How can God listen to billions of prayers at the same time? (Part 2)
In the first part of this series, we showed from the Bible that God can and does indeed listen to many prayers at the same time, and we showed how this is possible. We explained that God consists of two Persons, the Father and the Son, who are both Spirit Beings, having [spiritual] form and shape; and therefore, God cannot be, as a Person, at different places at the same time. Still, the Bible teaches that God is omnipresent, and we showed that this is true because of the Holy Spirit, emanating from both the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is NOT a Person with form and shape. It can be compared with water or electricity or wind, emanating from a source—God Himself. It is through the Holy Spirit dwelling in each converted Christian that God is omnipresent and that He can listen to multiple prayers at the same time.
If this concept is still too difficult for the human mind to grasp, please consider that God does not listen to billions of prayers at the same time.
We wrote the following in our Q&A, titled, “Does God hear everyone’s prayers?”:
“The astounding truth of the Bible is that generally, He does not hear, nor does He answer the prayers of just anyone. In fact, at this time and throughout human history, only a small proportion of people have had the kind of relationship with God in which their prayers would be heard by Him!… God hears the prayers of those who have access to Him through Jesus Christ!… Jesus taught that not everyone praying was being heard by God! However, for those who have been called and who have established a relationship with God, prayer is the vital communication with God to obtain His guidance—His oversight in our lives!…
“The New Testament emphatically teaches that Satan is the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). The whole world has been deceived by him (Revelation 12:9), and those who are deceived may be even praying to Satan, without knowing it—not to God the Father! Jesus Christ is not serving as their High Priest, nor does God generally hear their prayers…
“God is not now trying to save this world! Rather, He has called some to be a kind of ‘firstfruits’ of His salvation (compare James 1:18)—identified as His ‘elect’ (compare Matthew 24:22, 24, 31). God hears the prayers of His ‘saints’ (compare Revelation 8:3) because of what Jesus Christ accomplished in becoming our Savior.
“The elect have been chosen for salvation at this time, and they have the opportunity for God to hear their prayers. They are those who seek God with a true humility to be obedient to Him. They have gained access to God…
“Consider, also, that God is willing to respond to those who truly turn to Him: ‘But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word’ (Isaiah 66:2).
“Sadly, this does not describe the people of our age—not even the countless millions who profess to be followers of Christ!”
This reduces the number of people who pray to God at the same time and are heard by Him quite drastically to perhaps a few thousand … in any event much less than a million, not to speak of 7.8 billion.
In an additional Q&A, we explained what the Bible means with the statement that God does not hear the prayers of sinners. We wrote:
“In John 9, Christ healed a man on the Sabbath who had been born blind. The Pharisees and the Jews accused Christ of breaking the Sabbath and concluded that He was not from God (verse 16) and a ‘sinner’ (verse 24, in Greek, ‘hamartolos’). In response, the healed man said: ‘Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing’ (verses 31, 33)…
“The Pharisees had made terrible accusations against Jesus. They had accused Him of casting out demons with the help of Beelzebub, the ‘ruler of the demons’—another designation for Satan (Matthew 12:24). Some even claimed that He was possessed by Satan (Mark 3:22). Christ warned them in that context that they were in danger of committing the unpardonable sin, which cannot be forgiven, for they were blaspheming God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in Christ (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30)… The implication is that Jesus, when He was called a ‘sinner,’ was accused of being a ‘pervert’ and a ‘bastard,’ born of fornication (John 8:41), influenced and possessed by Satan the devil and his demons (John 7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20). The man who was healed of his blindness responded that Jesus could not have been guilty of such accusations, because if He was such a ‘sinner,’ God would not have heard Him and used Him to heal his eyes.
“The Bible does not teach that God does not hear us when we slip and fall occasionally, committing a sin because of weakness or neglect. All of us sin occasionally (1 John 1:8). We are told that if we sin, we can repent of and confess our sin to God, and ask God for forgiveness, and ‘He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). This shows that God WILL HEAR us when we pray to Him, even though we have sinned.
“However, Isaiah 59:2-3 tells us that God does not hear us when we live in iniquity and when we are unwilling to repent of it… God says in Isaiah 1:15: ‘Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.’
“God clearly states in Micah 3:4: ‘Then they will cry to the LORD, But He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, Because they have been evil in their deeds.’… David understood that if he ‘had cherished iniquity in [his] heart, the Lord would not have listened’ to his prayers (Psalm 66:18, Revised Standard Version).
“God told Jeremiah that He would not hear those who rebelled against God and who continued to live in rebellion… (Jeremiah 14:11-12)… God will NOT LISTEN to prayers of people who REFUSE to hear His law (Zechariah 7:11-13).
“… if we continue to openly rebel against God; refuse to listen to Him and His Word; refuse to repent of our sins; refuse to keep His law and to be obedient to Him; then God will not listen to our prayers. If we want to remain ‘sinners,’ even though we have been taught the truth—if we choose to continue to follow the dictates and devices of our own evil heart—then we cannot expect to be heard on high.”
This reduces the number of people even more whom God is hearing and listening to at the same time. Even when a person is called to salvation and responds to the call, he or she will not be heard if they depart from the Truth. On the other hand, God may hear the prayers of people who show genuine remorse for their deeds, even though they might not be called to salvation in this day and age. We state in the above-mentioned Q&A on the prayers of sinners:
“God… listened to the prayer of the Ninevites and spared their city (Jonah 3:5-10). Jesus confirmed later that their ‘repentance’ was sufficient for God to relent from the disaster that He had intended to bring upon them (Matthew 12:41)…
“Christ listened to the prayer of a Gentile woman and healed her young daughter, by casting out a demon, when He saw her faith (Mark 7:25-30). In that case, we don’t even know whether she was conscious of, and whether she had repented of her sins, but God honored her faith in Him. God says that until He calls someone to repentance, He overlooks the time of ignorance (Acts 17:30), but even then, He desires that people ‘seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us’ (Acts 17:27).
“Someone who is looking to God and who is trying to do what is right, as much as he or she understands it, might very well be heard by God. Christ healed many people who had faith in Him, even though they did not understand many things about God and His Way of Life. But once God calls us to salvation, He expects of us to respond to His call, repent, get to know Him and His Way better, and to obey Him. We have to forsake the ways of this world and choose to live God’s Way of Life…”
This would especially include those children who are growing up in the Truth with at least one converted parent. We state the following in a Q&A, titled, “Does God hear the prayers of sinners?”:
“Little children are basically unaware of what sin is. But they may have a humble and teachable heart. When they pray to God, He might answer their prayers. Let us realize what Christ said about little children, in Matthew 18:3-4: ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
“Little children don’t have an agenda. They are quick to forgive. They are open to teaching. Many times, God may respond to their prayers, if they ‘believe’ in God in their limited way, since Christians must become ‘like’ them to be able to enter God’s Kingdom.”
Still, as we can see from the foregoing, the number of prayers which God would hear and listen to at the same time is considerably less than millions or even billions of prayers. We continue in the above-mentioned Q&A on sinners:
“… if we want God to answer our prayers and grant us the petitions of our hearts, we need to obey Him. After all, there is a strong connection between obedience and answered prayers, as we read in 1 John 3:22: ‘And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.’”
It is true, of course, that God watches all of mankind to see whether someone seeks Him (Psalm 11:4; 14:2-3). But He knows that in general, the overwhelming majority do not seek Him in this day and age, and so He does not listen to their prayers either, which for the most part are not even directed towards Him anyway.
There are many Scriptures which, according to some, seem to suggest otherwise; that is, that God hears the prayers of everybody at the same time, as He allegedly searches the hearts of everybody every second. But this is not what the Bible teaches. In our previous Q&A in this series, we quoted several passages to show that God searched David’s heart and that He knows and tests the hearts of man. But this does not necessarily mean that God does so every second of each person’s consciousness. It is most certainly true for those whom God has called for salvation and to whom He has given His Holy Spirit, or with whom His Spirit works, leading them to conversion (Acts 15:8; Romans 8:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 2:23).
But as mentioned, this only applies to a very few today. The Bible does not mean to tell us that God needs to listen to the prayers of billions of people at the same time to determine their thoughts and hearts. After all, they are not judged today; their judgment will still come. Nobody can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:65; 6:44). God knows that all others are under the rule of Satan and that they, generally speaking, are fulfilling the will of their father, the Devil (John 8:44).
Even though God is most certainly capable of listening to billions of people at the very same time, the Bible does not teach us that He does; nor, that He has to do this. In addition, another astonishing aspect is revealed in the context of this question, which we will discuss in the next installment.
(To be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link