Listening to God isn’t something I grew up practicing. I thought prayer was about me talking to God, rather than thinking of it as a conversation with give and take. In reality, it can be a frightening thing, asking to hear from God, because there’s no room for ego there. And because we don’t know what he might say or reveal or ask us to do. Sometimes he gives me words of encouragement I need to keep going, or the reminder that he loves me and is present with me. Sometimes it’s something I need to see about myself, which is always valuable, and necessary if I want to become more like Christ. Knowledge of myself and knowledge of God go hand in hand. Sometimes what God reveals is about someone else, as it was in today’s reading from Samuel. In that case we need to listen as well for discernment about what to do with this insight. Is it to enable us to better care for the one in question? Is it something we are to share, if they seem open? Is it simply something we are to carry and pray over until something changes or God makes it clear?
One thing to notice as we seek to hear the voice of God is that his call to us, which is personal and unique, requires a response. Samuel could have been fearful when he heard a formless voice in the dark. He could have hidden, or run. Instead he replied humbly that he was God’s servant, ready to hear and obey.
“Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.’ 1 Samuel 3:10-11 (NRSV)
What God speaks may be comforting or it may make my ears tingle. But I would rather know the truth and be free than hide behind the false security of my illusions. My experience has been that God is a gentle teacher, showing me one step at a time what I’m able to receive. I trust that he is for me and with me, and that choosing to cooperate with his Spirit leads to greater freedom and Life.
Today’s prayer practice: Listening to Scripture
Have you ever had the experience of reading through scripture and feeling like God had a message in it that was just for you? How did you respond? Take a few minutes and read through the verses above slowly, asking for him to speak. Be still and listen, and when you are ready, offer God your response. What words does he have for you today? Remember how deeply he loves you. Ask him for the word you need today, and for the gift of discernment in trusting his voice.