Can God Hear You Pray in Your Head?

  • By: Jac Filer
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Most of us have attended a church service that included a time of silent meditation. Or perhaps a preacher invited the congregation to pray silent prayers of confession before administering communion. Clearly, there is a precedent throughout the church for silent prayer and an expectation that God will hear us.

But when you pray silently, can God actually hear you pray in your head?

Yes, God hears our silent prayers. As our creator, He knows our hearts and minds, our thoughts and desires. He hears all that we say, think, and feel.

Praying Silently with Confidence

How do you know that God can hear your silent prayers? It would be easy to know if He somehow answered you, either in your head or in your ear. But very few of us ever hear from God in such a direct manner.

Even if we don’t hear an audible response, God’s word assures us that our silent prayers are heard:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27

In fact, not only does God hear what we recite silently, God can hear you pray in your head even when you can’t turn your thoughts into words at all. God designed the mind, and He is not limited to only what we can express through speech.

Creator of the Mind

The psalmist testifies that God knows the thoughts of man:

the Lord—knows the thoughts of man,

that they are but a breath.

Psalm 94:11 ESV

Of course, this is a broad statement that is not specific to prayer. Even if we are not directing our thoughts toward God, or ‘speaking’ to Him, He still knows our thoughts.

Two verses earlier, we read a hint as to how this is possible, “He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?” (v 9 ESV). God not only created our bodies, but He designed every aspect of how they operate. He gave us our senses and the processes that they use to deliver information to the mind.

The writer to the Hebrews appeals to this aspect of God by describing the word of God as a ‘double-edged sword [that] judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,’ (Hebrews 4:12). In the next verse, he adds, ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.’

When Our Words don’t Match Our Thoughts

Bringing the discussion back to prayer, we might think that the more we pray aloud, the more we can compel God to hear exactly what we want Him to hear. But even as we are speaking, God still knows our hearts and He knows if our hearts are not in line with our words:

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

James 4:3

Here, James echoes the prophet Jeremiah, who said that the ‘heart is deceitful above all things,’ (Jeremiah 17:9). Both James and Jeremiah agree that God looks beyond our spoken words and straight to our hearts and minds. He searches our motives, our attitudes, and our true desires.

An Example from Jesus

Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated this aspect of his divinity. In Matthew 9, we read about Jesus healing a paralytic man. But before healing him, Jesus pronounced that his sins were forgiven.

The religious leaders then said to themselves, not out loud, that Jesus was blaspheming (v 3). Despite not hearing them, Jesus answered them. Matthew continues, “Knowing their thoughts, Jesus asked, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?’” (v 4).

As Jesus and the religious leaders continued to collide throughout his ministry, the gospels report that Jesus knew their thoughts, motives, and intentions, particularly when they attempted to snare him with trick questions.

Inviting God to Hear our Thoughts

Having the assurance that God can hear you pray in your head, what do you do with this knowledge? Most of us have no desire to deceive God, even if we thought that we could do so. 

But sometimes our thoughts are so conflicting and confusing that we deceive ourselves as we struggle to make sense of them. In the times, the words of the psalmist offer us comfort and hope:

Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

When we approach God with reverence and sincerity, He not only helps us to understand our thoughts, but He helps us to overcome negative and unproductive thoughts.

Our minds are the primary battleground in spiritual warfare. As deceiving spirits seek to lead us astray with temptation, doubt, and lies, we overcome these attacks by inviting Christ to ‘transform us by the renewing of our minds,’ (Romans 12:2). Doing so, ‘we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

As people made in God’s image, we have complex hearts and minds that reflect our Creator. They are precious gifts from God that He invites us to cherish and use for His glory. So let’s welcome God not only into our hearts but into our minds.

Whether we pray with voices or with silent words, let’s turn our thoughts to God, as the psalmist says:

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart

be pleasing in your sight,

Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:4