Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those day; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, 'Samuel, Samuel', and he said 'Here I am!' and ran to Eli, and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' But he said, 'I did not call; lie down again.' So he went and lay down.
The Lord called again, 'Samuel!' Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' But he said, 'I did not call, my son; lie down again.' Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, 'Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." ' So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before. 'Samuel! Samuel!' And Samuel said, 'Speak, for your servant is listening.'
(Church in Wales Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
Samuel was given to the Lord as a child by his mother, Hannah, after her plea to have a child. He was to become a great Prophet, but in the reading above he is still a small child. This is a very visual story and we can imagine the small boy rushing to the old priest who is almost blind, to see if he can help, and it takes three calls before Samuel understands that it's God who calls him.
God still calls us today, but often like Samuel, we don't recognise His call, and it can take a number of promptings before we respond. So how do we recognise God's call, and how should it be tested to make sure that it is God calling us? The call to priesthood, for example, is tested by the church very rigorously through prayer and by those tasked with checking their vocation is true, as well as by those overseeing their training.
God calls us to many things other than ministry, perhaps to go to church, or to become confirmed, or to take up some particular task for Him. So how do we check this call for accuracy? Well, if it's a true call then it probably won't go away, and it can feel like someone is constantly prodding you to act. Even when we try to ignore it, it comes back, and only goes when we agree to act. However, the best thing to do is to start with prayer, and then more prayer to ask God if it is what He wants.
we know You call us to be Your people,
and to take Your gospel message to others.
Help us to recognise Your call,
to follow Your wishes,
and not to ignore Your voice.
You might like to look up the earlier story of Hannah and her desperation to have a child:
Here are twelve more interesting facts about the prophet Samuel: