“The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” 1 Samuel 3:6-7 (NRSV)
Most of my life, I’ve thought of prayer as my idea. As in, it’s my decision to come to God, to search for Him, to seek his will, to put my requests before him. To try and get his attention, even. Only recently have I begun to realize, as we see with Samuel, that it is God who initiates, not I. As novel as it seems to me, this is not a new idea. The idea that God calls us and initiates a relationship is woven throughout scripture, from the book of Genesis onward. “In the beginning, God…” “For God so loved the world…” “I stand at the door and knock…” are just a few. The God who is the lover of my soul pursues me and waits for me to notice him and respond. That’s the point I usually thought of as my idea. How arrogant of me, and yet how natural from a human perspective, to think prayer would begin with me. Look at Samuel, though. He didn’t even know the Lord, yet God spoke into his life with a calling. Like Samuel, I have a choice as well, to listen and respond to his voice, acknowledging that God is the one who begins the conversation.
Today’s prayer practice: Listening to Scripture
Is this a new thought for you, that God calls and initiates an ongoing relationship with you? What has your pattern of prayer been, more one of talking or of listening? Have you ever prayed scripture as a way of hearing Jesus’ voice? Spend the next ten minutes in prayer reflecting on the verse above and on Jesus’ words: “My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Reread the verse above and reflect for a moment on the voice of Jesus. What does it sound like? Would you know it if you heard it? What other voices call to you? Voices of guilt, anxiety, hurry, cynicism? In what ways do you most need to hear his voice today?