Is God Listening?

Perhaps I’ve taken for granted that God hears my prayers.

As His child, I know He loves me.  Through the Word and prayer there is this beautiful, relational dance where I am growing closer with my great, saving Father. He speaks to me and desires for me to speak to Him.

But the Word also says there are times He doesn’t listen.

I think if a loving God were to choose not to listen to me, it must be because of something serious. I explored one such area in a previous post. In Malachi 2, God reveals His high value for me caring for my marriage and family. I’ve recently come across another passage that reveals a high value for God.

In Isaiah 58 (NIV), God calls Isaiah to proclaim a loud message to His people regarding their sins.

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.

Clearly, there’s a major problem for God to address His beloved Israel in such a fashion.

For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

Umm…I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit confused to this point. The people are seeking God. That seems like a good thing. They are eager to know Him. They are talking to Him and asking for God to come near to them. How is this bad? This sounds like what we do week in and week out at local church gatherings around the world. Doesn’t it?

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

Honestly, I’d wonder the same thing. If I’m pursuing God, why isn’t He responding? Perhaps many of us are asking this in the local church today. Why does God just not break through and respond to our prayers?

Then, the hammer drops.

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

It’s not about the activity, it’s about the motivation.

The people wanted God’s blessings, but they weren’t willing to be a blessing to others. They went through all the acceptable motions for worship, but their worship was in vain.

God wasn’t listening.

Thankfully, God also tells us how to make the necessary changes. Consider the following carefully.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

In other words, does our worship match the heart of God?

We spend countless hours on music, media, liturgy, decorating, planning, programming and more to prepare for our “worship.” These are not bad things in and of themselves, but it will only be our worship if our walk doesn’t match our talk.

Our efforts will be meaningless if we only focus on what we can get from  God as opposed to what God calls us to give to others in His name.

  • To seek freedom for those who are enslaved (vv. 6, 9)
  • To give honor and respect to all humanity (vv. 4, 9)
  • To spend ourselves in behalf of the hungry (vv. 7, 10)
  • To show compassion and hospitality to the poor (vv. 7, 10)

I don’t think this is a comprehensive list, but it does reveal something of the heart of God. These are areas that reveal something He is so passionate about that He would choose not to hear someone’s prayers. They are areas where we cannot help but move from our selfish motivations to selfless living.

And, if our heart matches His…

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousnesswill go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Not only does God come near, but He will walk with you as you become His hands and feet to the world.

11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

We talked and prayed over this passage in our Commissioning group this week. We’re intentionally looking to align our daily lives with the way God calls us to live. Jesus is our example of selfless living, and we desire to imitate Him as we live out the gospel and share God’s love with the world.

I’m both thrilled and challenged by these teens who are weekly deciding to live intentionally for Christ and seek to live in a way that brings others to Him.

When they pray, I know God is listening.

——

As you read Isaiah 58, what is an area that speaks to your heart? Take time to share and allow others to give you ideas for how to take the next step. You might also consider checking out 58: HERE for other ideas.

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  1. […] We’ve considered Isaiah 58 before, but we went deeper this week in our Commissioning group. In this passage, God’s people are irritated that He hasn’t answered their prayers. […]

  2. […] had not really put “stopping” with “fasting” before, but Isaiah 58 does this in an unexpected way. The whole of the chapter seems to be about True Fasting. But God […]



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