We asked Dr. Elizabeth Berne DeGear, a biblical scholar and chaplain, a big spiritual question: How does God hear all our prayers at once?
Posted in , Jan 25, 2018
On a typical day, if someone asked me, “What are you doing right at this moment?” I would have one or two answers. (Well, as a mom who has honed the art of multitasking, I might have three or four!)
But the easy answer to the question would cover only the things I was consciously and intentionally doing at the time. It would not include my arteries pumping blood throughout my body to distribute oxygen to my cells. Or the mitochondria in those cells metabolizing carbohydrates and fatty acids to generate energy. Or the dendrites of my brain’s neurons receiving the electrical messages that together translate into to all my thoughts and motions.
The fact is that, at any given moment, our answers to the simple question, “What are you doing right now?” should be, “Millions and millions of things.” So, I believe, it is the same with the way God hears and responds to the prayers of any and all.
I don’t see God as a Superhuman Switchboard Operator who has to take the calls of thousands of desperate callers jamming the switchboard with their simultaneous prayers. Our prayers are not outside of God any more than your mitochondria are outside of you (even if you have no idea what a mitochondrion is!).
Rather, I see God as Ultimate Consciousness: an eternal, all-knowing, pure-loving reality that birthed and continues to sustain the universe. I see the universe itself as the physical manifestation of this consciousness. God’s ultimate consciousness permeates the cosmos. It infuses every proton, neutron and electron, and it comprises the spaces and forces between them. The cosmos is word made flesh, love burst forth into matter—Christ Consciousness.
And so, our prayers—our desires, hopes and needs as they bubble up into our own consciousness and intention—are already in God. They are part of the fabric of this awesome universe. Perhaps, when we make our humble efforts to bring our limited human consciousness into sync with Ultimate Consciousness by praying, we open ourselves up to God’s order. We let ourselves be moved by this loving consciousness that permeates all, rather than acting out of a sense that we have all the answers.
The simultaneous prayers offered up to God by countless people throughout the world are like a "sound check" between humanity and our Creator. The miracle of it all is not only that God hears our prayers through this sound check. But that, collectively, we open the human spirit to God's frequency through prayer. We hear God.
Here's how other theologians, writers and scholars—both past and present—have answered the question, “How does God hear all our prayers at once?”
“God is timeless and has ‘all the time in the world’—literally. Saint Augustine first proposed that concept, and Einstein’s theory of relativity demonstrated how. A being as big as the universe would experience all time in history at the same moment. So attending to seven billion prayers at once would be no problem for such a God!”—Philip Yancey, author of Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?
“We can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking of God as an old man in the sky having to juggle millions of telephones constantly ringing. But God is in us, and we are in God. That mutual indwelling means that our prayers are not even our prayers: They are God’s, and God is praying within us with ‘sighs too deep for words,’ as Paul said. And so there is no gap between the prayer and the hearing of that prayer.”—Brother Aidan Owen, Benedictine monk
“‘Am I a God who is only close at hand?’ says the Lord….‘Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?’”—Jeremiah 23:23–24
“Far too many people think of God as a sort of divine vending machine. But God is infinite, and prayer is not a transaction. Prayer is the way we human beings hear the heartbeat of creation and connect with the sacredness of life. If we understand that God is the animating love of all that is, then how can God not hear our prayers?”—Dr. Diana Butler Bass, scholar and author of Grounded: Finding God in the World
“Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty—and every other moment from the beginning of the world—is always the Present for Him.”—C.S. Lewis, author of Mere Christianity
“God, being omnipotent and all-powerful, not only hears all of our prayers at once but knows them even before we ask them. He knows each and every one of us, inside out. Not just because we’re made in the image of him, but because he is our divine creator.”—Jarrid Wilson, pastor and author of Love Is Oxygen
“God is not bound by the same rules of nature that we are. He exists outside the limits of time and space. Beyond that, I do not know how he hears each of us separately. But what I do know is that he hears me individually because he speaks back to me daily.”—Carlos Whittaker, motivational speaker and author of Moment Maker
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