How to Pray/My Prayer Is He There? Communicating with God by Dillon Duke As of writing this article, I’m in second semester of college away from home. While I realize that my journey to receive higher education may still be young, I can honestly say that I’ve learned a lot over one semester’s worth of time. From learning about the scientific miracle that are the pods that you put into a washing machine, or that pizza isn’t a healthy option for breakfast, college is definitely a learning experience. Besides laundry lessons and dietary discoveries, one of the more profound things that I’ve learned while being in college was actually a lesson in one of my communications classes (being a Communications major is the best by the way). While reading one of my textbooks, the author talked about the major difference between two words that I thought were simple synonyms for each other; hearing and listening. God Doesn’t Just Hear Us, He Listens This amazing textbook made the point that, while the two words are commonly used for the same thing, the actual definitions of the two tell a different story. On the one hand, hearing is defined as “the vibration of sound waves on the eardrums and the firing of electrochemical impulses to the brain.” So, as long as you have your sense of hearing, you are always hearing. On the other hand, listening is defined as “paying close attention to, and making sense of, what we hear.” Hearing is almost a given, but whether or not we listen is a different question. For example, if you’ve ever been telling someone a story and halfway through it the person whom you are telling it to zones out, it’s not like their brain couldn’t receive the words that were said. Their brain just lost concentration on what was being said, so whatever information that was being said becomes white noise. The example that I used to explain the difference between hearing and listening is was easy to understand because we communicate with other people everyday. Communication is key to any relationship and, for that reason, this idea of hearing versus listening should also be applied to our most important relationship: our prayer life with God. We Need to Start to Listen to God Too One of the most common things that I’ve heard people struggle with in prayer (myself included) is that it doesn’t really feel like the “conversation with God” that we want it to be. Oftentimes, prayer can feel very one-sided. There have been points in my life where prayer felt like I was on the phone with God and He fell asleep on me as soon as I called. I had no idea what God wanted in my life. It felt like when I was talking to God, he heard me, but never listened to me. This, however, is anything but the truth. After talking to others about this problem I was having, someone told me that even though it may not be easy to see, God is still looking over us. The quote that they told me was,“if we believe that the sun exists when it’s night time, why do we think God doesn’t care when things might be rough in our lives?” If that quote doesn’t explain it well enough, let me put it this way — we are God’s children and He is the parent that wants to help us. God listens to us intentionally and feels every emotion that we do. He’s happy when we laugh, and when we’re sad, He cries along with us. He loves His children too much to simply ignore them. God did not have to send down His son to save us yet he did anyways because He loves us. Even though it might be hard to see sometimes, God is pulling the strings behind the scenes in order for you to live a beautiful and fulfilling life. So if God listens to us, why does prayer still feel like we’re writing letters to a pen-pal who never writes back? God responds to our prayers but sometimes, we’re the ones guilty of hearing but not listening. When things go wrong and the sin hits the fan (pun intended), we might begin to question if God knows what He is doing. It’s at these points that we should hear the word of God and listen to what’s being said. God wants us to know that he has an amazing life laid out for you:”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). Whenever we do wonder about that plan and begin to doubt however, St. Paul reassures us that everything will be be okay if we simply lift our issues to our listening God: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). In these excerpts from Scripture we clearly see that no matter what perceive about our world or our God, He is always listening to us. We, as His children, must work on becoming better listeners to everything that He has provided us. From the Scriptures to the saints, there are countless examples of people who have felt like God simply wasn’t listening. A great example of a saint that had these same issues is St. Teresa of Calcutta. She went through extremely long periods of doubt about God, even so far as to think that God wasn’t even there sometimes. Instead of turning away from prayer however, she lifted up her struggles to God. It’s this type of thinking that we need to embrace when we think about our prayer life. We simply cannot leave God when our relationship seems tough: we have to lift up those struggles to Him. (Check out this cool video to learn more about Saint Teresa’s prayer struggles). All relationships require communication to survive. If a relationship is to truly thrive however, we must work on not simply hearing, but listening, as well. That goes for our human relationships, as well as our spiritual one with our heavenly Father. There are several ways to pray when things may feel difficult. As mentioned earlier, the saints can be great inspirations for us but there are many other ways that we can try to keep praying. We can pray along to Scripture when we can’t seem to hear anything from God because no matter what, we can lean on te previous words that God has spoken. It’s hard to be happy with a relationship where it feels like you’re the only one trying and the other isn’t listening; but know that, not only does God listen to your cries, but He is desperately trying for you to listen to His love.