Gloria in Excelsis Deo ("Glory to God in the Highest"), the magnificent doxology sung during the Roman Catholic and Anglican mass, contains a refrain in which God is implored to "hear our prayer." I always find this a bit curious. Why do we feel we have to beg to be heard? Presumably God is not deaf, although many people believe that a sinner's prayer falls on deaf ears. Since we are all sinners, as such things are reckoned, there might be legitimate cause for concern here. But I think not. The real problem with sin, in my view, is that it makes us think God won't listen.
Hear our prayer. Imbedded in these words is the notion that there is a sender and a receiver of prayer who are separated by the vast gulf between heaven and earth or between spirit and flesh. We do the praying and God is on the other end of the line to hear our prayer or to hang up on us, as he deems fit. Occasionally, God does the talking, and we listen, although it is less clear in that case who is actually on the other end of the line. As Joan of Arc -- and the Old Testament prophets before her -- discovered, religious authorities often take a dim view of those who claim to be on reciprocal speaking terms with the Almighty.
The question is my mind is whether there is any distance at all between sender and receiver when we pray. If, as the theologian Paul Tillich says, God is the ground of our being, where do we direct our prayers? The one who prays and the one who hears prayer occupy the same ground. Small wonder that Jesus would say, "Your father knows what you need before you ask him." Not only are our prayers heard before they are uttered, there is seemingly no need, apart from our neediness, even to make the call.