We know from scripture that prayer and worship are vital in the life of a Christian. God wants us to pray and worship. He directs us to pray (2 Chronicles 7:14), our prayers please God (Proverbs 15:8). Jesus was the master of prayer and trained the disciples in prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). He prayed always and without ceasing and directed us to do the same (1 Thessalonians 5:17). God tells us to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). We also see many examples in the OT of alters being built to worship the Lord. People have been praying and worshiping forever!
On any given weekend, between 30-40 million Church bodies meet to pray and worship corporately in the world. That’s roughly 2.3 BILLION people. That’s a lot of prayer and worship! To put it into a local perspective, just in St. Joseph County, MI there are more than 100 Church bodies ranging from large congregations of many hundred to very small of under 50. Nearly 25,000 people, just in our little county are praying and worshiping on Sunday morning between 7am-1pm. That’s a lot of prayers and worshiping going on for God to hear and respond to just in our county. That’s in addition to His regular activities of creating and sustaining life, holding the universe in His hand and everything else that goes in life and our existence as we know it. So how does He do it? How does HE have TIME to do it all at once? Why would God direct us to pray and worship if He couldn’t possible have the time hear them all? Even if we all submitted prayers one-by-one, like a prayer line, how could He ever have time to hear even one of our prayers before our lives end?
This question and concept is flawed, the phrase “at the same moment” is the problem.
Our human lives come at us moment by moment, hour by hour and day by day. As humans we have a clock and a calendar and everything we do is based on them, when we sleep, eat, wake up and go to work, all based on the suns position relative to our spot on Earth. Our lives and existence are marked by increments of movements by the Earth as it rotates and orbits around a ball of fire, both of which would be different on another planet or in another solar system, time as we know it is specific to Earth.
Our days are marked by a specific timeline that we can’t stop, rewind or control in anyway. We tend to assume this time arrangement of past, present and future is the way all things exist. It’s hard for us not to assume the whole universe and God Himself doesn’t move for present to future in some way as well. The main problems with this arrangement is,
A) the present is here and gone in a blink and we are always working toward the future
B) the vast majority of our existence is what we call the past and is not longer available to us and all we really have is the fleeting present.
God doesn’t have these same parameters. Many verses in the Bible refer to a period “before time” and “before the world.”
2 Timothy 1:9 NLT For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
Titus 1:2 ESV in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began
Ephesians 1:4 NASB just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love.
1 Peter 1:20 NKJV He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
These four scriptures make it clear that God was working and planning and very active long before time as we know it was a factor. Originally many theologians, and later philosophers, and now ever scientists believe that some things are not in time at all. Certainly God is not subject to the time He created as we are, just as He is not subject to anything else we are as humans. If a million people are praying to Him at 9:30 Sunday morning, He doesn’t need to listen to them all at that moment we call 9:30am. To God, 9:30am on Sunday September 23rd, 2018 and every other moment from the beginning of the world until its final day is always the present. Your birth, death, and life can be viewed in the here and now for God.
When we think of it this way, God has all of eternity to hear every second of prayer ever prayed, to hear and see all the worship that has ever been given. The prayers we pray today, the prayers prayed over the 9/11 terrorist attack, the prayers prayed by mothers of soldiers during the civil war, are all in the present to God.
Illustration: If we are writing a story about a guy named John, we start by saying John walked into a room, sat down in a chair and began watching his children playing on the floor. If while we where writing this story, we take a three day break from writing between John walking in the room and sitting down in a chair to watch his kids play on the floor. We can spend 3 days thinking about John, focusing all our attention on John and planning the next thing we have to say about John in the story. However, in the story, the three days that passed don’t appear at all. To us, the author, it took three days to write one sentence. Imagine God as the author of our story. He is outside the timeline we live in. Just as an author of a story is outside the imaginary timeline of the novel he created. This isn’t a perfect illustration but I hope it sheds some light on the concept. God is no more hurried along by what is happening on Earth, than an author is by what is going on in the story he is writing.
2 Peter 3:8 CSB Dear friends, don’t overlook this one fact: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.
This verse has always been a tough one for me to swallow, hard to make sense of. But when we read this verse though the lens of God truly being outside the parameters of time altogether it makes more sense.
As Christians we understand that God already knows what we are going to do today, tomorrow and for the rest of our lives before we ever do it. If this is true, how can we still have free will to choose? We tend to confuse God’s knowledge of our future with God orchestrating it. As humans, we do have free will, a lesser and weaker version of free will than was originally created. As sin came into the world, our free will was impacted and changed. The free will to live in perfection that Adam and Eve had was destroyed, mankind became unable to live a sinless perfect life and we became hindered by sin. However, even this weaker free will that we know is still enough to allow us to choose our steps day in and day out in a pretty extensive way.
The concept of God being ever present gives us a peak into how this works. By saying we have a past or a history; we are saying a period of our lives is gone to never be returned. It means a part of our reality is gone, and all we really have is this tiny little sliver we call the present. For God, from creation to 2018 and everything yet to come are all His present, He has never lost any of His reality to a thing we call the past, it’s all NOW for God, all the present. He doesn’t remember what we did yesterday, He sees it. He doesn’t wonder what tomorrow will bring, He sees it now. God has witnessed our actions and choices for tomorrow and knows what we will pick and the outcome of those choices, He has known this forever, even before the Earth was formed. God doesn’t just see ahead, He is ahead. God doesn’t know our actions until we do them, He is already there and already sees us doing them. In His mercy and grace, He uses the good and bad that we and others choose and works it all together for our good (Romans 8:28).
Psalms 139:1-18 NLT O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night- but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
Man’s timeline of life and God’s view of it.
1978 2018 Future
Excuse the crudeness of the visual above. The idea is that God is fully present in all ages, at all times, while man is only present in the moment, and only given a finite number of moments to be present for.