Focal Passage: 1 Samuel 3:1-10
One Wednesday night at church I decided to have a real prayer meeting.
We would pray, or at least be in a prayerful attitude, for the whole hour.
First, praise: a Psalm, a song, our praises spoken out loud.
Then confession: silently, between each of us and God, and a unison prayer.
After that, thanksgiving: sentence prayers expressing our gratitude.
Then the prayer list, always the most extensive and energetic aspect of our community prayer.
We were now about halfway through the service.
Next I read aloud a scripture passage. Then we read it in unison, then silently to ourselves. Then we took turns reading verse-by-verse, pausing between verses.
Finally I reread the passage, this time asking everyone to pick out one word or idea that caught their attention. I invited them to focus on that word, repeating it silently to themselves and letting it take them wherever it would. After 20 minutes I called time.
We discussed their words, what thoughts they had during the silence, and whether or not those thoughts might have been God’s voice.
Afterward a deacon grabbed me by the shoulder: “Don’t ever do that to us again!”
Why is it that in prayer we are so intent on talking to God, but so resistant to listening to God?
Why are we so quick to tell God what to do, but so slow to hear what God has to say?
One layman says that too often our prayers simply inform God of what He apparently doesn’t know and then advise Him what to do, now that we’ve told Him all the facts.
The teaching guide for today’s lesson asks if “long, wordy prayers” can be “an evasion that keeps us from hearing and obeying God’s voice.”
Jesus wondered the same thing (Matt. 6:5-8).
Crusty old Eli understood. God doesn’t just sit around, hand cupped to ear, waiting to hear what we expect Him to do for us.
God also has things He expects us to do for and with Him. If “the word of the Lord was rare in those days” (3:1), maybe it’s because no one was paying attention (Ch. 2).
Eli told Samuel (3:9), “Next time you hear His voice, answer, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”
The boy did listen, and then the most amazing thing: when Samuel informed Eli about God’s judgment on his corrupt sons, Eli said, “It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him” (3:18). Eli was listening, too.
Maybe prayer is not so much about getting God on board with our program as it is about getting us on board with God’s.
Speak, Lord; your servants are listening.