John Davis in an excellent article posted on Facebook that reflected on the significance of the feast of Corpus Christi and the church year, stated that “John Wesley was said to have declared that every preacher really only has one sermon. It is just delivered many times and in many places, but the fundamental underlying message is the same. For some preachers then their one sermon might be a fearsome warning, for others it might as at the Royal Wedding, a celebration of love. For me if I am only to have one, it would be to the text ‘God with us’. “ (https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=john%20davis)
Whilst there is a lot of truth in that, it can lead a preacher to miss a range of nuances which is staring him or her in the face. This was the case for me last Sunday in preaching on the 1 Samuel 3 text and also in my commentary on this website. In commenting on verse 7 ‘Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the Word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him’, I emphasised that this was not so much about Scripture, but rather found its fulfilment in experiencing Jesus Christ as the Word of God, in Greek, the logos. One of my basic sermons.
Although what I said about experiencing Jesus as the Word of God is central to the Christian life and also central to learning to experience how God speaks to us, there is a simpler truth and that is, in prayer, we need to learn to communicate with God.
I realised that in some ways I overlooked this, because personally, I find it hard to hear God speaking to me. There are many personal reasons for this, which I do not need to go into now, but there is one that is very significant. It is the problem that we experience of people hearing conflicting messages. Although significant on a personal level, it becomes more significant when the word or message received is claimed to be true for a wider group of people or even, universally true. The conflicting views of the faith between various Christian denominations is a stark example of this.
Obviously, if Christians were more consultative with each other and prepared to discern together to resolve conflicts as they did in the Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15, this would not be such an issue. But the old prophetic model, of the prophet who speaks the word, often prevents this happening as the receiver of the word believes that there word is from God and that it cannot be contradicted.
One of the consequences of Samuel’s experience is that each of us needs to seek to know the Lord and to communicate with the Lord personally. This requires concentrated and attentive prayer, which various ‘Silent Prayer’ or ‘Meditation’ techniques can help us with in the process. We need to learn to dialogue with God and to recognise how God speaks with us.