How To Listen To God Using The Samuel Prayer

I am fond of sentence prayers that are easy to memorize and can be said in a pinch. 

When my mind can come up with nothing to pray about, I simply go to one of my sentence prayers. Sometimes I say the Shema and sometimes I say the Jesus Prayer. Lately, I have been using another prayer, what Adam McHugh calls the Samuel Prayer.

The Samuel Prayer is simply saying the following, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” 

This prayer comes from a charming story in scripture where a young Samuel, who was learning under a haggard priest named Eli, kept hearing God speak to him but thought it was Eli calling him instead. Finally, Eli instructs Samuel to listen for the voice again and when he hears it to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

What I like about this prayer is that it helps me flex my spiritual listening muscles. Did you know that prayer is also about listening? 

For some reason, I always approach prayer like I am pulling up to a drive thru window. I want to get all of my requests out and the less I have to hear back from the voice behind the speaker the better for everyone. But that is not all there is to prayer. McHugh says, “prayer without listening is not truly prayer.” He says that listening prayer is the only way we can adhere to Paul’s directive of “praying without ceasing.”

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I also like the language used in the prayer. The use of the word “Lord” is an important reminder as is the word “servant.” My best approach to God is as a servant and that means I need to be listening and investing time into hearing what God may be saying to me.

What has been the result for me saying the Samuel Prayer? What have I heard God saying to me? 

Sometimes nothing but many times I have been directed, been spoken to, and been reminded of great truths. What I hear is not always the most important thing. The simple act of listening is a way of cultivating my relationship to God. 

Any good relationship includes a healthy amount of speaking and listening. If I am doing all of the talking in a relationship then I am guilty of selfishness, greed, and gluttony but if I seek to listen as much as I can then I have a better understanding of the heart of the person I am in relationship with.

Take the Samuel Prayer and use it throughout the day or take a few moments at a designated time and use the Samuel Prayer to help you listen for God. I can’t tell you the skies will open up or you will have a legendary life with God like Samuel experienced but I can tell you that you will possess a posture of listening and you will see the importance of not just talking to God but also listening. God will be delighted that you are listening to him and will give you rich moments with him.

Let This Moment Be Your Moment of Greatest Growth

“Never let a crisis go to waste.”

As we settle into what Tony Evans says are multiple pandemics, it is a perfect time for disciples of Jesus Christ to start assessing their spiritual life and determining areas of growth.

I would hate to come out of these pandemics and not have done some serious soul searching and asked God who I am becoming in the midst of all of this and what he needs me to do and be.

One means of assessment is to ask if I am resembling what scripture says about a Grown Up Christian? 

A Grown Up Christian will have the power of the Holy Spirit and that power will begin to produce characteristics such as love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control. If you are not cultivating these fruits of the Spirit then what are you waiting for? The next pandemic?

A Grown Up Christisan should pursue and possess wisdom. The fools despise wisdom and instruction but the wise listen and add to their learning and get guidance because they fear the Lord and seek to be obedient to him. Dallas Willard says, “In fact, if we are to use our minds rightly, we must live in an attitude of constant openness and learning.” 

Have you learned anything over the last three months? Are you listening to disparate voices? To God? And are you learning and gaining insight on how to live and behave as a Christ-like person? If not, why not?

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Another thing that marks a Grown Up Christian is the reality of not having all of the answers. Paul, who knew so much about Christ and talked confidently about our life in Christ, states that we know in part and we prophesy in part and that we see through a darkened glass. If Paul, this great shaper of Christian thought and practice, accepts that there is only so much we can understand this side of heaven then why must we, as tiny and insignificant believers, think that we can describe with perfect clarity the purpose behind a pandemic, all the right answers for racial injustice, and the will of God for our government? 

So, if a Grown Up Christian is cultivating the Fruits of the Spirit, gaining in wisdom, but understands that pure certainty is not the end goal and is unrealistic in our limited human state, then they can begin to find a humbled, relaxed existence that trusts that God knows what he is doing and that they live in the strong and unshakable Kingdom of God and that is a perfectly safe place to be. 

Then, this crisis would not have gone to waste.

The World Needs You To Be Jesus Too

Here are some of the things I have heard Christians say, especially recently:

“What we need is Jesus.” “There will be no hope until there is a spiritual awakening in this country.” “Pray that God will move on our nation.” “We all need a savior.”

Even one of my heroes, Dallas Willard, says something similar, “There are no human solutions to human problems.” I support these sentiments whole heartedly but I think they send the wrong message, particularly to Christians.

What Willard would no doubt point out and what needs to happen is not Christians in their steepled tower looking down on the wayward world who need a good spiritual slap in the face and come to Jesus moment but Christians who are willing to Grow Up to the point of actually serving as Jesus’ proxy here on earth so that people will see their good works and glorify the Father in heaven.

One of the last things that Jesus told his disciples is that they will do the same things that he has done himself and even greater things than that. What Jesus means is that individual Grown Up Christians in the community of other Grown Up Christians and with the power of the Holy Spirit and the redeeming and resurrected power of Christ inside of them can unleash miracle upon miracle on the world.

When Jesus came, he was just one man that was able to love and just serve who was in front of him. But, his followers, operating out of their new life in Christ, could impact thousands upon thousands of people and work miracles by the sheer act of taking Christ’s love wherever they go and whoever they are with.

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I don’t fully understand why Jesus would bother with us limited and tainted people but he has chosen to entrust us to do his work here on earth. What is that work? To love one another, to set the captives free, to visit the prisoners, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, and to serve with humility and sacrifice, as he demonstrated. 

The Jesus the world needs may be myself living with humility or you living without pride or your fellow church member dropping the need to judge others. The world needs you to Grow Up. 

The whole world needs to know the saving power of Christ but not just in a revivalistic, “get right with Jesus” way but you and me actually Growing Up to be more like our Savior for the benefit of our own soul and the good of our families, our community, and our country. 

There are no human solutions to human problems and that is why all of our human problems need individuals who have found the divine solution and that solution, Christ, has revolutionized their own character and life and shaped them so that they can help bring the divine solution to a world that desperately needs it.

Jesus has taught you and instructed you on how to Grow Up. Jesus is transforming you to be Grown Up not just for our own purposes but for his purposes in the world. Stop telling others that they just need Jesus if you are not willing to be Jesus to them. The Jesus they need might just be you. 

The Spiritual Side of Your Response To Racial Crisis

What should a spiritual response be to the horrific racial nature of the deaths of George Floyd and Armaud Arbrey?

Envision Heaven: I believe that many Christians will be surprised when they get to heaven. Instead of the best version of their favorite homogenized church service that they were expecting they will see every race known to humanity, languages and dialects that are foreign to them, and cultural tendencies that doesn’t fit the narrative of a white-centric heaven. Maybe, we won’t see the need to categorize and label the way we do this side of heaven but I believe that our differences will still be apparent. If we can’t support, love, and worship with our Black brothers and sisters now then heaven is going to take some getting used to. I would like to be preparing myself for heaven now. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”

Examine Your Heart: I possess bias, even prejudice in my own heart. You do too. Have you dismissed some areas of your town or region because of the color that is represented in that community? Do you always seem to make a point to list race when you are telling a story, especially a negative one? Is there a tinge of fear when you encounter a group of people from a different race from your own? Do you assume certain people you talk to on the phone or encounter at a business lack intelligence or skill to provide you what you need?

Our hearts can be radically evil and ruined and that is often our default mode until it is transformed by Christ (which is a lifelong process). Before we dismiss racism and prejudice as an affliction that someone else has, we need to examine our own hearts to see the renovation that needs to go on there. Ask God to help you see his people in the way that he sees his people. Ask for humility to acknowledge where we may be complicit in the society and institutional racism that exists. As long as we think it is someone else’s hang up and not our own, we won’t be compelled to do anything different.

Lament and Grieve: Please realize that what happened to George Floyd and the aftermath of protests that erupted after his death is not the “News Media Crisis of the Week.” The same issues that the Black community is facing today they will be facing two months from now and next year when Social Media and the internet has moved on to a new crisis. 

In order for us to avoid the crisis news cycle, we need to lament and grieve what has happened to George Floyd, Atatiana Jefferson, Sandra Bland, Armaud Arbrery, and the list goes on and on. Their senseless deaths at the hands of prejudice and racially motivated violence is at the height of evil and tragedy and requires Christians to lament these lives that were lost and to cry out to God for justice and reconciliation for our country and our communities. 

Blackout your social media feed if you feel led but don’t skip over the hard and unpleasant process of heartbreak and loss that triggers healing. I plan on reading and praying the Psalms of lament to help me embrace this tragedy with a deeper perspective.

Have Dinner: The amount of ministry performed by Jesus over meals is astounding. Dinners and food metaphors are some of Jesus’ favorite devices and teaching symbols. His miracles often centered around providing food and drink for people who needed it no matter their position in life, gender, or worthiness. 

I have been struck recently by hearing about the Racial Reconciliation Dinners that have sprung up around the South. There is something so pure and basic, in the best sense of the word, about sitting across from someone that you wouldn’t normally socially interact with. Opinions, preferences, and barriers just fall away when you can look someone in the eye and have a conversation over a quality meal served with hospitality and love. Start your own reconciliation dinners.