I watched the tiny yellow and black bird perch on the back of a lawn chair, its head cocked, beady eyes alert. It seemed to be listening to the classical music playing on my computer as I worked next to the open window. A goldfinch is not known to stay still for long, but this one lingered for several minutes, tilting its little head this way and that; not singing itself but showing true music appreciation in its attitude.
As I watched this attentive little goldfinch I began to think about listening; specifically, about how God listens to me. The Bible is full of verses about us listening to God, and so we should, with full attention and desire to be obedient to what He says. But my heart opens like a flower when I dwell on the thought of God listening to me; my one small voice amongst so many. And He does, bending His ear attentively to my cries, my pleas, my joys, my praise. He hears it all. He is Jehovah Shama, the God who hears.
“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” – Psalm 17:6 (NIV)
In thinking of God listening to me I find myself differentiating between His listening and the formal act of prayer. I understand that any conversation with God is considered prayer, but there are times when I have no voice to speak to Him, only a raw heart, a wounded soul, and still He hears me. I believe God hears me with His great heart. “We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words.” – Romans 8:26 (The Voice) The ear of His heart is attuned to every emotion, every thought, even the ones I cannot voice myself. What a gift, to be fully known in such a way!
Leah, the first wife of Jacob in Genesis 29, is unloved. Jacob loves her sister, Rachel, but is tricked into marrying Leah first. But God sees she is not loved and gives her a son. This gives her hope and she says, “Surely my husband will love me now.” But the barren Rachel is still favoured by Jacob. Leah conceives again and when she gave birth to a second son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, He gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon, meaning God hears.
I imagine Leah, awake in the still of the night, tears dampening her pillow because she so longs to be loved by her husband but knows she is not. She has been taught all the formal prayers to solicit help from God, but the pain in her heart goes beyond words. Will He hear her unspoken cry? Does He care?
“But God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!” – Ps. 66:19-20 (NIV)
The hearing of God is acute beyond any human capabilities. His Spirit hears our spirit in ways we cannot imagine. I like being heard like that, even if what I am asking for is answered with a no, even if I still must struggle through the pain, even when my cries are for forgiveness because I have failed again. I especially like that He hears us when we are jubilant in our love for Him. And I believe when He hears our praises, weak and imperfect as they are, He rejoices.