A Worship Truth for All to Hear
Anyone involved in worship or production ministry is all too aware of the critical role that volume plays in worship services. Can the congregation hear the drummer? Do the people in the back row hear the Scripture reading? Are the words being sung loud enough to be understandable?
Whatever the ambient volume of our sanctuary, there is a more critical matter of volume and understanding at play. It is one of the most glorious truths in the universe: implicit, and seldom mentioned. That is, when we gather to worship at our local churches, behind all our prayers and all our songs, behind all our exhortations and all our encouragements: the Lord hears.
Has that simple, astonishing truth recently escaped you? Do you realize that, though God is all powerful and present everywhere, He is not required to hear you? Would your Sunday morning worship times differ if you were more aware of that truth than the volume of the instruments?
Why We Can’t (Or Won’t) Hear
Consider the reasons why we cannot hear when someone calls to us. Perhaps there is something wrong with our ears--my children often wonder if, after decades of performing live music, there is something wrong with dad’s hearing. Perhaps they are right and my hearing is failing--I prefer to think they are too far away when they are calling. Perhaps the distance between the speaker and our listening eardrums is too far for the sounds to be intelligible. Or perhaps there is a social or relational gap between speakers and listeners, such as when a celebrity walking past a crowd believes himself too important to stop and listen to all the shouts from his adoring fans.
The God Who Hears
But consider the glorious God of the universe. First, God’s hearing never fails. His ears, after millennia of listening, are not fading. Second, God is never too far away to hear our cries. Though he is high, he regards the lowly (Ps. 138:6). These insights are precious; for me, however, the glorious reality of God’s listening becomes clearest when I consider how God listens across the social and relational chasm between us. Philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, “By listening to what we say to God, the unsurpassable great God brings it about that this puny, defective act of ours becomes a link between us.” He continues, with understatement: “This is astonishing.” 
It is astonishing that a God who is infinitely rich and never lacking crosses the chasm and answers the poor and needy (Ps. 86:1). A God who is completely righteous hears those who need deliverance and rescue (Ps. 71:2). Even those in the midst of the darkest situations (Ps. 88:2), the most distressing times (Ps. 102:2), and failing spirits (Ps. 143:7) can turn to God in prayer. Those facing adversaries (Ps. 64:1) or tearful sojourns (Ps. 39:12) can bring these concerns to the Lord.
Scripture promises us that the Lord hears the prayers of the needy (Ps. 69:33) and the cries of the afflicted (Ps. 22:24). The Lord hears at all hours of the day (Ps. 55:17), even in the day of trouble (Ps. 86:7), and begins His answer even before our request is fully spoken (Is. 65:24).
Faith believes that God will hear and answer prayers (Ps. 17:6). This faith provides patience as believers await his answer (Ps. 40:1). Because God has previously brought relief in times of distress, believers call on Him again and again (Ps. 4:1).
The Words of Our Mouths
And while it’s true that the Lord hears and delivers the righteous from their troubles (Ps. 34:17), even undeserving sinners can be sure that God even hears their cries for mercy (Ps. 55:1). Because God is gracious, He hears our cries (Ps. 27:7), even to the point that He makes the words of our mouths acceptable in his sight (Ps. 19:14).
So, believer, how would you pray this morning if knew that God was listening? How would you sing if you knew God could hear? God’s word tells us to call on Him and bring our most difficult and most trying circumstances to his attentive ear. He is listening.
 Nicholas Wolterstorff, The God We Worship (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), 77.
Matthew Westerholm (@mwesterholm) lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Lisa, and their three sons. He serves as a worship pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church and a professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary.