Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 30, 2017
Prayer is only half the communication

Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.

One of the larger telecommunication companies appears to be attempting to revive a culturally iconic saying from 2011 “Can you hear me now?”

I am not sure if the phrase is going to gain the attention of its earlier release, but it has caused me to ponder another, perhaps more important, question: “Are you listening?”

There is, at least in my mind, a vast difference between hearing and listening — and listening is by far the most challenging. We have the capacity to hear a wide range of sounds, some pleasant and others not so much. In considering the idea of listening, it brought to mind the calling of a man named Samuel, which translated signifies “name of God.”

Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges, the first in a succession of prophets and the founder of a monarchy. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, had not been able to conceive for years. At one point, she prayed so fervently, the high priest observing her thought she was drunk.

In her despair, she promised God that she would give her son to His service if He would grant her request. God did, and keeping her vow, she brought Samuel to the temple when he turned three years old dressed in a replica of a priest’s robe.

Hannah was given three other sons and two daughters, and when she made her annual visit to the temple for feast days, she would bring Samuel a new robe. The new robe was not just for window dressing, or something cute for the little tyke to wear around the temple courts.

It appears he was in training since he also wore an ephod, a type of apron, a garment reserved for the priesthood. Samuel’s service was described in First Samuel: “But Samuel was ministering before the Lord — a boy wearing a linen ephod.”1 Samuel 2:18 NIV.

The word “But” is noted at the beginning of the verse as a contrast to the sons of Eli, the chief priest who turned the temple offerings into their own private buffet and the women who worked in the temple became their harem.

After hearing about the behavior of his adult sons, Eli attempted to change their behavior without success. There is in the first verse of chapter three a significant insight into the spiritual condition not only of the high priest but of God’s chosen people: “In those days the word of the Lord was rare.”

When you read the rest of the story, you will find God spoke to Samuel twice before he or Eli understood God was trying to get Samuel’s attention. The third time Samuel was ready to listen.

Since we are reminded multiple times in God’s word that He does not change, I could not help but wonder if I am listening? It is pretty easy to get together a list of requests we would like God to do and provide.

Even people without a belief system have wish lists, those things out of their reach but still in their hearts. I have heard it said, “I don’t believe in prayer. I tried it and it does not work.” The interesting thing about prayer: it is only one half of the communication process. Are you listening?

Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.

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