Summary: A sermon that considers the 2-way nature of prayer, rather than just approaching it as a time for God to listen to us.
On January 4, 1987, Oral Roberts launched his most notable campaign to date. He told his followers that if he didn’t raise a total of 8 million dollars by March, God was going to take his life. Comparing himself to the apostle Paul, Roberts begged not to let Satan defeat him. "God" he said, "clearly told me he needs me here on earth. And here's why -- because of all the ministries, this ministry is the only one God has on this earth that owns a medical school." It was a breathe-a-thon! Sometime later, Oral's son, Richard, wrote to warn of his father's impending doom. Without "the additional $4.5 mil, God will not extend Dad's life." He then pleaded, "Partner, we cannot let this man of God die. There is no reason for him to die"...Because God told them.
On the internet I find a manuscript by one Stephen Gray. He starts by writing: “Recently, I shared a word the Lord had given me with pastors and spiritual leaders in Sacramento, CA. The Lord has impressed me to write the word down and release it to the body of Christ . I believe this word is for the whole body of Christ.” I didn’t stop to find out who Stephen is. I just know that what he wrote was written, according to him, because God told him to.
God gets credited with an awful lot, doesn’t He? If you’re like me, you see a problem in people saying, “God told me…” or “God said to me…” The problem is when people say that and it isn’t true. God has always had a problem with that. Jeremiah’s time, there were false prophets. Listen to what God said:
Jeremiah 23:21-36 - (21) I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.
(25-26) "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!' How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?
(32) I am against those who prophesy false dreams," declares the LORD. "They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them.
(36) …every man's own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God, the LORD Almighty, our God.
There has always been someone claiming that God said something that He really didn’t say. I don’t have to listen to them. The problem is, I really want to know what God says. Don’t you? I want to know what God has to say – not just about the do’s and don’t’s of life, but also about the direction my life should go, about choices I have to make, about the good works He has prepared for me to do.
You see, in this conversation with God we call prayer, there’s another part besides just speaking. There’s also the listening part. In fact, what God has to say seems to be a whole lot more important than anything I have to say. But how can I safely listen to God and be sure of what God has to say when there are so many mistakes and misconceptions and outright fakes out there?
I Samuel 3 is a story about listening to God. I think that it helps point us to some answers regarding how to listen to God as we focus on speaking with Him.
In the first couple chapters, we learn how Samuel was born in answer to Hannah’s prayer for a son. She’d promised to give him over for the Lord’s service, and she kept her word. Now, little Samuel is living in Shiloh, where the tabernacle is set up, and it’s during a time when Israel is done wandering around in the desert. Eli is the priest. His two sons were also supposed to be sharing in the leadership of worship, but they were evil, and Eli didn’t stop them. (v13) The situation was so bad, God was going to bring down judgment on the whole family. Nothing was going to change that. He had already told Eli it was coming. Spiritual leadership of Israel is at a low.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that we read in v.1 In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
History suggests that Samuel was about 12 at this time. He was still just learning about God. But God had big plans for the little guy. He was being groomed to become the first among the prophets of Israel. God was going to use him for a lot of important events in Israel’s history. His whole life was about to change…