God reveals himself through prayer.

Why does God listen to our prayers? For the same reason he reveals himself to us.

Prayer is of course talking with God. We talk to him and he talks back. It’s not a complicated idea, though we might, and do, complicate it.

Prayer is therefore the most common, most usual way God communicates with his people. Yeah, we can…

  • Experience a personal appearance by Jesus.
  • Hear prophets share what he told them.
  • Read about his will in the bible.
  • See, or be empowered to perform, miracles.
  • Have warm fuzzy feelings in church and assume that’s a God-encounter.
  • Have warm fuzzy feelings about nature and try to deduce what he’s like from that.

Christians list all these things as forms of revelation, though I would object to the last two. But nearly all of us pray, and nearly all of us hear God when we pray, so that’s how nearly all of us get revelation.

Now yes, there are those Christians who insist they don’t hear anything. To their minds, prayer is unidirectional: We talk, God hears, but God says nothing, ’cause he doesn’t need to say anything, ’cause he said everything he cares to say in the scriptures. This belief is largely based on cessationism, the belief God turned off the miracles—and in so doing, functionally abandoned his people—till the End Times. If you’re surrounded by cessationists, you’re gonna get the idea most Christians think like that. You’d be entirely wrong. Most of us hear God. (Not necessarily well, but I’ll discuss that in the next several prayer articles.)

Hearing God is demonstrated all over the scriptures. ’Cause the scriptures were written by prophets, and how’d they get their information? Yes, some Christians imagine they opened their mouths and God’s words came out of them like they were meat puppets. But in more cases they went to God with questions—with prayers—and during those prayers God responded, and that became their prophecies.

This is why prayer and prophecy are so closely connected. That’s usually how God gives prophets his messages for other people: He’ll say, “Tell them this.” You wanna see more prophecy in our church? Then y’all need to pray more often. You don’t get one without the other. (And if you do, those “prophecies” are usually messed up.)

Hearing God.

I did describe hearing God in my first article on prayer, but I’ll recap. God is spirit. Jn 4.24 In part, so are we, and when we speak to or listen to God, we’re doing so through our spiritual parts. He listens, or speaks back, the same way.

How do you know whether the voice in your head was God, or your own mind, or some evil spirit? I wrote on that too: We confirm it through fellow Christians who also hear God. He doesn’t only talk to you, y’know. He talks to everybody. It’s just not everybody listens.

Hearing God, and acting upon what he tells us, is the fastest way to grow our relationship with him. He likes to reward obedience. Our obedience is an act of faith, which means our faith’s gonna grow. Frequently God’s instructions have to do with growing the Spirit’s fruit, which means our character is gonna change to become Jesus’s. Sometimes it’s gonna provoke us to prophesy or perform miracles. More often it’ll just produce good works. And good Christians.

Hearing God also makes certain Christians nervous. Usually it’s dark Christians, the ones who fixate on fighting evil and Satan, and worry the devil might use it to trick us into following it instead of God. (Satan does enjoy playing God, y’know.) So these folks either encourage us to be so rigorous about confirming whether it’s God’s voice that we wind up dismissing nearly everything God says, or promote cessationism: God stopped talking back in bible times, so stop trying to listen and just read your bible.

As y’might notice from their dark fruit, dark Christians don’t know God as well as they imagine they do. So part of the reason they discourage listening to God, is because God tells us not to act like they do. To fear nothing and no one but God. Lk 12.4-5 To worry about nothing, but hand those worries off to God as well. Pp 4.6 To resist evil, instead of letting the fear of it stop us from dong good. Ro 12.21 And of course all the legalism, all the cultlike behavior—and don’t forget the civic idolatry—which tends to pervade their churches.

Stands to reason they get so warped: They don’t listen to God. They’re trying to figure him out through forms of revelation which they can tightly control. They control how the bible’s interpreted, and whether God’s activities are permitted or denounced as devilish. Sometimes they even try to control how nature’s interpreted, which is why there are Christians who won’t believe in science. It’s a narrow, fearful religion… and it can’t abide the actual voice of God correcting it. So it pretends to hear nothing.

Yikes. Anyway, don’t repeat their mistake. Do listen.

Interacting with God.

Of the Christians who don’t listen to God, one of their bigger debates is over whether our prayers really do get God to do things. Since he’s God and already knows the future, they wonder whether he doesn’t already have his mind made up… so our requests won’t do bupkis, ’cause God has a plan.

To these folks, the point of prayer isn’t really to ask God for stuff, isn’t really to try to change his mind about how things are going. It’s entirely to receive his revelation: To learn what God’s plan is, and get with the program instead of trying to rewrite the program. To tell him, “Your will be done,” Mt 6.10 then shut up and let him do his thing.

Okay yes, sometimes God’s answers are no, and we’ve gotta be okay with it when he does that. But it’s not because he can’t be swayed. Sometimes he does have a better idea in mind. More often we’ve asked for something we’ve no business asking. Jm 4.3

The rest of the time, God welcomes our prayer requests. Jn 16.23-24 He welcomes our interaction. True, he’s mighty enough to run the universe without any feedback from his kids, but that’s not the relationship he wants! He doesn’t wanna simply bark orders to his followers, and run things like a despot. He’s our Father. He wants us to be curious about what he’s up to, ask him how things work, and desire to be useful parts of his process. He wants to share with us.

If he didn’t want our interaction, he wouldn’t have bothered to reveal a thing. He’d save us without our input or knowledge, and that’d be that. The bible, if there was one, would be pamphlet-sized; or simply say, “I got this.” But God wants to take time out to explain his process to his confused, frustrated kids. And unconfuse us, unfrustrate us—even include us in his kingdom.

That’s what prayer—and really, all of revelation—is about. Make more sense now?