"Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me." (v.7a)
I never get used to the moment by moment miracle of prayer. It's an amazing thing that God would ever even once listen to me, let alone answer! In little moments and big, again and again, I choose my own kingdom over his. I often run to him for help for messes that in my foolishness and rebellion I've made. I've no righteousness to present as an argument that he should hear me. I've no autonomous wisdom that I can present as a reason for his attention. I've no independent track record of good deeds that would get his attention. I've often been more fickle than loyal. I often justify my sin rather than seek his forgiveness. I struggle with being more attracted to the temporary pleasures of this physical world than I am committed to godly living. The desires of my heart wander again and again. I forget my identity as his child, and in my amnesia seek identity where it was never meant to be found. Again and again I contradict the theology that I say I believe with the way that I live. I sadly have to ask for his forgiveness for the same things over and over again. Undeserving is the way I always stand before him.
This is precisely why David appeals to God's mercy as he prays. He can't look to himself for any reason that God would listen and respond. Yet, the miracle of his existence and ours is that he doesn't have to fear God's rejection or fall into thinking that prayer is an exercise in spiritual futility. Why? Because God is his own reason for answering. Prayer finds its hope, not in the qualifications of the one praying, but in the character and plan of the God who's hearing. He answers because of who he is. He answers because of what he's doing. He answers because he loves to see us come and he loves to provide just the grace for that moment.
Maybe you're thinking, "Paul, be more specific. Why exactly would God respond to me.?" Here are five reasons:
1. Because of his love. He's the ultimate wise, patient, kind, gentle, and forgiving father. He delights in his children. Because of his great love, his eyes look out for us and his ears are always attentive to our cries. Because of his love, he invites us to bring our cares to him and he assures us that he really does care for us. He's never too busy, or distracted, or too tired to hear and answer. He doesn't refuse to answer because of our weakness and failure. He doesn't get impatient because we have to come again and again. He is love and he loves to exercise his power and glory to meet the needs of his struggling children.
2. Because of his grace. Grace provides the whole structure and standing of our relationship with him. If it weren't for the grandeur of his forgiving grace, we would have no relationship with him at all. Because of his grace, he's unwilling to rest until the work of transformation is complete. In grace he looks on us and knows that this work isn't done. We've not yet been completely formed into the likeness of his Son. Although the power of sin has been broken, he knows that the presence of sin still remains. He hears our prayers because, when we pray, we confess that we still need the grace of forgiveness and deliverance, and in so doing, place ourselves in the center of what he's committed himself to complete; his work of redemption.
3. Because of his faithfulness. He doesn't change his mind. He doesn't ride the roller coaster of the rise and fall of emotions. His heart isn't a battle-zone of conflicting motivations. He doesn't get bored, exhausted, or distracted. He won't quit what he's begun. He won't forsake those upon whom he's placed his love. He won't harden his heart, shut down his mind, and turn his back. He won't take a break or go to sleep. He will never tell you that you've asked too much or you've come to him too often. You never have to work to figure him out. You never have to wonder if his response to you will change. He's absolutely faithful to every promise he's made and every provision he's offered. Your hope in prayer is rooted in his faithfulness, not yours.
4. For the sake of his kingdom. As I come him in the patterns laid out by Christ and pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," I pray words that bring him delight. He loves the exercise of his will. He finds joy in the success of his kingdom. The spiritual growth and prosperity of his children means the growth and prosperity of his kingdom. He is King and he delights in his children recognizing his lordship and submitting to his rule. Every good thing he does for his children is done to rescue them from their self-focused kingdom of one, and to welcome them into the expansiveness of his kingdom of glory and grace. And his ears will continue to be attentive and his hands will be active until his kingdom has been fully and completely established forever.
5. For the sake of his glory. The thing that God is most committed to is his own glory. But here's what you need to understand. His commitment to his own glory is your only hope. Because he's committed to his own glory, he's committed to draw to himself a multitude of people who forsake their own glory and do the one thing that they were created to do; live for his. So his commitment to his own glory causes him to listen and respond, listen and respond until all of his children no longer look to the shadow glories of creation for their satisfaction, but rather look to him. Because he's committed to his own glory, I can go to him in prayer knowing that he'll hear and he'll answer.
So even though you've nothing to bring to the Lord that would commend you to him, you can approach him with confidence. He really does delight in hearing and answering his children. Your hope in prayer is never found in you, it's always found in him.