Sunday, September 26

Does God Hear All The Prayers of Humanity?

Many people have often asked, "How is it possible for God to be able to hear, whether he chooses to answer or not, billions of people around the world at the same time, while running the universe as well?" Recently, I read a work by one of the intellectual and theological giants of the twentieth century, Clive Staples Lewis. Commonly known as the Anglican author C.S. Lewis, he known for such works as The Chronicles of Narnia series, The Screwtape Letters, and the work I read, Mere Christianity. In one of the last few chapters, he covered this very topic. In this brief entry, I would like to reflect a bit on what Lewis shared.  (Photo credit to: St. Johns)

Let us picture for a moment, someone writing a book. In this book are "Martha" and "Clark". Clark is sitting in his living room reading the newspaper, when Martha calls his phone, which proceeds to ring. Clark gets up to answer the phone, but just before he hears what she is calling about, the author stop writing, get up, and think for several hours about what to write next. For the author, time passes. But for the characters in the book, Clark and Martha, time does not pass while the author thinks, because in the book, the next moment, Martha explains what she is calling about - but for the author, who is writing this story, time passes, because he is deliberating over what to write next.

That said, let us now assume God is now the author. In fact, we are told in Hebrews 12:2 to fix "our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith." Now, we are in the story - time moves for us, but not the same as it does for him. Lewis noted, "God is not hurried along in the time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you are the only being He had created. When Christ died, he died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world."

I trust that makes sense. God portrayed as the author, and as the author, time moves differently for him than for us, so that he could take months, years, hours spent in eternity on each and every prayer. So can God really hear all of our prayers at any given moment, run the universe, and maintain order at the same time? With this logic, by all means. In the sacred Scriptures, God promises, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). God can take all the time that he needs to answer our prayers, because he is not bound by time.

Another analogy that comes to mind can be derived from Disney's Tron (1982). In the  film, we are shown a video game in an arcade. The creator of this arcade game, Kevin Flynn, goes into his office late one night and somehow enters into the game. In other words, the Creator enters into his Creation (which also has Incarnational connotations). But since Flynn exists as a being outside of the game, while he was creating the game, he determined the laws by which the game would operate, including the mechanics of time. Therefore, he could take a break from his creation - and days, months or years could pass - but time may remain the same within the game. As such, if we apply this analogy (however imperfect) to the topic at hand, we may say that if God's creation (man) reached out to him through prayer, he would have all of the time he needed to hear our prayers, since he exists outside of his creation.

Now, to be fair, this is a rather simple analogy seeking to answer a more complex question. But on a practical level, whether you are a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, or what have you, prayer is a common element to each major religious tradition. The Christian tradition would posit that we are all made in the imago dei (image of God), whether that refers to physical appearance or cognitive functions, and Christians are called to "love thy neighbor." With this understanding as a foundation, each human person has inherent dignity, value, and meaning. Therefore, we my infer via such analogies that a divine being could hear all of the prayers of humanity, regardless of who we are, where we are, or the method by which we pray.

Troy Hillman

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