I once heard a story about a little girl who walked into the living room, where her father sat reading the newspaper. She stopped in front of him and started recounting her day’s events. Every couple of seconds, from behind the wall of the newspaper, she would hear him mumble things like "Mmm-hmm," "Really?" and "That’s nice," but she could tell he wasn’t really paying her any attention.
The little girl stopped and said, "Daddy, please put down the newspaper and listen to me."
"I am listening to you," he responded, paper still in hand.
She continued her monologue, but her voice was less sure. How could her daddy really listen to her and read the newspaper at the same time? "Daddy, will you please put down the newspaper and listen to me?"
"I am listening to you," he said as he turned the page.
The little girl finally reached up and ripped the newspaper out of his hands, throwing it on the floor behind her. She clapped her little hands on each side of his face and pulled him toward her so all he could see was her sweet, angelic face.
"Daddy," she said, "I want you to listen to me with your eyes."
Isn’t it frustrating when someone’s pretending to listen to you while they’re really doing something else? Doesn’t it make you want to grab them, like the little girl did to her father, and force them to give you their undivided attention?
Granted, the father probably could have read the paper and still heard everything his daughter had to say. After all, a child’s world isn’t very complicated. It wouldn’t take much effort to hear her recount her day’s activities, all the while catching up on the box scores.
But there’s a vast difference between hearing and listening, isn’t there?
Do you ever get the feeling that God’s too busy to listen to your prayers? Do you ever think that maybe he can’t be bothered with your wants, needs, problems? Let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
Psalm 116:1-2 says, "I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live."
God was attentive to the psalmist’s need, and listened to his prayer. This had two results. First, the writer loved the Lord. Second, he pledged to call on the Lord for the rest of his life.
What God did for the psalmist, he will also do for you. When you call on him, he will "turn his ear" to you. He will listen to your prayers.
He will also answer them. It may not always be the answer you desire, but your heavenly father will answer your prayers.
God’s attentiveness toward us places an example before us, which we ought to follow. Parents, listen to you kids while you still can. If you don’t, the time may come when they won’t tell you anything.
But if you show them now that you’re willing to listen to them, two things will result. First, they’ll love you for it. Second, they’ll be more apt to come to you when they have a future need.
Parrish Myers is pastor of Pine Crest Baptist Church in Gainesville.