1 Samuel 3:3-6 (New Living Translation)
The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”
“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.
Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”
Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m not at my best when I’m woken out of a sound sleep. And I’m not just talking about crazy hair, puffy eyes, and bad breath. I mean I’m not at my mental, emotional, and attitudinal best. Some people are blessed with the ability to spring with enthusiasm out of bed, clear-headed and ready to face the day. Not me.
Apparently, the priest Eli was not a morning person either. Hannah’s son Samuel has grown up under Eli’s guidance and is now a young man. Sometime during the night, Eli is awakened by Samuel, who thinks Eli has called his name. “No, Samuel, I didn’t call you,” Eli tells him. “Go back to bed.”
Then, tucked back under his blanket and sliding down into sweet dreams, Eli is again dragged back into awareness: “Eli, are you sure you didn’t call me? I just heard you again.”
If I was Eli, my tired, cranky thoughts would have gone along these lines: “Seriously, kid? You’re driving me crazy! I’m so tired. All I want is to have a nice, long, uninterrupted sleep. Aaaaargh! Why did Hannah ever leave you with me?”
“Samuel! Go. Back. To. Bed.”
It’s only the third time that Samuel wakes him up that Eli finally figures out what is going on. He tells Samuel: “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.'” Samuel does just as Eli suggests, and God speaks to him.
I bet Eli didn’t get a minute of sleep after that. Not out of restlessness or annoyance or insomnia, but out of joy — because he knew that God was speaking and the young man in his care was listening.
All too often, our prayers are pretty much one-way. Sometimes they’re no more than a long list of things we need, problems we have, people we’re worried about, situations that feel out-of-control. God wants to hear all about that is on our hearts, but prayer can’t — and shouldn’t — end there. We’re not terribly great in our culture at just being quiet and listening. And, yet, who would be the best person in the universe for us to listen closely to?
What are your conversations with God like?