Sarah Young: Prayer is such an important part of my daily life. Praying connects us to God and helps us in countless ways. But I realize that many people find it difficult to pray. My hope is that Jesus Listens will encourage you to approach God confidently and joyfully, finding peace and rest in His Presence. It’s such a blessing to know that Jesus listens to every one of our prayers. He loves us perfectly and is constantly caring for us, whether we’re aware of His Presence with us or not.
Jesus Listens When We Pray: Sarah Young – Episode #272
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Many of us struggle with the concept of prayer. What should a good prayer look like? Am I doing it wrong? How can I make sure I know that God is hearing me? The good news from God is that every single one of your prayers—even the silent ones—are heard and cared about by Him. There is no right or wrong way to pray; all that matters is you talk to God consistently, and you will find the joys of a relationship with Him.
This week we’re honored to speak with Sarah Young, the writer of Jesus Calling, Jesus Always, and a new prayer devotional called Jesus Listens. Sarah takes us all the way back to her early years and shares how she began writing in her prayer journals.
Many years ago, I went to Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis to get a master’s degree in counseling and biblical studies. I especially enjoyed a course on the Bible’s wisdom literature, and the professor was indeed very wise. From the vast array of wisdom he imparted, one simple teaching has stayed with me all these years. He shared his personal practice of praying, “Help me, Holy Spirit,” throughout the day—before answering the phone or doorbell, when engaged in an important conversation, when attempting to do something difficult, and so on. I followed my teacher’s advice until this brief prayer became a part of me. Now I find myself praying it effortlessly, and it reminds me that I am not alone. The third Person of the Trinity is always available to help me!
Sometimes when I’m feeling stressed, I sit quietly and breathe slowly while praying, “Jesus, help me relax in Your peace.” If I continue praying this way for a few moments, I relax and feel calmer.
The prayers in Jesus Listens emphasize trusting Jesus and joyfully depending on Him. The Bible is full of the tender directive to trust in the Lord, and this is essential for living close to Him. The trust-emphasis in my book reflects both biblical teaching and my own personal struggle to trust God at all times—even when the world is full of uncertainties and things are not going as I’d hoped. At such times, I find it helpful and encouraging to whisper, “I trust You, Jesus; You are my hope.”
As I’m seeking to pray continually, I find it helpful to pray short prayers throughout the day. I’ve already mentioned a few of them. Here are some more of my favorites:
“Jesus, keep me aware of Your Presence.”
“Show me Your way, Lord.”
“Jesus, You are my Treasure.”
“Thank you, Jesus.”
“Help me trust You more and more.”
Jesus Calling grew out of my many years of writing in prayer journals. My journals were very personal and I didn’t share them with anyone, not even my husband. However, my perspective changed dramatically during a spiritual retreat when I was asked, “What is Jesus calling you to right now?” Immediately, the answer came to me: write for publication. So I started arranging my writings into daily readings. It took more than three years for me to complete the manuscript, and I sent it to many publishers. A few were interested, but no one offered me a contract.
When my husband and I moved to Perth, Western Australia, I stopped looking for a publisher, but I continued to pray every day for God’s will to be done with my manuscript. Two and a half years later, a publisher in Nashville found me in faraway Western Australia and asked if I would consider letting him publish my work. Imagine my surprise and delight. I accepted his offer with deep gratitude, thrilled that my lowly manuscript would be transformed into a lovely gift book. My many years of prayer were answered in a wonderful way.
When No One Else Will Hear You, Jesus Listens
We live in stressful times and many of us struggle with anxiety. The apostle Paul’s teaching in his letter to the Philippians is very practical and timely. He wrote in Philippians 4: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I admit that praying doesn’t come naturally to us; in fact, it’s frequently viewed as a tedious chore. Prayer certainly does require effort, but we need to remember that communicating with the Creator and Sustainer of this vast universe is an amazing privilege. Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins opened the way for us to commune freely and fully with our Father-God. The moment Jesus died, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). So our unrestricted access to God in prayer is a glorious, blood-bought privilege.
“Our unrestricted access to God in prayer is a glorious, blood-bought privilege.” – Sarah Young
While Jesus lived on this earth, He listened wonderfully well to the people around Him. I’m grateful that He continues to listen — to us! Moreover, we have the miraculous help of the Holy Spirit. As we’re praying, the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express and God who searches our hearts knows the mind of the spirit because the spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26–27). Our prayers may be inadequate and fragmented, but the Holy Spirit transforms them and makes them consistent with God’s will.
One of my favorite verses about prayer is Psalm 62:8. In this Psalm King David urges us to trust in God at all times and pour out our hearts to Him. Jesus knows everything in our hearts, and He longs for us to trust Him enough to open up and be real with Him in our prayers. Since He understands us completely and loves us eternally, we can safely unburden ourselves to Him.
“Since He understands us completely and loves us eternally, we can safely unburden ourselves to Him.” – Sarah Young
Instead of focusing on our problems, when we’re feeling anxious, we can bring everything to Jesus—our struggles and confusion, our prayers and petitions, our thanksgiving and praise. After pouring out our hearts to Him, we can ask Him to fill us with His wondrous peace. To receive this glorious gift, we need to relax in Jesus’ Presence and trust Him wholeheartedly—instead of relying on our own understanding.
I’m thankful that God uses our prayers not only to change circumstances but to change us. We bring our prayer requests to Him, trusting that He hears and He cares. As we devote time to communicating with Jesus and enjoying His Presence, we gradually grow to be more like Him.
“I’m thankful that God uses our prayers not only to change circumstances, but to change us.” – Sarah Young
I realize that unanswered prayers can be discouraging. While we’re waiting for answers, we need to trust that God hears our prayers and responds to them in ways that make perfect sense—from His infinite, all-knowing perspective. Although we would love to understand more, it’s often impossible for us finite creatures to fathom God’s ways.
The Bible encourages us to persevere in our prayers. I love the parable in Luke 18 about the unjust judge versus the persistent widow. This parable teaches us that we should keep praying and not give up. Even though the judge didn’t care about people or justice, the persistence of the widow eventually wore him down and he granted her request. How much more will God, who is loving and just, answer our prayers in His perfect way and timing!
Pray Continually and Give Thanks
As I’ve spent time with Jesus and studied at His Word over the years, I’ve come to grasp the importance of having a thankful attitude. So the theme of thankfulness appears frequently throughout Jesus Listens. First Thessalonians 5:17–18 instructs us to pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. There is power in thankful prayers! They keep our focus on Jesus’ priceless promises and His constant Presence with us.
Thankfulness and praise go together extremely well. I found that prayers of praise deeply refresh me—and they increase my awareness of Jesus’ Presence. Again and again throughout Scripture, we find the vital command to praise the Lord. We can joyfully obey this command because God is altogether worthy of our worship—and praising Him blesses us immensely. Our words of worship help us to remember how great and glorious God is! Praising Him strengthens our confidence that the One to whom we pray is in control, even when our world feels terribly out of control.
Prayer Connects Us to God
Writing Jesus Listens was a natural next step for me because prayer is such an important part of my daily life. Praying connects us to God and helps us in countless ways. It’s such a blessing to know that Jesus listens to every one of our prayers! He loves us perfectly and is constantly caring for us, whether we’re aware of His Presence with us or not.
All of my devotional books, including this new one, are designed to help you grow closer to Jesus. This quest is my deepest longing for you and for me. As you may know, I wrote my previous books from the perspective of Jesus speaking to you, the reader. But Jesus Listens is written from the vantage point of praying to God.
Jesus Listens contains prayers for every day of the year. They are devotional prayers. This means they’re designed to lead you into deeper, richer, more continual communion with God. These daily prayers are meant to be a starting point for your other prayers—helping you enjoy your time with Jesus and feel comfortable about bringing all your concerns to Him.
The devotional prayers in Jesus Listens are full of God’s promises. I have woven Scripture into every daily prayer, and I include references for the Bible verses at the end of each prayer. These verses can guide you gently into God’s Word. I hope you will not only read these prayers but make them your own—using them to guide you as you express your heartfelt longings to the Lord.
I consider it a wonderful privilege and responsibility to pray for readers of my books, so I commit quite a bit of time to this pursuit each morning. I’ve found that no matter how I feel when I first get out of bed, I feel better and stronger after spending this precious time with Jesus. So as you read Jesus Listens, remember that I’m praying for you. But most importantly, remember that Jesus is always with you, listening to every one of your prayers.
“Remember that Jesus is always with you, listening to every one of your prayers.” – Sarah Young
If you’d like to hear more stories about the power of prayer, check out our interview with Bishop T.D. Jakes.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we sit down with the legendary singing McEntire sisters—Reba McEntire, Susie McEntire-Eaton, and Alice Foran, who share the legacy of music and faith that was passed down through many generations of their family.
Reba: Grandma was the reason I was introduced to the Lord. But it wasn’t an introduction. It was just like, “This is a way of life, this is the way it is, really.” Nothing pushy—never pushy, just gentle. And we would go to church with them. She and grandpa would sing, and I’ve just always known the Lord. Thank you, Grandma.
Susie: Yep, me too.
Alice: I think we can all say that she was such an inspiration to us.