Now the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under Eli. The Lord’s word was rare at that time, and visions weren’t widely known. 2 One day Eli, whose eyes had grown so weak he was unable to see, was lying down in his room. 3 God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet, and Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s temple, where God’s chest was.
4 The Lord called to Samuel. “I’m here,” he said.
5 Samuel hurried to Eli and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go lie down.” So he did.
6 Again the Lord called Samuel, so Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
“I didn’t call, my son,” Eli replied. “Go and lie down.”
(7 Now Samuel didn’t yet know the Lord, and the Lord’s word hadn’t yet been revealed to him.)
8 A third time the Lord called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So Eli said to Samuel, “Go and lie down. If he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down where he’d been.
10 Then the Lord came and stood there, calling just as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel said, “Speak. Your servant is listening.”
I have loved this story since I first heard it as a child. Maybe it’s the gentle humor of the threefold repetition, maybe it’s the earnestness of young Samuel, maybe its the wisdom of a trusted mentor who helps the boy understand what is happening.
But I think perhaps what I like most is the fact that young Samuel is learning to listen to and trust his inner voice. And what is hearing from God, except learning to listen to that voice?
It’s not something that most of us do naturally…well, maybe that’s not entirely correct. I think a lot of kids in particular are quite good at listening to that voice. It’s the one that calls them to kindness, to humor, to love in the most random and heartfelt ways. It’s the reason why young kids, when given the freedom to pick their clothes, will often put on the most outrageous outfits. It may look wild, but for them it’s pure joy. I met a young man recently who, when I asked why every time I see him lately he’s wearing a suit. He told me that the reason was simple: he wants to be a game show host!
I fear that most of us are great (perhaps after a little coaching!) at listening for God’s voice when we’re young. But as time goes on, we become more and more concerned with what others will think and how others respond. We stop being our the most authentic versions of ourselves – the ones that are the most alive and connected to God. We settle for our own voices, or the voices of everyone else. That inner voice, what God has to say, seems less and less relevant.
That doesn’t mean God isn’t still trying to get our attention. It doesn’t mean God still doesn’t have things to say. Sometimes, it just feels easier to lie back down and pretend like we didn’t hear anything. When we’re tempted, let Samuel’s story remind us of how to respond instead: “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Do you recognize and trust your inner voice as the voice of God? If not, why not? Today, take some time to consider how you might create more quiet time in your life to better hear God’s voice.
Prayer: Holy God, Spirit of Wisdom and Truth, quiet my heart today. When I hear the faintest whisper of your voice, help my heart to be still that I might respond like Samuel: “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.” Amen.