WHEN I was in school I used to listen willingly to my schoolmates when they wanted to talk about their problems. Just offering a sympathetic ear seemed to help.
I've thought about that a lot since I was introduced to the Bible. The Scriptures refer to God's ability to listen for and hear the cry of people turning to Him in prayer. The Psalmist, for example, could say with confidence, ``The Lord will hear when I call unto him." I have realized that in order to satisfy the deep human yearning for help, God's listening had to be something more than just a magnification of the sympathetic listening that I had done. God's attentiveness to our prayer includes His capa city to respond to our need for help. Christ is how God responds to prayer. Christ is God's message to man. It is the spiritual idea that empowered Jesus' healing works. This spiritual idea of God and man is still available to us.
The Bible portrayal of God as listening and responding is further explained in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science. Referring to Mind, a name for God implicit in the Bible, she writes: ``The `divine ear' is not an auditory nerve. It is the all-hearing and all-knowing Mind, to whom each need of man is always known and by whom it will be supplied."
God is not a vast ``sympathetic ear" to whom we bring our problems expecting that to do so will comfort us in and of itself. When we are faced with challenges, we can turn to Him in prayer, knowing that because He already spiritually ``hears" all, we do not need to inform Him of our need. Rather, we need to listen prayerfully to the ideas He is giving us, for these spiritual concepts are precisely what we need to know to be healed of--rather than offered solace in--our challenges. And we can be sure that
God is always revealing these ideas to us in such a way that we can recognize them.
The Bible teaches that the true man, the spiritual identity that actually belongs to each of us, is the image and likeness of God. In reality, then, man is the full reflection of the all-knowing Mind and is truly always at the point of knowing exactly what he needs to. By contrast, the false belief of material mentality--referred to in the Bible as the carnal mind--is always at the point of ignorance. It never truly knows what it needs to know, even when-- especially when!--it thinks it does know. Our ne ed is to recognize this impostor of a mind for what it is, a lie about our God-given spirituality. As we do so, our hope to hear--that is spiritually discern what it is that God reveals in any situation--will be fulfilled. Sometimes this will happen in a moment. At other times persistence will be required in our prayerful receptivity to God's answers.
However rapidly our answer comes, once we have spiritually discerned what the proper course is, there is then the demand to act on what we have perceived. For instance, in a case of friction in a relationship, we might well ``hear" that it is we that have to be more loving! Then it is up to us to respond by changing our own attitudes and actions accordingly. Such a demand has come to me often when I have turned to God's ``listening ear" and have in turn heard His direction. Obedience has brought the rewa rds of greater harmony in my relationships--even when it had at first seemed clear to me that the other person was at fault.
God's eternal perfection never needs to change. And this perfect nature of God is perfect Love. It includes ceaseless attentiveness to all His children's needs. We are those children, and as we truly turn to the ``listening ear for guidance, we will be spiritually assured by this undying truth with concrete answers to our prayers.