How can God listen to billions of prayers at the same time? (Part 1)
This question has perplexed many people, and the attempts of theologians and other religious “experts” to answer it are even more perplexing and confusing. Here are some samples, taken from the Internet:
“I see God as Ultimate Consciousness: an eternal, all-knowing, pure-loving reality that birthed and continues to sustain the universe… And so, our prayers… are already in God. They are part of the fabric of this awesome universe…”
“God is timeless… A being as big as the universe would experience all time in history at the same moment.”
“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… there is no gap between the prayer and the hearing of that prayer.”
“Almost certainly God is not in Time… 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.”
If we hear such confusing and completely inaccurate “explanations” of so-called religious “authorities,” then there is no wonder that people following such “guidance” are left without understanding. In addition, most theologians have a completely false concept of God Himself, only adding to their confusion.
We might want to point out that a true Christian knows, based on the clear evidence of Scripture, that God can and does listen to multiple prayers at the same time. The “mocking” question as to how can God do this is asked by those who doubt God’s existence and who are using their faulty human reasoning in an attempt to convince themselves and others that God does not really exist, so that they are “free” to live in sin and do whatever they want to do.
To begin answering the question of this Q&A correctly, let us realize that God is “omnipresent,” but what does this mean, exactly?
We state the following in our Q&A, titled, “Is God really omnipresent, that is, everywhere at all times?”:
“The question of God’s omnipresence has puzzled men for centuries and millennia, and diverse and sometimes incredible answers have been proposed. One common idea in Orthodox Christianity is that God, as a Spirit being, is everywhere, as allegedly, Spirit has no form or shape—no limitations—no ‘parts.’ God is understood to be… a formless or shapeless ‘blob’—permeating everything.
“This idea is clearly unbiblical. God HAS form and shape. God said that Moses saw the glorified ‘form’ of the LORD (compare Numbers 12:8). God, when creating man, said that man was to be made in accordance with the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6). God is described as having a head, arms, a body, feet, eyes and hair, among other aspects. Man is made in the physical form of God—he is a physical reflection, if you please, of the Spirit Beings, God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. Please also note that Christ is described as the [Spirit] image of God the Father (2 Corinthians 4:4). He looks like God the Father; that is why He could say, even when He was here on earth in human form; ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). In that same way—on a physical level—man is made in the image of God.
“Given the fact that God has form and shape, He IS therefore at one given moment in only one place at one specific time. This means, when He is sitting on His throne in heaven, He is therefore not at that very same moment on earth, or on planet Mars, or in another galaxy billions of light-years away. This is why we read that God came down from heaven to walk on earth; that Jesus Christ, after His resurrection to a Spirit Being, ascended to heaven; that He was brought before God the Father in heaven to receive kingship and power; and that He will return to this earth, in power and glory, to rule all nations. Of course, we must also understand that God CAN ‘travel’ from one place to another within a ‘split second.’ But… when God is at a certain place, at that very same moment, He cannot be—as a Person—at a different place at the same time.
“And still, it IS correct that God IS omnipresent—that is, that He is everywhere at all times, and NOTHING escapes His attention or is hidden from His eyes (Matthew 6:18).
“Let us understand how this is possible. David… writes in Psalm 139:1-2: ‘LORD, You have searched me and known me, You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought AFAR OFF.’ David knew that God could be ‘afar off,’ and still understand all of his thoughts… Continuing in verses 3-6: ‘You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before. And laid your hand upon me [i.e., He has given him protection and security]. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.’”
To interject and elaborate, we wrote the following in our Q&A, “Does Satan Know Our Thoughts, and Can He Read Our Minds?”:
“Psalm 139:4 [states:] ‘For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.’ Most translations render this verse in this way: ‘Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD’ (NIV, compare RSV and Living Bible). [This translation reminds us of what Christ tells us in Matthew 6:8: ‘For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.’]…
“1 Samuel 16:7 says that while a man may look at the outward appearance, the LORD looks at the heart. In 1 Kings 8:39 King Solomon says to God: ‘You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men.’ Psalm 44:21 adds: ‘Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.’ Isaiah 66:18 quotes God as saying, ‘I know their works and their thoughts.’ And Job says this to God in Job 42:2: ‘I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee’ (Authorized Version)…
“We also find that Jesus, as a resurrected God being, has the ability to discern and know the thoughts of people (Luke 24:38; Hebrews 4:12-13; Revelation 2:23).
“[The New Testament] also makes it very clear that God the Father knows our thoughts (Luke 16:15; compare 1 Corinthians 3:20). In Acts 1:24, the disciples prayed to the Father to reveal to them who should take the place of Judas Iscariot: ‘You, O LORD, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen.’ In Acts 15:8, Peter said that God ‘who knows the heart,’ accepted Gentiles into the Church by giving them the Holy Spirit…
“God will at the proper time make manifest and reveal the innermost thoughts and counsels or motives of our hearts (1 Corinthians 4:5; Luke 2:35). While our hearts might condemn us because of wrongly understood guilt complexes, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things (1 John 3:20). At the same time, we can deceive our hearts, but not God (James 1:26).”
In addition, we are told that God knows the hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). Psalms 147:4-5 informs us that God’s understanding is infinite.
This Scriptural evidence provides us with part of the answer to our question in this Q&A; that is, that God DID know and hear every word which David and others spoke, and that He saw EVERYTHING that they did at the very moment in time when they did it. God is not a respecter of person—whatever God revealed about and said to David would apply to all of God’s people as well; that is, God sees everything that we do today, when we do it, and He hears every word [in our prayers] which we say, when we say it. When, let’s say, hundreds of Christians speak to Him at the same time, God hears every single one of them AT THAT SAME TIME.
But how is this possible, given the fact that God, as a Person, cannot be, for example, at different places at the same time?
Continuing with quoting from the above-mentioned Q&A on God’s omnipresence:
“David did not conclude that God’s miraculous omnipresence was due to God being everywhere like a form- and shapeless blob; he knew better than that. And so, he continues to explain HOW God is omnipresent, beginning with verse 7: ‘Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?’
“Here is the answer! God the Father and Jesus Christ are both Spirit beings. They both have form and shape, composed of Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is NOT a being—rather, it is the power emanating from God (compare Micah 3:8; Luke 4:14). It is through the POWER of God’s Holy Spirit that things are created. And God’s Holy Spirit does not have form and shape—God’s Holy Spirit does not exist in a bodily form… God’s Holy Spirit is everywhere… God, a Spirit being, who has form and shape, is everywhere [and present] through His Spirit. And so, David continues to meditate on this fact, as follows, in verses 8-12:
“‘If I ascend into heaven, You are there [through the Spirit of God]; If I make my bed in hell [Hebrew sheol, the grave], behold, you are there [through God’s Spirit]. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me [through God’s Holy Spirit], And your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light upon me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You’…
“God’s Spirit can be compared with breath or wind… God’s Holy Spirit emanates from God… and through the Holy Spirit, God is and can be everywhere at all times.”
Thinking of breath, it emanates from a source, such as an animal or a human being or God. In the case of God, He is the source of His breath (or spirit). We read that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living soul. This passage can refer to real breath, or the spirit in man through which God, through His Holy Spirit, gave life to Adam, or both.
One could also compare the Holy Spirit with electricity, emanating from a source, such as a generator or a power plant. When we touch an electricity-charged wire, we realize that there has to be a source of the electricity. Individual electrons travel through the wire “slowly” and have to work their way through a multitude of atoms in the wire. The electricity speed is equated to the speed of light.
Another analogy would be the miracle of broadcasting. TV or radio programs are being broadcast all over the world, but each one has a source… a TV or radio station from which the broadcast goes out.
The Bible compares God’s Spirit also with living, flowing water. A stream or a river of water has a source from which it emanates, the “fountain of water.” God is that source. Revelation 21:6 says: “And He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of water of life freely to him who thirsts.”
We say in our booklet, Is God a Trinity?:
“[In] John 4:10, 14, [God’s] Spirit is compared with water. Jesus tells the woman at the well: ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water… whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’
“… the Bible makes it very clear that Christ… [compared the Holy Spirit] with living water to be poured out. We read in John 7:37-39, in the Authorized Version: ‘In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirsts, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive…’
“Christ compares the Holy Spirit with living WATER. We read earlier that God pours out of His Holy Spirit [in Acts 2:17]—again the same analogy of water being poured out on or into people is being used.”
This is referring to the fountain of water, God, who is willing to give us of His Spirit. Please note Isaiah 58:10-12, addressing the future of those who did receive God’s Holy Spirit prior to Christ’s Second Coming: “You shall be like a spring of water whose waters do not fail” (or: “never run dry,” New Jerusalem Bible).
We need to realize that God lives in converted Christians through His Holy Spirit. This is HOW God can dwell in thousands of Christians all at the same time (John 14:23)—through His Spirit (compare Romans 8:9-11, 14-15; Galatians 4:6). And when He dwells in thousands of Christians through His Spirit, He can also see, acknowledge, hear and read the minds of those Christians through His Spirit—all at the same time. Even though Christ appeared to Adam and Eve or Abraham or Moses at a particular moment in time, in a physical manifestation, through His Spirit, He was still everywhere at that same time.
(To be continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link