action; our every thought and desire. And yet, if truth be told, how often is our prayer a case less of ‘Thy will be done’ than ‘My will be done’? Our mindset is often one of ‘Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking’, instead of ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3: 7-10).

Happily, ‘I’m sorry’ is the one prayer God will hear and immediately answer – as the Good Thief, dying on the cross next to Jesus on Calvary, discovered for himself.