Praying to Almighty Google
I can’t remember how many years ago my son, now 10, first asked me a question that I think all Christians ask at one point or another in their journey of faith.
“Dad,” he asked, “when we pray, does God hear us?”
“Yes, son,” I answered wisely, “of course God hears us when we pray.”
“If you and I are both praying at the same time, does God hear us both?”
“Yes, son, of course God hears us both.”
“What if there are lots and lots of people all praying to God at the same time, Dad? Can God hear all of them praying at the same time?”
“Yes, He can.”
“But, dad,” he asked, “if Mom and I are both talking to you at the same time, you can’t hear us both.”
“That’s right, son,” I answered, “I can’t hear both of you at the same time."
“Dad - if you can't hear two people talking to you at the same time, then how can God hear lots of people praying to Him? How?”
That question, “How?” is a tough one to answer, isn’t it? I can’t make sense of what anybody is saying if there’s more than one voice coming to me at the same time. If I can’t do that, how is God able to sort the simultaneous prayers of millions of His children?
Last night I heard what I think is the best illustration I have ever heard that describes God’s ability to hear and respond to simultaneous prayer. It came from the lips of our BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) teacher in Louisville, KY—Richard Ross. What follows is a rough paraphrase of Richard’s illustration, with some of my own embellishments and additions.
PRAYING TO ALMIGHTY GOOGLE
This morning I sat down at my computer to pray to Almighty Google. I adoringly gave thanks for Google’s power and ability to hear and respond to prayer. I humbly submitted my request, praying that Almighty Google would provide me with just the information and connections I required to direct me to the Richard Bauckham lectures at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this week (more on the Bauckham lectures later this week, God willing).
It struck me, as I was submitting my prayer request to Almighty Google, that there were probably millions of other Google-worshipers offering up petitions to their cybernetic deity at that precise moment in time. Their requests were, indubitably, different than my own; some, perhaps, radically so. Yet I had absolute confidence, faith, that Almighty Google had both the ability and will to sort out our simultaneous petitions and respond to each supplicant appropriately. My faith made it well—Google responded almost instantaneously to my prayer request, and I was sent on my way to absorb stimulating lectures by a singularly eminent British biblical scholar. Thank Google!
It strikes me as odd that educated Western human beings can place great faith in the abilities of Almighty Google to sort out millions of simultaneous requests and deal with them personally and correctly. Yet at the same time we question the ability of Almighty God, who created both the minds that created computers and the concept of Google itself, to do the same. Why would we imagine that the Sovereign Creator of the universe is somehow less capable, less competent, than a machine made by human hands, or a computer program designed by creatures designed by the Divine Designer? Why would we doubt God’s ability to hear personally, compassionately, and responsively, the prayers of human beings whom He has created for relationship with Him? If Google can do it, why would Christians, who confess the greatness, glory, and majesty of God, consider Him unable to do the same?
God our Father is greater than Google. Google can receive my petitions and spit out information that I seek—no matter how many other Google-users are accessing the system at the same time. God hears the cries of my heart, receives my prayers of adoration, and hears my intercessory petitions—no matter how many other Christ-followers are entreating Him at the same time. More importantly, while Google will only spit out what I am seeking, my God will answer my prayers in the way that is in my best interests—which often means denying my request, or answering my petition in a way other than I envisioned.
So when my daughters, who are now 7 and 5, ask me that same question: “How, Dad? How can God hear everyone praying at the same time?” I will have a different, and in my mind more satisfying answer: God is greater than Google.