In revisiting the story of Samuel, I’ve been mulling over the account of his first meeting with God. The gist of it is: God calls, Samuel eventually says, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” and then God speaks. “Enviously simple” is how I describe this meeting.
When I attempt to mimic Samuel, I often begin prayer with his line, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Such an approach, however, deviates from what happened in Samuel’s case. Samuel’s famous line came after God wanted to speak something specific to him and had already initiated contact. In other words, God’s message to Samuel was not initiated by Samuel’s willingness to listen, but rather God’s desire to speak. Only then did listening matter.
Though Samuel’s story should not be our blue print for prayer any more than the best-selling prayer by Jabez, I think this story highlights some of the dynamics of prayer and why we are sometimes frustrated with God. I often think that stopping long enough to listen merits some kind of response from God, a virtual flood of messages and important stuff from the Almighty. There is no set pattern, but it’s safe to say that on many occasions I’m not bowled over by a pressing revelation.
On the other hand, I have had incredible moments of prayer that crept up unexpected and unsolicited. Walking, driving, sitting, working, doing just about anything or nothing and I hear something from God. That is the crucial moment to stop and say, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
All that is not to say we should give up on planned or scheduled prayer. The scriptures say nothing of the sort. Prayer took place at set times all over the place. Nevertheless, there is a humbling that takes place when we realize that we cannot make God speak to us.
Just as Samuel lived in the tabernacle, we are able to live in the presence of God. We can prepare our hearts to hear from him. We can seek him out. And when he does speak, we will be prepared to listen.