One of the most difficult situations relationally any one of us can go through is to be communicating with someone that we have had a vibrant relationship with and yet suddenly not be sure if they hear or are listening to our communication. Such a situation easily draws out of us disillusionment, discouragement, anxiety, and concern about the state of that relationship. Bible examples, church history and personal experience demonstrate that true followers of Christ sometimes feel this very way about God. Such a sense of estrangement with God can easily crop up while in the midst of a difficult circumstance. We start off crying out “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), but as the particular circumstance continues we are easily tempted to question if He is in fact hearing our cries. This is precisely why Scripture again and again assures us that God does hear and answer prayer according to His will and that in fact He advances His will through the means of our prayers. The Lord graciously condescends to our weakness in His revelation to assure us by promises and teaching that He hears and answers prayer.
Another way that the Lord condescends to our weakness and assures us that He hears and answers prayer is by giving examples from His people as recorded in Scripture. One such example is found in Egypt when His people were being oppressed as slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh was concerned that the Israelites would become “more and mightier than we” (Exodus 1:9) so “they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor” (Exodus 1:11). In spite of this the Israelites continued to multiply so “The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them” (Exodus 1:13-14). In addition to this hard labor, Pharaoh directed the midwives “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live” (Exodus 1:16). The Israelites were in a very bad situation and they did what all of God’s people naturally and rightly do when in such a trying situation, they cried out to God in prayer.
Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out… (Exodus 2:23a)
What would be God’s response? Would He hear? On what basis would He hear and respond?
…and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them (Exodus 2:23b-25)
When we are going through difficult circumstances, especially ones that persist beyond what we think is our breaking point, we are tempted to think that our prayers are not “getting to heaven.” But notice what these verses say: “Their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.” Their cries were being heard and so are ours if what was true of Israel is true of us. What was the basis upon which these cries for help were heard? In one word it is “covenant.” God “remembered” His covenant. God didn’t remember like we remember. We remember something because for a brief (or a long!) moment it slipped our mind and we were forgetting something. But God cannot and does not forget anything. As you look at this concept of God “remembering” things in the Scripture it is clear that His remembrance of something is Him acting upon His promises or covenants for the good of His people. Notice again what God’s response is to these cries that “rose up to” Him:
So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them (Exodus 2:24-25).
The narrative of the Exodus continues and again and again it is emphasized that God is acting on behalf of His people because their cry was heard within the context of His gracious and undeserved covenant with them.
The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings (Exodus 3:7).
“Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them (Exodus 3:9).
So how does this help us when we are carrying out to God and are not confident He is hearing? We need to ask ourselves this question: Are we in covenant with God? If you have trusted in Christ alone for your salvation then the Scriptures teach that you have been graciously included in what is called the “New Covenant” (Jeremiah 31:33-34; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3; Hebrews 8-9); Which means that all of God’s dealings with you are rooted in His undeserved covenant with you in Christ. The Scripture is clear that to be in covenant with God through Christ means that we are in union with Christ. It is simply unthinkable that God would ignore His Son and so it is just as unthinkable that He would ignore those who are in His Son. He may not answer when, how, or even perceivably like we would desire, but if we are in Christ God hears our cries and He will act on our behalf according to His gracious covenant with us. We may “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). In fact, it was Jesus who taught a parable and introduced it this way:
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1).
Do not lose heart. Pray. Cry out. Do so with this confidence: Your cries are rising up to God, the God who remembers and therefore acts upon His covenant with you in Christ. And in this confidence have this firm conviction: Whatever answer He gives and however long or short a time of waiting for that answer remember this: God is good.
The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him (Nahum 1:7)
And remember this: God is wise.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? (Romans 11:33-35)
And remember this: God will be glorified:
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36).
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay;
Therefore will not say thee nay.
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much;
None can ever ask too much.
With my burden I begin:
Lord, remove this load of sin;
Let Thy blood, for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt;
Set my conscience free from guilt.
Lord, I come to Thee for rest,
Take possession of my breast;
There Thy blood bought right maintain,
And without a rival reign;
And without a rival reign.
As the image in the glass
Answers the beholder’s face;
Thus unto my heart appear,
Print Thine own resemblance there,
Print Thine own resemblance there.
While I am a pilgrim here,
Let Thy love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
Lead me to my journey’s end;
Lead me to my journey’s end.
Show me what I have to do,
Every hour my strength renew:
Let me live a life of faith,
Let me die Thy people’s death;
Let me die Thy people’s death.
Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare by John Newton