2015 January 18: A Prayer in the Still of the Night
"A Prayer in the Still of the Night" W. Zeitler
"Open My Eyes That I May See"
Involuntary M. Kempton (1625-1682)
In this morning's Scripture the Old Testament figure Samuel is a young man who grows into a full fledged prophet as his story unfolds. At this point in the story, young Samuel is apprenticed to the priest Eli, and one night he thinks he hears Eli calling. Samuel comes running, and Eli says, "It wasn't me, go back to bed." This happens again, and Eli tells him again to go back to bed. The third time, however, Eli is awake enough to realize that it is the Lord calling to Samuel, and Eli instructs him, "If he calls again, say: Speak! Your servant is listening!" Which is exactly what Samuel does — the Lord speaks, Samuel listens, and the rest, as they say, is history. (For example, it is Samuel who anoints David as King of Israel.)
One of the lessons here, methinks, is that Spirit does not make our convenience much of a priority. After all, growth — both personal and community — are by definition other than the status quo, and the status quo has an awful lot of inertia. And if we are committed to being ready for Spirit's prompting, that means we need to be awake and attentive all the time — that's a good thing too! And I have to wonder if there isn't a little test here: if we are not willing to get up in the middle of the night for Spirit (or some equivalent inconvenience), then would we be willing to act on what Spirit is trying to say?
We've all had experiences like this. I had one something like this, on a vastly smaller scale of course, where I woke up wide awake at one a.m. two nights in a row with an indefinable impulse to do something I couldn't name, and just returned to a confused slumber. My wife said: "Next time, why don't you get up, go start writing, and see what happens." Which is exactly what I did, and this morning's prelude is the result. The idea of the piece is that sometimes we find ourselves praying in the middle of the Night, in the dark periods of Life, and as we pray nothing seems to happen. But we persevere, and then — something opens...