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. 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. Then the Lord came and stood there, calling just as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel said, “Speak. Your servant is listening.”
1 Samuel 3:8-10
There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing, I believe, is like having headphones in while I’m working. I can get things done and the music or words provide an ambience to spur me forward. But, they’re background noise. Listening is different. Listening requires devoting your full attention – setting distractions aside to focus on what’s most important. We may hear all sorts of noise we believe to be God, but like Samuel it can take the care of a loving mentor to help us know how to listen well. Eli’s instruction isn’t just for Samuel to wait for God again, but to prepare himself to respond when God does speak. This wise counsel helps Samuel move from hearing to listening. Whereas before, he simply heard a voice, he was then ready to respond and take action. That’s the challenge for us too: to move from hearing (passive waiting) to listening (responding in kind).
Who might help you listen to God’s voice today? How might they challenge you to respond?
As I wait for you to speak, O God, help me to be actively preparing for an encounter with you. Let my actions and my thoughts say, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Move me from hearing you only to a response that begins with true listening. Amen.