There are five keys for listening to God. 1) Location. 2) Make Time. 3) Be Still. 4) Know the Lord. 5) Obey the Lord. According to Ralph Nichols,
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols
Understanding what God wants for us is no different. We must listen first, but listening requires a conscience effort on our part. You cannot multitask listening, it requires focus. What happens if you are listening to the TV and your phone rings, you pick it up and start talking to your friend. Do you keep watching TV and if you do who are you really listening to? Life happens, and we want it to.
Doctors’ appointments, work, school, grocery shopping on and on. It happens so much that we no longer hear it, we have become immune to the language of life, it has ceased to have meaning for a great many people. When you hear the same thing repeatedly the mind stops hearing it and if you do not hear it, you stop listening. Remember listening requires an effort it’s active, hearing is passive it requires nothing but presence. I think we hear the Lord all the time, we just don’t listen. Why? I don’t know. So, how do we not only hear the voice of the Lord but learn to listen for it? Not only listen but obey. It’s not difficult Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” John 10:27. We hear the voice of Jesus, he knows us, and we are meant to follow but first … Samuel will show us the way. “Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was” 3:3. What’s that old saying about location, location, location. Samuel was with the Ark, it doesn’t get much more sacred than that. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t have access to the Ark of God, and while I have the privilege of being one of Gods stewards, it would be a little, shall we say impractical to come up to the church whenever I felt the need for the Holy presence. So, the first thing we need is a personal sanctuary, a spot or place that we can feel the presence of God. It doesn’t have to be flashy or ornate, it must be somewhere you can feel secure.
“Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 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”. 3:4-5. When is it not a good time to talk to God? NEVER! It’s always a good time to pray but if you’re expecting a reply, you might want to set aside a little alone time. Notice that God spoke to Samuel when he was relaxed and receptive, not in the middle of doing chores, or grocery shopping, (although that’s when I do a lot of praying, mostly about how I’d like to be somewhere else), but God spoke to Samuel when he was lying down. Probably not a coincidence. You must make time for the Lord or eventually he will not make time for you.
Do you have to be immobile and completely focused on God? Of course not, but it helps to eliminate distractions and focus on what you’re asking? So, the second thing we need to do is make time. “Here I am, for you called me” 3:6 Too often I found myself in my previous life asking God for this or that as I progressed through the day, still do, except it’s with a different focus. I would ask God to live my life for me, Lord would you… fill in the blank… do this for me, please Lord and I called it unceasing prayer. More like unceasing complaints. I still do this only now I ask the Lord to show me the way to… fill in the blank… that it might glorify God. Now rather than asking God to live my life, I live my life for God. I still rarely get an answer, and that’s because I’m too busy talking and not listening. So, that’s number three, be silent. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth”. Psalm 46:10 Three times God called Samuel and three times he heard God, but “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him”. 3:7 Number four know the Lord, read your Bible, study the word of the Lord. We can never understand the mind of God, but we can learn what He wants from us, we can learn as much of his mind as the Holy Spirit, indwelling us, reveals to us, we can be in relationship with Him. You don’t have to understand why God is, to know God is.
God has gifted us with the instructions so why not read them and find out how to listen, to truly be in relationship with God. “Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 3:10 Now that we know God and are finally listening… comes the hardest part, this is the point where so many of us get to and fail. The final part that everyone has trouble with, saint or sinner. Once we find a place, make the time, be still, and know God, once we hear God … then, we must obey the word of God. James said, “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves”. James 1:22 Poor Samuel once he heard the Lord, God told him some really messed up stuff. We say we want to hear the voice of God, but do you, really. I thank God that he regularly gives me what I need and not what I deserve. To hear God is not always sunshine and roses. It can be a tremendous burden.
Samuel was given knowledge of the impending destruction of Eli, and his family. Samuel’s mentor and since Samuel was so good to Eli, I am assuming that he was also like a father or at the very least a friend to him. How horrible it must have been for Samuel to be given that knowledge. Not only that but to then tell Eli, “Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you”? 3:15 Samuel did not distort the word of God or put his own spin on it. He simply told it like it was, “Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him” 3:18. How easy it would have been for Samuel to lie to Eli and tell him that all would be well, Eli was getting old and Samuel was still a boy, who would have blamed him for taking the easy out. God…even though God condemned Eli because of his family still Eli acknowledged God’s will saying “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him”. 3:18 Who’s going to know if we hear God, who’s going to know if we obey or not. Not our family, not our friends, No one knows we are listening… no one except God.