By Chris WittsSaturday 9 May 2015Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes
What makes prayer great? Its content? The individual who is praying? The outcome? Great men and women have uttered powerful prayers and lived lives defined by intimacy with the Almighty. Catastrophes have been averted,transformations effect. Yet the most halting expressions of faith draws the listening heart of our Father,through whom “more things are wrought than this world dreams of” (Tennyson). Our heavenly Father has planned for us to live in covenant and with Him through prayer to accomplish His perfect will. This communion is great because God,who has bound Himself to prayer is greater than all,even “Greater than our own hearts” (1 John 3:20).
“Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times,’Samuel! Samuel!’ and Samuel answered,’Speak,for Your servant is listening'” (1Samuel 3: 10).
Author Kathleen Norris,who returned to her childhood faith after many years of estrangement from God,finds that “prayer is not doing,but being. It is not words but the beyond words experience of coming into the presence of something much greater than oneself. It is an invitation to recognize holiness,and to utter simple words ─ ‘Holy,Holy,Holy’ ─ in response.”
Samuel received such an invitation to recognize holiness. He was only a child,perhaps 12 years of age,when he became the assistant to the aged priest,Eli. Hannah had kept her promise to give him to the Lord’s service after God granted her prayer that she bear a child. When we read about Eli and his sons and all that went on in the child’s environment,one wonders how Samuel became the great prophet he was. Scripture tells us that Eli knew that his sons had sex with women who came to the tabernacle doors. He knew that Hophni and Pineas took for themselves the best portions of the sacrificed meat,rather than those assigned them in the covenant. These were Samuel’s “big brothers,” and Eli,his mentor,who “honoured his sons more than God” (1 Samuel 2:29) would be severely punished.
“Speak,Lord,for Your servant is listening”? How is it that Samuel could speak such a prayer of openness and availability in such a milieu? We must take into the equation the prayers of his mother. As she came to the place of worship for the yearly sacrifice,bringing her son a new hand-sewn robe,she must have anguished over the evil of Samuel’s surroundings. But she had given him to God. God would overrule even the evil Samuel witnessed daily in the tabernacle. She would continue to pray as she had even before he was born.
Many of us have dedicated our own children in a church sanctuary. God will honour that dedication. Don’t despair if your child is distant from God now. Keep praying,keep believing. Remember what His Word says: “Train a child in the way he should go,and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). He may wander for a time,as many of us do,but he will return.
God used the counsel of weak Eli to help Samuel understand that God was speaking to Him. Our Lord is not limited or frustrated by evil surroundings. He can make His voice heard. He can accomplish His will,even through people who are not living a life of obedience. When Samuel recognised God’s voice,he was ready to respond.
His obedience must have been costly. God would send severe judgement on Eli and on his house,and Samuel would bear the news to the old priest. God “would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible,and he failed to restrain them… the guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering” (1 Sam 3:13-14).
Imagine these difficult words on the lips of a young boy who,from all we read,must have cared for old Eli. They worked side by side,and Samuel was quick to respond to Eli’s call. Three times he got up in the night without complaint when he thought Eli was calling him. How would his message be received by the dissolute brothers and other members of the household? What made Samuel so ready,so quick to obey the voice of God?
Perhaps we think it’s the kind of prayer only a child could make,a child who doesn’t really know what the implications of such a prayer might be – how it could change his life. God did not call us to be careful,only to be obedient,because we have given our hearts to Him. Samuel prayed in the manner he did out of love. The God his mother had taught him to honour and pray to had spoken to him,had asked something of him. He would obey regardless of the cost! Perhaps he did not even think much about what the cost would be.
It’s a little like what happens in marriage. When a couple is in love,having chosen to be together forever,they often do not think about what might happen down the road. They do not think there might issue no children from this union,that financial reverses might plunge them into poverty,that one might contract a debilitating disease and possibly die. Even if they do consider these possibilities,their strong love for each other overrules these potential anticipation promises,”For richer,for poorer,in sickness or in health.”
This is the childlike faith God honours and wants His children to possess. Jesus said,”Unless you are converted and become as little children,you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” We need not fear giving our hearts to God,for He plans only good for his children. We need not be anxious about the possible consequences of our prayer to God,because He has promised to be with us every step of the journey committed to Him and to bless us.
Some years later,the prophet Isaiah would pray a similar prayer when he recognised an invitation to holiness. He saw the Lord “high and lifted up” and heard the angels crying,”Holy,holy,holy,” and he became instantly aware of his smallness and sinfulness. But God purged his iniquity and gave him a prophetic message of redemption. Isaiah was a grown man,but his childlike faith enabled him to respond,”Here I am,send me” (Isa. 6:8). How will we respond when God calls us?