God Hears It All

Yael Eckstein  |  February 26, 2023

Yael Eckstein praying at the Western Wall

Listen to my words, Lord,
    consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
    my King and my God,
    for to you I pray.
—Psalm 5:1-2

We start out each week with an inspirational lesson from the beloved Psalms. For centuries, these ancient poems of King David and others have been the foundation for Jewish and Christian worship. Enjoy!

I have always been fascinated by the way my Christian friends pray, especially the pastors I know. At any given moment, when asked to share a prayer, my pastor friends will pour forth a stream of eloquent words of prayer that came to them, right there in the moment.

You see, in the Jewish tradition, almost all prayer is liturgical. We have a set text for almost every situation, whether it’s praying for someone who is ill, thanking God for wonderful news or a happy occasion, or just praying each morning for a good day. Jewish tradition has ancient prayer formulas for almost every situation.

There are pros and cons to each form of prayer. Spontaneous improvised prayer allows for a more authentic individual expression of the worshiper’s feelings at the moment, whereas our Jewish liturgy connects us to our ancestors over the centuries who prayed to God with those identical words.

God Hears It All

I thought about this as I was reading Psalm 5, “Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.” King David asks God to hear his prayer using three different phrases.

First, he asks God to “listen” to his “words.” Words are spoken, the content of what is being said. Then David asks God to “consider” his “lament.” The Hebrew word for “my lament” is hagigi, which can also be translated as “innermost thoughts” or “meditation.”

Here, David asks God to go beyond the actual meaning of the words he is saying. He’s asking God to pay attention to what’s beneath the surface of his prayer, to “consider” David’s innermost thoughts, even if they aren’t expressed in the words.

Finally, David asks God to hear his “cry for help,” or in the precise Hebrew, kol shavi — “the sound of my cry for help.”

The message of this verse is powerful. We pray with our words. Yet, at the same time, we have thoughts that are never expressed. Beyond even those thoughts are emotions and spiritual needs we may not fully understand ourselves, but which are discernable to God in the tone of our prayer, in the sound of our voice.

God hears all of it — our words, our thoughts, and our emotions. Whether your prayer is expressed spontaneously or from words written centuries ago, God hears you.

Your Turn:

Do you ever feel that you lack the words to express yourself in prayer? Remember, as long as your prayer is heartfelt and honest, God will hear what lies beneath the surface.