Spiritual Life

What if we said ‘God SEE our prayer’ instead of ‘God hear our prayer?

Having prayers heard is a standard article of faith. Biblical accounts, historical statements and contemporary testimonies repeat this conviction that God hears or has heard the prayer of believers.

Accordingly, a common feature of many religious services is a selected responsive reading or prayer. The leader says a statement of petition, gratitude or praise, and the people respond with something like, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

I heard this religious petition the other day, “Lord, HEAR our prayer,” and it got me to wondering. Do we ever say, “Lord, SEE our prayer”? I wonder what it means for our prayers to be SEEN.

We know that hearing happens when noise is audible and seeing happens when something is visible. What does a prayer even LOOK like?

I’m not talking about words or music, but presence or action. Prayer made manifest in front of God and everyone. Empirical evidence of prayer’s subject or object, perhaps even the proof of prayer.

Perhaps you remember the Peanuts cartoon in which Linus desperately wanted Charlie Brown’s eyes on him. “Lookit, Charlie Brown, lookit,” Linus exclaimed repeatedly, “Lookit! Lookit! LOOKIT!!” With exasperation, Charlie Brown finally blurts out, “I’m lookitting!”

“Lord, see my prayer.” Or in the spirited, concise passion of Linus, “Lord, lookit!” I wonder what we want or expect of such statements. I wonder what we might want God to see. Is this like presenting an offering or gift or effort or outcome of some type; is it demonstrating a good work or deed for God’s inspection; or even a type of religious bragging?

There are a number of biblical stories that consider such religious visual or visible prayers, including the infamous “widow’s mite” that Jesus observed as the offering was presented during a temple service (Luke 21:1-3). Centuries earlier, a Prophet hoped in faith, “It may be that God will look upon my misery and restore to me the covenant blessing instead of the curse” (II Samuel 16:12).

On the one hand, asking for a divine audience seems modest and faithful enough. It states we really care about something important to us and hopefully to God. On the other hand, petitioning a divine observation might be risky, revealing more than we intended.

Perhaps it’s like when you have a project evaluated at school or on the job. The judges pore over the items or products as presenters fidget, wondering if it will be seen and found satisfactory or worthy. There is a certain vulnerability when our work or works comes under visual scrutiny. “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly” (John 3:21).

Nevertheless, the cartoon reminds us that children of all ages need to be seen to be validated. Likewise, perhaps “See my prayer” is a request for “divine lookitting.” Without knowing for sure, this much I affirm for us all, inspired by the words and tune of the old spiritual: “God’s eye is on the sparrow, and I know God watches me.”

Timothy J. Ledbetter, DMin, BCC is an American Baptist-endorsed professional chaplain and member of Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email lluginbill@tricityherald.com.
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