When was the last time you heard from God? Think about it. Has God’s still, small voice been drowned out by the hum of too much noise from work, family, church and friends?
The adolescent boy Samuel was lying in the temple. It was still night because “the lamp of God had not yet gone out” (the lamp would not have been allowed to go out before morning). Samuel was probably lonely, having been separated from his family and dedicated by his mother Hannah to work for the old, blind priest Eli in the temple. It seems to have been a discouraging time to work there: “The word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.” But as Samuel drowsed on his pallet, the sound of his name cut through the flickering dimness.
Naturally, Samuel thought Eli had called. “Here I am,” replied the boy. Again, “Samuel!” Again, “Here I am.” Samuel listened keenly, but the summons didn’t come from Eli. God himself called Samuel that evening, and Eli taught the boy the right response: “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
What made Samuel so ready to hear God’s voice? For one thing, he was a faithful and obedient servant. He was ready to respond to his master, and his willingness made him ready to respond to God as well. He was being faithful in the small things of his everyday life and was therefore entrusted with a great thing, to be a prophet of God and to restore the priesthood’s honor.
Samuel was also in the right place to listen. Are you? His posture invited God to speak to him: faithful, obedient, humble, waiting, receptive. His willingness to respond became instrumental in restoring holiness to the land: “[God] revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.”
If you want to hear God speak, do what you can to be ready. Be prepared when you’re in a place of outward silence and sanctuary: as you lay awake in the early hours of the morning, while you wait in your car for your children to get out of school, when you walk the dog in the evening. Seek an inner silence and sanctuary also: Let go of mental noise and emotional confusion. Take deep breaths in and out until your heart and respiration rate slow. Humbly and receptively invite God to speak to you, and wait with faithful and obedient readiness. When God calls your name, respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
1 Samuel 3:10
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”