Life Hope & Truth

From the May/June 2017 issue of Discern Magazine

What Do I Have to Do to Be Heard?

It’s easy to make noise, but hard to be heard. In a sea of competing voices, the Bible reveals the secret to being heard and finding the answers you’re looking for.

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Hello?

Is this thing on?

Oh, good, you’re here! I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it or not.

That’s the thing about writing articles—they’re these weird, time-delayed, one-sided conversations, and there’s no way to know who might show up. It could be anyone!

Well … maybe not anyone. Discern magazine has multiple thousands of readers, but as far as I know, that number doesn’t include any world leaders or heads of state. It probably doesn’t include any officials of the United Nations or the European Union, either.

In other words, even though I have the ability to write to a decently large audience on subjects that matter to me, I can’t expect that anyone in a position of real power is going to take the time to read my articles—or even care that they exist. If I have a problem I want addressed, it’s not as if I can call the president and ask him to take care of it.

You probably can’t do that either. There are billions of people on this planet of ours, each with his or her own unique set of problems and concerns. Can you imagine what would happen if every single one of us had an open channel of communication with our world leaders? It would be impossible—complete and utter chaos. There are too many of us with too many problems for us to expect a small handful of leaders to listen to and address them all.

More than being heard

But what if your problem is really important? What if it affects more than just you—what if it affects your friends and family, or your neighborhood and community?

Well, it turns out that a hundred voices are easier to hear than just one—and when a thousand or tens of thousands come together to speak out about the same issue, they suddenly get a lot harder to ignore. A world leader might not notice a single person with a single problem, but a hundred thousand raising their voices about the same problem? Well, that demands a response.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always demand a favorable response. That’s the thing about marches and protests and movements—they’re powerful megaphones that can ensure you’ll be heard, but they can’t guarantee change. They can’t promise your cause will get anything other than a few moments in the spotlight.

For some people, that’s enough—but for most, the issue isn’t about just being heard. The issue is about being heard, understood and valued.

That’s what we really want, isn’t it? Not just to be heard, but to be heard by someone who gets us—someone who understands what we’re going through, who wants the best for us, and who has the power to do something about it.

And while we’re at it, we might as well wish for a unicorn too.

Who gives power?

Let’s face facts: that person doesn’t exist. The people with the greatest power to make change generally are too overwhelmed with major problems to really focus on the plights of people like you and me, and the people who do really care generally don’t have the ability to change our situation. Even if they did, there’s no guarantee they’d understand what we really need.

But it’s not as hopeless as it sounds. As it turns out, the presidents, prime ministers, chancellors and dictators of the world don’t actually have as much power as it appears.

When Jesus Christ was on trial, He stood silent as Pontius Pilate interrogated Him. Pilate—a powerful governor in the Roman Empire—asked Christ, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” (John 19:10).

Jesus’ answer is worth noting. He told Pilate, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above” (verse 11).

It’s a concept Daniel the prophet introduced to King Nebuchadnezzar when he warned him that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:25).

Now, that raises a lot of other questions with answers we can’t cover in this article—questions like, “Why does God give power to people who will misuse it?” and “Why doesn’t He take it away when they do?” The short answer is, “He has a reason,” and we cover the longer answer in our second Journey, “The Problem of Evil.” (You can sign up for our Journeys through the Life Hope & Truth Learning Center).

The takeaway for us in this article is simply that the people we often perceive as having all the power don’t actually have all the power. They only have what God gives them.

The God who hears

Now, let’s take a minute to talk about the God who holds all that power in His hands. If He were anything like many of the human leaders of the world, we’d be in trouble—He’d be too busy, too important, too disinterested to spend His time listening to us.

Thankfully, that’s not the God the Bible reveals. David, in one of his many recorded psalms, confidently states, “I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God; incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech” (Psalm 17:6).

Another psalmist sings, “I love the LORD, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live” (Psalm 116:1-2).

God is a God who hears. And the Bible bears that out. Again and again, we find stories in the Bible of a God who pays close attention to His creation. When a slave runs away in fear from her master, God speaks to her and promises her child a future, “because the LORD has heard your affliction” (Genesis 16:11).

There’s a loving God who is eager to hear from and help you, and He’s never more than a prayer away.When the nation of Israel cried out in bondage in Egypt, God sent them a deliverer with a message: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows” (Exodus 3:7, emphasis added throughout).

And when Israel finished building God’s temple, He promised that, even in the middle of punishment for wickedness, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

God hears.

Better than picket signs

There are people in this world who desperately want to be heard—to be understood and valued. They’re trying their best to shout over the noise of so many other voices—but the incredible truth is, there’s no need to shout. There’s a loving God who is eager to hear from and help you, and He’s never more than a prayer away.

One of the most effective prayers in the Bible came from a man named Hezekiah. His capital of Jerusalem was under siege by Assyria, a formidable war machine with a reputation for chewing up and spitting out its enemies. Hezekiah was outmatched and outflanked, and the king of Assyria knew it. He taunted Hezekiah, asking, “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:35).

Hezekiah realized any human response was futile.

So He prayed. The prayer recorded in the Bible isn’t long or fancy, but it was effective. He humbled himself before the God who “made heaven and earth” (2 Kings 19:15) and begged for God to hear the proud words of the Assyrian king and “save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone” (verse 19).

In response, God sent word to Hezekiah: “Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard” (verse 20). The tides changed. God struck down the Assyrian army and Jerusalem was saved—thanks in large part to that prayer.

How to be heard

The Bible is full of prayers that changed the course of history. “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again” (Hebrews 11:32-35).

Not that every prayer brings the results we’re hoping for. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, prayed before His crucifixion: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Christ understood what we, too, need to understand: God knows best. He’ll work out what is best, not what we think is best.

But He hears. He cares. And He has the power to bring about real, lasting change when His people cry out to Him: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15).

So, what do you need to do to be heard?

It’s simple, really. Bow your head. Bend your knees.

The God of the universe is listening.

For further reading, download our study guide How to Pray.

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