When is the last time you heard a direct message from God? To have a personal relationship with God means you are in conversation with Him – after all, communication is a key component of relationship. Is your conversation two ways, or does it seem like you’re doing all the talking?
We’re only a few weeks into ordinary time and we’ve already heard two readings that specifically refer to God’s call to His people. First is Samuel’s call. Samuel himself is the answer to his mother, Hannah’s, call to God. God has closed Hannah’s womb, Scripture says, and after some years, Hannah cries to God for a son, promising that if He does, she will give her son to the Lord. Have you ever asked your parents how you were God’s answer to them? Parents, do you thank God for your children as answers to your “yes” in marriage?
Anyway, back to Samuel. So Samuel hears God calling in the night, and after waking up Eli a few times, he learns the appropriate response, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” After this humble submission to God’s will, Scripture says that the Lord is with Samuel “not permitting any word of his to be without effect.”
During Sunday Mass we have also heard of God’s call to Jonah to go to the people of Ninevah and ask them to repent. In the reading read at Mass, Jonah heeds God’s call and proclaims God’s message. The people repent and God does not carry out His punishment. This is, of course, Jonah’s second chance – he is more than happy to follow God’s call after finding out that God has all creation at His disposal, including the creatures of the sea, when trying to turn around unwilling messengers.
Both receive a call but they provide two opposite responses. Responding to God’s call is an entirely different post(s). Today we’re talking about hearing the call. So how do we set ourselves up to hear (and hopefully listen!)?
Well Samuel is asleep when he hears the call, and Scripture doesn’t tell us that Jonah is in prayer – the word of the Lord simply comes (Job 1:1). In our modern day, this means that God’s word can come at any time – while we’re reading, driving, watching TV, eating, etc. But if we are making too much noise in our heads and stuck in our own world, our internal receiver may be turned off.
In your prayer time, be sure to make time for God to speak to you by being silent and asking for ears to hear, as Pope Benedict has recommended, but make sure that you aren’t closed to His words throughout your daily routine. As we build our relationship with God, conversation with Him throughout the day will become more natural. If you are a Twitterer (or even a frequent Facebooker), just imagine that your inane thought-tweets (the ones so frivolous that you don’t tweet them) are mini conversations with God. After all, He does care about even the smallest details and thoughts of your day.
As we heard in in a Responsorial Psalm from this year’s readings: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. If listening, really listening for God’s words is new to you – make some time just to listen and be still. If you need help starting try singing along with this song – Here I am Lord. Let the lyrics soften you heart and open your ears to God’s call for you.
Another great way to work at hearing God’s call is to learn from those who have been hearing for years. Join a charismatic prayer group at your church, or look for one in a nearby church. There is a charismatic conference in the Austin-area this weekend, you can learn more at www.ccraaustin.org.
How do you make time to receive God’s call? How has He sent messages to you?
Halo Tip # 1: Do you wonder how to tell if what you hear in prayer is from God or just from your mind? While I can’t offer a standard rule – I did find this video on EWTN that discusses how to listen – so take a listen.
Halo Tip # 2: Do you journal when you pray? Even if you’re not a journaling person for your petitions or thanskgivings, try writing down what you hear from God. (If you are a journaling person, write down what your hear in another color to help differentiate from your own thoughts). Every prayer group I’ve been in has one or more people who chronicle messages during the meeting so that they can be summed up afterward. I find it helpful to go back and read past messages I’ve heard. Hindsight allows me to see how appropriate the messages were for the particular situation I found myself in. Most of the time I don’t hear something earth-shattering or new, like winning lottery numbers. The message almost always starts with “I love you” and a reminder of how precious I am as God’s child. Because of my intentions, there is usually a reminder not to worry, and to remember the birds and the lilies of the field. Give it a shot and see what trends emerge when you open your ears to hear.
Note: Reflections in this blog are my own and do not represent the positions of my employer.