Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing devotions based on the United Methodist membership vows, where we pledge to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. This week’s focus is PRESENCE.
1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 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.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
“Here I am.” These are three little words full of meaning, and they show up on the lips of several important figures in the Bible: Abraham (Genesis 22:1), Jacob (Genesis 31:11), Moses (Exodus 3:4), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8), and Ananias (Acts 9:10).
I’m sure that all of us have, at some point or another, sat through a roll call where the task at hand was to listen for your name and simply say, “present.” In most cases, we probably didn’t want to be there at all, but we knew that our being there was a requirement. So we listened for our names because we wanted to be counted.
But the phrase, “here I am,” when spoken in response to God, says a lot more than our “present.” It’s about something much larger than just wanting credit for having shown up.
In each of these cases, the response “here I am” indicates that the speaker is listening for an instruction, a message, or a missional calling from God. “Here I am” confirms attention, spoken from a posture of receptivity and a genuine desire to follow God’s lead. “Here I am” is about putting ourselves in God’s hands to be used as God wishes.
The scripture confirms a truth everyone who has honestly tried listening for the voice of the Divine already knows: being fully present to God takes practice and patience. At first, Samuel thought that he was hearing his boss, Eli, calling him. It’s not easy to be present enough to hear God’s voice amidst all the human voices around us. And then, when we think we’ve caught a snippet of something, it takes intention to pause, quiet ourselves, and listen even more attentively in the hopes we’ll hear it again more clearly. But even beyond that, to respond “here I am” to God demands that we are fully open and ready for the message the Spirit has for us.
Presence with attention, openness, and receptivity. Are you able to say “here I am” to God today?
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
What part of “here I am” is most difficult for you? Is it sitting still long enough to be present to God? Is it cutting through the chatter in your own head? Is it drowning out the competing voices of people around you? Or is it openness to the response God is asking from you?
Prayer: Today, Lord, I pray that your voice might ring loudly and clearly in my ears. Enable me to offer you my “here I am” with an attentive, open, and receptive heart. Amen.