Listening for God

Arthur Middleton

It was a calm sea as the ship for Sweden made its way from Newcastle to Oslo. Behind a row of chairs was one small door through which occasionally a determined looking member of the crew often passed. He was intensely concentrated on his job. The passengers watched with increasing curiosity. What was he doing? When for a moment he left the door ajar, a passenger quietly peeped in to see what he was doing. And there he was, listening, simply listening; that was his job, chiefly to listen – he was in fact the ship’s wireless operator, paid to listen.


We are all familiar with the story of Samuel in the Temple with Eli the old priest. There is described a situation where, in a religious sense, a man had given up listening. No word of the Lord ever seemed to come, no vision of the Godhead ever seemed to be given to him. There was the Temple in which the lamp of God was kept alight. And Eli the priest slept there; and Samuel, his young assistant, slept there, slept before the ark of God itself, thinking perhaps, that if they sleep before the sacred shrine itself some word of God within their dreams must come to them. But it never came to Eli, and it never came to Samuel; at least it never came within his dreams. You would say, ‘Well, of course, sleeping is no proper function in the house of God.’

Waiting for God’s word

Outside was a world in chaos, tumbling in chaos. No leadership, no faith, no standards, no progress. But in the Temple within this sea of darkness with its lamp of God not quite gone out, was an old man, and a boy, waiting for some word of God but never thinking that it would come.

But it did come. It came to Samuel. What is more it came to Samuel because Eli told him how to listen. That is the redeeming feature of the old priest Eli. He expected and though he received no word from God himself, he never had forgotten the proper way to listen, and he passed the lesson on to Samuel: ‘And it shall be, if he call you, you shall say, Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’

Do you see your primary task as listening to God. Do you see your time as a time when you learn the art of listening to God? At prayer and worship do you count the place of your encounter with God as your weekly or daily listening post? No word of God will come to those who do not count the place where they sit or kneel a listening post – nor learn in all humility the lesson that Eli taught: ‘And it shall be, if he call you, you shall say, Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’ ND