(1 Samuel 3:1-14)

Imagine one sound being played evenly at every frequency the human ear is capable of hearing. That’s “white noise.” Some people swear by their white noise machines humming through the night as they sleep. For these people, the cacophony of sound, similar to a small fan whirling, is the best way to block out other distracting noise that would otherwise keep them awake.

In our regular routines, it’s easy to hear “too much” due to the constant alerts on our phones, traffic everywhere, the perpetual sound of other people’s voices, and a thousand other sounds- both welcome and unwanted. Distracting clamor is part of life in the 21st century but unfortunately so many other conflicting sounds can create spiritual white noise, restricting our ability to listen for the one Voice that matters most.img_0021

God still speaks to His children today but to hear Him requires an intentional focus. We need to cultivate a listening heart. It can be done.


When the prophet Samuel was young, he was an attendant in the Tabernacle where he lived (1 Samuel 3). The Ark of God was housed there too and always represents the presence of God. One early morning just before dawn, while sleeping in the Tabernacle, near the Ark, Samuel heard the voice of God calling to him (v.3). He did not recognize it at first-but the old priest Eli helped him cultivate a listening heart for the voice of God. We can train ourselves to listen!

The Tabernacle was obviously quiet while everyone slept. The Ark of God was nearby. Samuel’s entire life was devoted to serving the Lord. Those three factors-stillness, God’s presence, and devotion- are good guidelines for us when we need to hear God about decisions we face, when we are seeking closer fellowship with God, or when we are maturing in the exercise of the spiritual disciplines.

To reproduce a similar atmosphere find a quiet place where outside distractions cannot interrupt your listening heart. Prepare your heart by reading Scripture to invite the presence and the clear Word of God into your life. Confess your sin so your life is clean and devoted to God.

Then, like Samuel, respond to the prompts of God’s Spirit. He said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”
(1 Samuel 3:10)


Some will argue that God doesn’t speak today but He does. Some will argue we don’t need to “seek His presence” since He is everywhere and “omnipresent.” It’s true He is everywhere but there is a difference between saying “God is everywhere” and “God is right here.” In Scripture there is a clear distinction between His presence and His “manifest presence.”

A few weeks ago the Unceasing Prayer Movement hosted a 24 hour prayer and worship room in Austin in association with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention held in Austin this year. Several people from around the city and state, and obviously from different churches, prayed for 24 hours. People were coming and going the entire time. Several of my friends, some who do not know each other, shared with me they sensed God speaking to them during that anointed time in the prayer room. I find that fact revealing. Several people, including me, heard from God. Why? The presence of God was powerfully conspicuous as worshippers poured out their hearts in prayer! The presence of God opens up the probability of hearing God.


It is obvious God wants to be heard. The bigger question isn’t whether God is speaking but whether we are listening! When we put ourselves in a posture, place, or position to listen, it is almost impossible to miss His voice. Even a casual reading of Scripture reveals the God who communicates to people. He hasn’t changed at all over the years. He is still speaking and looking for a people who are listening. When we put ourselves into the proximity of His presence – whether through sustained fasting, focused Bible study, or unhurried worship- we train our heart to listen and appreciably enhance the probability of hearing His voice. img_0019




Today, December 10, 2016 is an important anniversary for me. On this day, 40 years ago, I started following Christ in a walk of personal discipleship. I was a teenager in Fairbanks, Alaska 5 days away from my 20th birthday. Today, I’m 5 days from my 60th. I thank God for the journey.

I often say I should be further along in my Christian life by now but, thankfully  I am a long way from where I started. Along the way I have learned some lessons and developed some disciplines that have fashioned my life. Here are a few of the most consistent truths that have guided my steps.

1) Persistence is the key to everything. No one feels like pressing forward everyday. Sometimes we want to coast or even give up but that’s when persistence kicks in. No one ever quit half way through the race to win the victory.

Marriages should persist during tough times-that’s one way our spouses know they can count on us. Parenting isn’t easy but we can’t quit on our kids. Following Jesus demands daily consistency too, because sometimes it’s hard to remain faithful. The enemy attacks, temptations are always a factor, and sometimes we just want our way rather than His. Yet, without a commitment to finish strong, compromise can slowly erode our once unquestioned resolve. No wonder even the Apostle Paul said, “I press on.”

I have learned to press into Jesus and rely upon Him even when I don’t feel like being strong. I know if I do, soon my natural sense of dedication and commitment will surge back.

2) My personal relationship with Jesus is paramount. It is my life. If I don’t walk with Jesus on a daily basis, I will soon fail Him, disappoint my loved ones, and be no good for anyone else. Therefore, daily prayer and Bible study are essential for my Christian life. It’s not selfish to prioritize your own spiritual growth, it’s mandatory.

Aboard a commercial airplane the flight attendants routinely demonstrate the oxygen mask system before the plane takes off. Passengers are always instructed to put their own masks on first before attempting to assist other passengers. Obviously you can’t help the person next to you if you have passed out from oxygen deprivation!

In the same way, I make my own spiritual growth a personal priority because if I dry up spiritually I will not be of any spiritual help for anyone else. For this reason, and more importantly because I love to fellowship with God, I have not missed a day of Bible study in more than 35 years. In the first 5 years of my walk with God I might have missed a day of Bible reading occasionally, but I never missed 2 days in a row. But over the last 35 years my daily Bible study is as important to me as breathing so I never miss a day and I never will.

Similarly, I am helpless as a follower of Christ without prayer. When I was in college in the 1970’s I committed to pray 30 minutes a day. Admittedly, there have been days when I’ve prayed less, but thank God there have been many days when I prayed much more. The key here has been commitment and persistence. I’ve learned to keep going regardless of how I feel or the circumstances around me.

Today, I’m more devoted to the ministry of prayer than ever before. And I’m more convinced of the power of praying with other highly devoted prayer warriors than I’ve ever been. That’s why I’ve joined with the Unceasing Prayer Movement in Austin and a team of highly committed prayer leaders to make Austin, Texas the most prayed over city in America.

Never before have I been more desirous of moving from merely having a prayer life to actually living a life of prayer. I believe prayer moves the Hand that moves the world.

3) Finally, the people in my life are more important to me everyday. I love my family, my church, and my friends. I’m grateful for the power of love and my life is better because of the people I love and those who love me. Always.

In a few days I will turn 60 and I’m loving it. I started with the Lord 40 years ago and I’m happy to look forward to 40 more. When I turn 100, perhaps I’ll have some more advice to share! img_9946