Is God listening when I pray? Why doesn't he give me some kind of sign so I know he hears me?
I can guarantee that almost every single person has asked those questions at some point in their life. Prayer can be the most satisfying and most frustrating activity in the Christian life.
Yet when you really want something--like a godly spouse--and it would be a good thing, you can't help wondering what's going on with God. It's as if your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, unheard.
You'd be less than human if you didn't have doubts at this point. After all, everything we've been taught about God is that he is a loving Father who delights to give us good things. So why doesn't he, sometimes?
This isn't a simple matter of unanswered prayers. Something deeper is going on, something that goes to the heart of who God is and who we are.
It's easy to get confused. If you watch any Christian television at all and run into the Prosperity Gospel, you're going to get a wrong understanding of who God is.
Based on what God reveals about himself in the Bible, we know, without doubt that:
God is all-powerful. He spoke the universe into existence with only his words. That's even impossible for us to grasp. He made everything out of nothing. Human science can't make anything out of nothing. Absolutely nothing, from Satan to mankind, can oppose God and win.
God is all-wise. He knows all things, past, present and future. It's been said he has a kind of "helicopter view" of time. Everything is in the "present" to him. He knows what's coming up and how things will work out.
God is in control. The Bible calls it sovereignty. Even if events look haphazard or unconnected, they're not. God either causes all things or allows all things, including what happens in your life.
God is a personal God. He does intervene in the individual lives of his people. Scripture says he has numbered the hairs on your head, a way of assuring that he is involved in your life and he cares.
God loves you. This may be the hardest truth for us single people to believe. Sometimes we even phrase our prayers, "God, if you really love me, you'll…" By sacrificing his only Son for our salvation, God the Father proved once and for all that his love for us is unshakeable.
If you're following so far, we can draw some important conclusions from the truths above. The first one is that God, being perfect, always acts true to his holy character.
That means God is never going to do anything weak, dumb, or indifferent. While it often appears that God is punishing you by withholding what you want most, understanding that God loves you more than you love yourself demands that he always give you or allow what's best for you, even if it doesn't look that way to you.
In my own life, I had a couple relationships break up that just drove me to despair. I was certain each of those women was right for me. But decades later, looking back, I see clearly that marriage to any of those girls would have ended in disaster. I was too emotionally biased to see the truth at the time. It's not a matter of sour grapes. It's a matter of "There are some things worse than being alone."
Knowing God's character makes it easier to trust him. When I was a little boy, I never had any doubts that my parents were kind and that they loved me. Even though he never finished high school, my Dad was one of the wisest men I've ever known. When I didn't get my way, I eventually learned that Dad was smarter than me. I can be pretty thick at times, so it took me decades to learn that God is smarter than me too.
So we come back to the Big Question: Is God listening?
Consider this verse from 1 Peter 3:12:
"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (NIV)
No need to worry whether you're righteous. We Christians get our righteousness from Jesus Christ, not ourselves. God is listening to your prayers.
Let's not forget, too, that there's more than this life ahead of us. In fact, compared to eternity, our life on earth is as fleeting as the blink of an eye. God is building our character now, conforming us to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Is God listening? Yes. Is your request in line with God's will for you? Are you on board with the truth that God knows what's best for you, better than you do? Do you trust God to give you that best, even if it's not what you want?
Those are hard questions, and it may take years for you to work them out, as it did for me. But in the past couple years, I've stopped asking myself "Is God listening?"
Lately I'm asking, "Have I surrendered my life to God so he can use me as he pleases?"