Does God hear our prayers?
Catholics believe that God is omniscient, that is, all knowing. God knows everything. God is also omnipresent everywhere. For more on the attributes of God, you can read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. How God knows and how he is present differs from the way in which we humans know and are present to someone or someplace. Whenever we speak of God we can say only, “It is something like.” There is a vast difference between the divine and the human. The human attributes we assign to God are by analogy only. Theologians call this “the analogy of being”. God is spirit; he does not have eyes, cars or tongue.
How God knows and communicates with human beings is a subject for theologians to explain and ponder. Yet Scripture and our experience make it evident that God is aware of what is happening to his creatures and can act upon our senses to communicate with us. In the book of Exodus (2:23-24) we read, “Their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their [the Hebrews’] groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Exodus will go on to tell of Moses’ encounters with God in the burning bush and at Mt Sinai. When Elijah restores the widow’s son to life, 1 Kings (17:22) tells us, “The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah.”
The New Testament, too, is full of instances where God sees, hears, knows and responds to the pleas of humans. Luke tells us both Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in the eyes of God (Luke 1:6) and the angel tells Zechariah, “your prayer has been heard” (Luke 1:13). Jesus’ words on prayer “Ask and you will receive” (Luke 11:9) presuppose God hears and is aware of our prayers. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man takes as fact that the dead have some awareness of what is happening on earth (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man fears his brothers will share his fate and asks to be allowed to have Lazarus warn them.
The church plainly believes the holy ones are aware of our prayers of intercession and that God responds to their prayers on our behalf. This is evident, for example, when the church accepts as genuine a miracle following prayers to someone proposed for beatification or canonization. The extent of how much the saints and angels know of earthly affairs, and how they know, is again a question of discussion for theologians. In speaking of the beatific vision (knowledge of God after death), Adolphe Tanquerey calls it intuitive knowledge (not sensory). He goes on to speak of other knowledge, secondary to the knowledge of God, that belongs to the just after death. He says the blessed see many other things, especially those that pertain to their own proper state past, present and future.
The blessed will know the mysteries they have believed on earth, and they will know the other saints. Scientists will have greater knowledge of the things they studied on earth. They will know more about the things that pertained to them in their former state of life. And, says Tanquerey, the blessed will look upon their parents and friends who are still living on earth and hear the prayers that are directed to them. In the end, remember, we are talking about mysteries. We have no ﬁrsthand knowledge of these things. Therefore, outside of faith, we can only speculate and theorize.