Listening and Responding

We have heard many times the story of the calling of the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 3:3-10). Many have come to love it, and some have come to ignore it because we have heard it too many times. No matter what the sentiments might be, I think this story teaches us much about what it means to listen and respond to God — something that we definitely struggle with and lack at times.

First, let us be honest with ourselves. We all struggle with patience in one way or another, especially to be fully attentive, present, listening, and responding to people who are around us. As postmodern people who are constantly on the move, inundated with so many things around us, and typically geared toward handling and managing problems, we often cannot be fully focused on being present and listening to people. We might hear what people are saying in order to react, formulate our thoughts, and answer them, but it is very hard for us to simply listen. Even though we have two ears, listening is the hardest action for us to do naturally because we have to truly desire to be genuine and open ourselves up. It takes an act of the will to push everything else aside, especially our presuppositions, thoughts, and humanistic subsidies in order to be present to the other side.

For those of us who have had opportunities to engage in genuine, loving, and caring conversations that are from the heart, I believe we can agree that they are some of the most life-giving, intimate, personal, and simple heart-to-heart sessions that no words can sufficiently describe. Some are really complex, some are really simple, but all are substantial because both sides are willing to be genuine, transparent, and vulnerable with one another. Those moments are sacred and to be treasured because they are holy grounds that were created by genuine, loving, and compassionate care for the good of the other.

If we can encounter that intimate reality among the people that we lovingly trust and care for, I want you to imagine the same thing with God! Are we really being attentive to Him? Are we making the personal effort and time to listen to Him? Perhaps we have all been guilty of coming to prayers with our laundry list of wants, needs, or desires. We say our prayers and list our petitions, but we do not spend the time to really listen to Him. Too oftentimes, we have said to the Lord, “Listen, Lord, for your servant who is speaking!” Hence, at the end of the day, we are the ones who dictate, speak, demand, expect, and want things our way instead of truly seeking God‘s will. Because of our lack of patience, we oftentimes grow impatient with Him and ourselves because we only think what we want or desire are the only things that matter or are important at the moment. We, thus, have lacked to see the bigger picture because we are unable to desire what God really wills for us.

Therefore, to truly listen to God requires each and every one of us to take the time to step back and simply allow the Almighty to speak to us. We need to make time in order to “waste” time with Him! As a matter of fact, spiritual masters often speak of prayer as wasting time with God, as if two people who are in love with each other just want to spend time in the presence of the other and really do not care what the other person has to say. I know it sounds so simple but this is the hardest thing for us to do as human beings because we are scared of wasting ourselves, letting go of control, calming down, stepping back, and just allowing God to be God and we as His servants who are listening. Until we learn to spend time with Him well, we will forever be impatient with ourselves and others, frustrated when we do not get our way according to our timing, and resentful because our standards and criteria are not met. We cannot be happy in life until we are joyful in small matters and learning to be simple, grateful, and childlike in our faith.

Imagine how hard it is for us to relinquish control and simply say, “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening!” It is hard, indeed! Therefore, what seems to be the easiest and should be the most natural is the most personal, intimate, loving, and trusting action that we can give to the Almighty (and, in turn, to one another). We really have to humble ourselves, to trust that He does listen and will respond according to His infinite wisdom and providential care. Even when we do not get what we want according to what we can comprehend or see at this moment, we know that our prayers are heard and listened to by God who sees the depth of our hearts and cares for us beyond our imagination.

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us what it meant to be obedient, not only with empty words but with His actual life and deeds. He emptied Himself from all worldly standards and expectations, to live like us in all things but sin, as to teach us that the only thing worth living for is the will of God our Heavenly Father. He desired, yearned, and sought the will of the Father all the time! Even when people flocked to Him for healings and miracles and He was busy helping others with His public ministry, the Gospel accounts reminded us — over and over again — that He willingly receded into the desert or quiet place to pray. Imagine that, my brothers and sisters, the Son of God desired in finding the time to  rest with His Heavenly Father!

Therefore, for us, too, no matter how busy life can be or seem to be, we all need to make time to pray. Without prayers, we really have little to give to one another. We have nothing to give to another without listening to God, receiving, loving, and humbly living with His will. We have seen this happened all the time! We have seen people using Sacred Scriptures to justify their actions. We have seen false prophets who won hearts through eloquent words and mysterious revelations of the future or end times. We have seen false revolutions and humanistic leaders who captivated the hearts of many because of what they said. However, none of them bore no substantial fruits because the life of God and His loving truth are never with them.

People can use God as a scapegoat and excuse, His Sacred Words as their slogan, but the truth will always come with time. That is why it is important for us to learn to listen and allow God to speak to us first in His own time instead of chasing after the newest, most appealing, or whatever sounds the nicest out there! There will always be false prophets and self-serving people who manipulate others, hide behind the false facade of righteousness and act like they care for people, or present themselves as if they know something important, but they will only stir people’s sentimental or emotional reactions for a short moment in time.

So much of our world and personal problems can be solved and lessened if we learn to be patient, trusting, and prudential in trusting God‘s providential timing! Too many of our mistakes have been caused by many of us jumping on the bandwagon or reacting to what is going on without taking the time to truly listen, reflect, discern, and seek His will in our lives. We speak much of faith, but too many times, this has only remained on our lips we have not let the relationship of faith define, form, guide, and transform us deep from within. Too many of us only have “faith” for a certain point, and when it becomes an inconvenience or too much of a wait for us, we let our ego be in control! Yet, listening, being patient, and being firm in what has been given to us by the Lord is the key to properly responding instead of reacting.

If we stick to the commandments of the Lord, be steadfast and true to what has been given to us, do not give up on prayer, and do what is right according to our conscience, we will be able to overcome many life ups and downs, reactionary movements, false revolutions, and typical social agitations. The storms will come, and they will make life looks chaotic, but they only pick up and blow away everything that is not anchored, the shallow and apparent matters, particularly the stuff that is not important. Therefore, let us take the time to anchor our lives, our values, and our commitment to the Lord by learning how to waste time well with Him in prayer, listening and seeking His presence in small matters, rest in His loving peace, and be prudentially wise in responding to the matters of this world with His truth. Truly, without God, we have nothing to give to one another; but with Him, we can give to each other the genuine gift of self in journeying toward our heavenly homeland. Therefore, let us spend each day learning to waste time with Him by telling Him, “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening!”