How can God listen to billions of prayers at the same time? (Part 3)
In the first two parts of this series, we showed from the Bible that God can and does indeed listen to many prayers at the same time, and we showed how this is possible. However, we also showed that God does not listen to billions of prayers at the same time; in fact, He may only listen to a few thousand who pray to Him. But even this concept may be too difficult to grasp for the limited human mind, and so, in this final installment, we will point out additional important aspects in respect to God’s hearing and answering our prayers.
It may be easier for man’s mind to grasp the fact that God can and does listen to multiple prayers at the same time, and that He acts on them at the same time, when we realize that God is not just one Being, but a Family, consisting of two God beings—the Father and Jesus Christ, the Son. We are told that when we pray to the Father, we may and should do this “in the name of Christ” (compare John 14:13; 16:23-24, 26). This concept needs to be understood in its full magnitude and application.
We state the following in our free booklet, Teach Us to Pray:
“When we do something in the name of Christ, we recognize His great power through which He works. Acts 3:6 says that Peter healed a lame person by telling him to rise up and walk ‘in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.’ Acts 3:16 says that Christ’s Name, ‘through faith in His Name,’ has healed a person—the faith which comes through Him did it. Acts 4:7 quotes the high priest asking Peter, ‘By what power [dunamis in Greek; a reference to the power of God’s Spirit] or by what name have you’ healed this man? Acts 4:10 quotes Peter’s answer: I did it ‘…by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…, by Him this man stands here before you whole.’…
“John 14:13-14 says that whatever we ask in Christ’s name, Christ will do it… The Commentary on the Whole Bible, by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, explains: ‘…whatever you ask in My name—as Mediator—that I will do.’…
“When the Father gives us the Holy Spirit in Christ’s name, He is actually giving us the Spirit through Christ… the Father gives it to Christ, and Christ passes it on to us…
“When we pray to the Father in Christ’s name… we… [expect] Christ to do something while we pray… The Commentary on the Whole Bible, by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, explains that Christ is the living Conductor of the prayer upward, and the answer downward… when we pray to the Father in the name of Christ, we are, in a sense, asking Christ to plead our case to the Father…
“Christ lives in us, and when we pray in the name of Christ, it is actually Christ who gives us the mind to say the right things, and it is He who even communicates to the Father what we might have wanted to say—but we could not find the right way to express them. We read that the Spirit makes intercession for us, when we pray (Compare Romans 8:26-27). Verse 34 clarifies that it is actually Christ, through His Spirit, who makes intercession for us or pleads our cause. He is a life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45)…”
So, there is communication going on between the Father and Christ. Both are involved when it comes to listening to and answering the prayers of God’s people. This concept might help us to also understand better what will occur when billions of people will be resurrected in the Great White Throne Judgment who will all be praying to God at the same time. Then, the God Family will consist of millions of Beings who will all be God—all being able and willing to hear and respond to those who pray.
But there is still another aspect pertaining to the concept of hearing and answering prayers; that is, we must not overlook the function of angels.
We say this in our free booklet, Angels, Demons and the Spirit World:
“Man has no comprehension of how many angels exist. The revealed number is indeed mind-boggling. In Revelation 5:11, the number of angels that had assembled before the throne of God is given as ‘…ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.’ Hebrews 12:22 goes even further: ‘But you have come to… an innumerable company of angels.’ The Greek word for ‘innumerable’ is ‘anarithmethos,’ literally meaning, ‘unnumbered’ or ‘without number.’ Certainly God knows how many angels He created but for man, angels are ‘without number.’…”
What, if anything, do angels have to do with human prayers?
Two interesting Scriptures show a connection. They are found in Revelation 5:8 and in Revelation 8:3-5:
“Now when He [the Lamb, Jesus Christ] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders [all angelic beings] fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints…
“Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.”
It is clear that these passages do not permit us to pray to angels. The worship of angels is specifically prohibited in Scripture. It is also debated as to what exactly the passages mean. Many commentaries say that Revelation 8:3 should be rendered, “… that he should offer it to the prayers of all the saints…” One author writes: “The incense was to be mingled with the prayers of the saints. The incense was added to give a fragrance to the prayers of the saints, and render them acceptable before God.” Another commentary states, “The prayers are to be incensed, so as to (typically) render them pure and acceptable to God.”
On the other hand, Revelation 5:8 identifies the prayers with incense. But whatever the exact meaning, it is obvious that some connection exists between the prayers of God’s people and angelic activity, including the answer to those prayers, which was effectuated by the angel by throwing the censer to the earth, causing “natural” catastrophes.
This angelic activity becomes more obvious when considering the following facts:
We read in Genesis 18:20-21 that God said: “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” It appears that God was told by some of His angels how sinful the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were. But we also read that righteous Lot was plagued from day to day by the wickedness of the people (2 Peter 2:7-8). So he, too, would have prayed to God about them. As a consequence, God wanted to test those people to see how evil they were, and He sent two angels to them for that purpose. Angels had some responsibility and function pertaining to man’s prayer.
In Daniel 10:12–13, 20–21; 11:1, a mind-boggling and awesome fight in the spirit world is revealed. A mighty angel—perhaps Gabriel who had appeared to Daniel twice before—was sent to the prophet with a message. The angel told Daniel: “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia [a powerful demon ruling over Persia] withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings [demons] of Persia… And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece [another powerful demon ruling over Greece] will come… No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince. Also in the first year of Darius the Mede, I, even I, stood up to confirm and strengthen him.”
The demon of Persia fought with the angel of God—most likely Gabriel—for twenty-one days, trying to prevent him from reaching Daniel with his message which God had given him to deliver to Daniel. In other words, God sent the angel to Daniel to bring him the answer to his prayer. The archangel Michael had to help Gabriel by fighting in his stead with the demon of Persia, so that Gabriel could appear to Daniel in a vision.
The Bible also speaks of guardian angels whom God has specifically assigned for His people’s protection. In Genesis 48:15–16, Jacob acknowledged the presence of his guardian angel throughout his life. We read in the Revised English Bible, “The god in whose presence my forefathers lived, my forefathers Abraham and Isaac, the god who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who rescued me from all misfortune, may he bless these boys.” Jacob was convinced that God had been with him all of his life, and He was specifically present through a particular angel whom He had assigned to watch over Jacob.
Acts 12:15 shows that the disciples thought that Peter’s angel had appeared, as they believed Peter to be in prison. They specifically said, “It is his angel.” In other words, they thought it was the particular angel whom God had assigned to watch over Peter.
Jesus Christ confirmed the existence of guardian angels in Matthew 18:10, when He talked about little children who believe in Him, as well as true Christians who must become “as” little children: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” The obvious implication is that in all these cases, they are somehow involved with the prayers of the people whom they are assigned to protect.
Just prior to His arrest, Christ prayed to God the Father, saying, “‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:42–44). In answer to Christ’s prayer, God sent one of His angels to give Jesus Christ encouragement. We don’t know what exactly the angel did, but we are told that he “strengthened” Christ. In addition, the Bible does not limit God’s protection for His people to just one angel. Christ told Peter that He could ask the Father to send Him more than twelve legions or more than 6,000 angels for His protection (Matthew 26:53).
In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar told Daniel about a dream. The king had seen “a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven” (verse 13). This “watcher” had proclaimed “a decision” that had been made “by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men’” (verse 17). Daniel interpreted the dream to the king, explaining to him that because of his pride, he would have to live for seven years with the animals. He stated in verse 23, “… the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. This is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king.”
These watchers were holy angels of God. One of them spoke to the king in his dream, as Daniel recognized and confirmed. The interesting revelation is that these watchers or angels were involved in God’s decision-making process in heaven regarding Nebuchadnezzar. We are told about another similar episode in 1 Kings 22:19-23, where God was talking to His angels as to how to bring about a certain outcome: “Then Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the LORD said, “Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?” So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit [perhaps a demon] came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, “I will persuade him.” The LORD said to him, “In what way?” So he said, “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” And the LORD said, “You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.” Therefore look! The LORD has put [allowed] a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.’”
God’s angels watch on the good and the bad, and they report their findings to God. In Revelation 5:6, we read about the Lamb Jesus Christ, “having seven eyes, which are the seven [s]pirits of God sent out into all the earth.” These “seven spirits” are seven angelic beings. They are also mentioned in Zechariah 3:9; 4:10: “Upon the stone are seven eyes. They are the eyes of the LORD, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” Some of God’s angels are referred to as “eyes of the LORD” or as “watchers”—keeping watch on man. Proverbs 15:3 reads, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping WATCH on the evil and the good.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 adds, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”
Some of these seven angelic beings are described in Zechariah 6:1-7: “Then I turned and raised my eyes and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of bronze. With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot dappled horses-strong steeds. Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ And the angel answered and said to me, ‘These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the LORD of all the earth. The one with the black horses is going to the north country, the white are going after them, and the dappled are going toward the south country.’ Then the strong steeds went out, eager to go, that they might walk to and fro throughout the earth. And He said, ‘Go, walk to and fro throughout the earth.’ So they walked to and fro throughout the earth.”
An additional account can be found in Zechariah 1:8-11: “I saw by night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and it stood among the myrtle trees in the hollow; and behind him were horses: red, sorrel, and white. Then I said, ‘My lord, what are these?’ So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ And the man who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, ‘These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.’ So they answered the [a]ngel of the LORD, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quiet.’”
God’s angels are watching and observing us. They are giving reports and expressing their feelings to God—participating thereby in God’s decisions and decrees. Angels rejoice when a sinner repents (Luke 15:10).
As we say in our above-mentioned booklet, Angels, Demons and the Spirit World:
“There exists a very special relationship between angels and man. The Bible shows us that they are assigned by God to help those whom God is calling to salvation. Hebrews 1:14 says about angels: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?’ Psalm 34:7 adds: ‘The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him [that is, ‘who will inherit salvation’], And delivers them.’ … God sends forth His angels to ‘minister,’ that is, to serve and help man achieve his potential to inherit salvation—eternal life in the Family of God. Angels are, in fact, intimately involved with our salvation. They are not robots, mechanically obeying God’s Word. They joyfully and eagerly fulfill their task to minister to those who will inherit salvation.”
This includes watching and observing us, listening to our words and prayers, reporting to God what they have noticed, and somehow participating in delivering our prayers as incense to God. This does not diminish the role of Jesus Christ, who is our only Mediator, but somehow angels are involved in “presenting” the incense of our prayers. And they are most certainly involved in the practical aspect of carrying out God’s answers to our prayers—while we emphasize again that it is Christ who receives the answers from the Father. This amazing “interactive-relationship” is explained in Revelation 1:1, where we read: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him to show His servants—things which must shortly come to pass. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.” Compare also Revelation 22:6.
So, it is not a problem for the God Family to listen to and answer many prayers at the same time. We should never think that God is too busy to hear us. Rather, we might sometimes think that we are too busy to pray to Him. But without Him and His help, where would we be? And more importantly, what would we be? Most certainly not, what we are today or what we can become: A Spirit-begotten child of His, in whom the Father’s and the Son’s Holy Spirit dwells.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link