God can simultaneously hear and answer all the prayers that all people pray at all times. Not only that, but he can see all actions of all individuals - even those whose actions are done behind closed doors. Is this just wishful Christian thinking or is this possible within the framework of any possible existence?
How Can God Do That?
Christianity makes some rather remarkable claims about the abilities of God. From a human perspective, the idea that any being can do these kinds of actions seems preposterous. However, since God is "outside of the box," we need to think outside the box.
Existing outside the box
There is much evidence from both the Bible and from science that demonstrates God must exist and operate in dimensions of space and time other than those to which we are confined. God could not have created the universe if He were only a part of it. The Bible says the universe cannot contain Him (1).
According to particle physics and relativity, at least ten dimensions of space existed at the creation of the universe (2). Three of these dimensions (plus time) formed the space-time manifold that we can directly observe. The other six of these dimensions exist within the universe as incredibly compact dimensions of space. God must be able to operate in all of those ten dimensions plus more in order to have created the universe. A verse from the book of Hebrews suggests God created the universe out of some of the dimensions of space and time which are not visible to us (3).
The God of the Bible is invisible and cannot be seen except if He reveals Himself to us in a three-dimensional form that we can see. A being which exists in dimensions beyond our three spatial dimensions would be invisible to creatures (us) that can only exist in the confines of our universe (4).
Acting outside of time
The God of the Bible is described as omnipotent. If God were confined to three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, then He could be in only one place at one time. The God of the Bible is described as knowing all that we do (5). We can hide nothing from God. A three-dimensional God would not have the ability to see through walls (Can you?) and could not know what happens outside of his sight.
Stephen Hawking, George Ellis, and Roger Penrose extended the equations for general relativity to include space and time (6). Not only space, but also time has a beginning - at the moment of creation. Studies in particle physics have shown that our dimension of time is really only half a dimension, since time can only move forward (7) (forget the time travel movies - this is scientifically impossible). If God existed in only one dimension of time, then He would have had to have been created at one point. The Bible says God was not created, but has existed from eternity past to eternity future. The Bible also suggests God created time and was acting before time began (8), confirming that God exists in at least two dimensions of time. In addition, the Bible states God can compress or expand our time line (9), based upon what He wants to do. For God to turn a day into 1000 years and 1000 years into a day requires that He exist in at least two dimensions of time.
A three dimensional God would be unable to hear all of our prayers, since He could not be everywhere at once (10). In addition, a three dimensional God could not perform any of the signs and miracles of the Bible, since He would be confined to the laws of physics of our three-dimensional universe, which make no allowance for miracles.
We cannot visualize a God who exists in dimensions beyond our own, but we can look at a model of a universe in which there are fewer dimensions than ours and extrapolate to that of an extradimensional God.
Imagine we are the observers of a universe which contains only two dimensions of space and one dimension of time. All things in this universe exist in a single plane (i.e., everything is flat). We observe this two dimensional universe from a three dimensional universe, and therefore, have one dimension more than the creatures that live in this two dimensional universe.
Mr. & Mrs. Flat
For this demonstration, we are pretending this page (or monitor image) is part of the universe of Mr. and Mrs. Flat. The Flat family are confined to the plane of this page and can only move within this plane. They can neither see nor interact with any part of the third dimension of a three-dimensional world.
Whenever Mr. Flat looks at Mrs. Flat, he sees only one side of her at a time. In this two-dimensional universe, she appears to him as a line segment. In order to see all of Mrs. Flat, Mr. Flat must walk all the way around his wife. From each angle, Mr. Flat will see only one or two line segments of differing lengths which compose Mrs. Flat. A complete picture of Mrs. Flat can only be formed in the mind of Mr. Flat. However, we, as observers from a three-dimensional universe can see the entirety of Mrs. Flat at one time. Not only can we see all of Mrs. Flat, but all of Mr. Flat at one instant in time. We can even see inside Mrs. Flat, something that Mr. Flat could never see, unless he were to cut her open. Likewise, God, with only one extra dimension, can simultaneously see all sides and the insides of each one of us (11).
Mrs. Flat wants to have a moment to herself, so she goes into a room and locks the door. Mr. Flat cannot see her, because she is surrounded by four walls. However, we are able to see her, because her walls do not extend into the third dimension of our universe. Likewise, an extradimensional God can see us at all times, even if we try to hide behind our three dimensional walls.
A god who is not extradimensional would not be able to observe us at all times, as stated in the Bible.
I would like to extend this model to describe a three-dimensional god in this two-dimensional universe. For simplicity, we will describe this god as a cube. This god, being three-dimensional, can choose to interact with the two-dimensional universe or not. This cube god decides to reveal himself to Mr. and Mrs. Flat, as well as their friend, Mr. Level in this two-dimensional universe. The cube god places himself above the plane of the two-dimensional universe directly in front of Mrs. Flat and extends a corner of his cube into the plane of the two-dimensional universe. Mrs. Flat sees this revelation of her god as a point. Next, the cube god places himself above the plane of the two dimensional universe directly in front of Mr. Flat and extends the intersection of two sides of his cube into the plane of the two dimensional universe. Mr. Flat sees this revelation of his god as a line segment. Then, the cube god places himself above the plane of the two dimensional universe directly in front of Mr. Level and extends an entire side into the plane of the two dimensional universe. Mr. Level sees this revelation of his god as a square.
Three views of cube god:
All three get together and talk about their experiences seeing their god. Mrs. Flat insists her god is a point. Mr. Flat says his god is a line, and Mr. Level states his god is a square. Even though there is only one cube god, they come to the conclusion that there are three gods, because the god each saw appeared differently to each person in their two-dimensional world. Therefore a god that exhibits extra dimensions, when described in a lesser dimensional universe would seem to represent more than one entity. Likewise, our God, who must exist and operate in dimensions beyond our understanding, exists as a Trinity (God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit), although He is one God.
The Bible says that God exists outside the dimensions of this universe, creating both the spatial and temporal dimensions under which it operates. The God model described above shows that such an entity can see and interact with everything that happens in a lesser dimensional universe, such as ours. Not only can He interact anywhere within such a universe, but He can act at any time - past, present or future - during the history of that universe. God never runs out-of-time or is limited by it. God truly is amazing, and His abilities probably extend far beyond what has been described here.
1. Behold, heaven and the highest heavens cannot contain Thee... (1 Kings 8:27)The Almighty is beyond our reach. (Job 37:23)
2. Glanz, J. 1997. Strings Unknot Problems in Particle Theory, Black Holes. Science 276:1969-1970.Kestenbaum, D. 1998. Practical Tests for an 'Untestable' Theory of Everything? Science 281:758-759.
3. The universe was formed at God's command, so that what was seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)
4. But He said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!" (Exodus 33:20)When He passes me I cannot see Him. When He goes by, I cannot perceive Him (Job 9:11)The Almighty is beyond our reach (Job 37:23)No man has seen God at any time... (John 1:18)No man has seen the Father... (John 6:46)And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God... (1 Timothy 1:17)God... whom no man has seen or can see... (1 Timothy 6:16) ...Him who is unseen. (Hebrews 11:27)
5. Then hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart Thou knowest, for Thou alone dost know the hearts of all the sons of men, (1 Kings 8:39)"As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts." (1 Chronicles 28:9)For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, And He sees all his steps. There is no darkness or deep shadow where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. (Job 34:21-22)Then Job answered the LORD, and said, "I know that Thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted." (Job 42:1-2) Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and He said to me, "Say, `Thus says the LORD, So you think, house of Israel, for I know your thoughts.'" (Ezekiel 11:5)
6. "The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago." Stephen Hawking The Beginning of Time.Penrose, R. 1966. An analysis of the structure of space-time. Adams Prize Essay, Cambridge University.Hawking, S.W. 1966. Singularities and the Geometry of space-time. Adams Prize Essay, Cambridge University.Hawking, S.W. and G.F.R. Ellis. 1968. The cosmic black-body radiation and the existence of singularities in our universe. Astrophysical Journal 152: 25-36.Hawking, S.W. and R. Penrose. 1970. The singularities of gravitational collapse and cosmology. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A: 529-548.
7. 1998. Particle decays reveal arrow of time. Science 282: 602-603.
8. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Corinthians 2:7)This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9)The hope of eternal life, which God... promised before the beginning of time (Titus 1:2)To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:25)
9. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4)
10. O Thou who dost hear prayer, To Thee all men come. (Psalm 65:2)"And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive." (Matthew 21:22)
11. "Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?" declares the LORD. "Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?" declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:24)