First, we know from this reading that Eli the priest & Samuel both slept in the presence of the Lord in the Temple. This is a great consolation to those of us who frequently fall asleep in our humble attempts to pray!
The Lord called Samuel - and he thought it was Eli. It is possible that we might hear someone and misinterpret it as God’s voice (or God's will), but very rarely do we hear God’s voice and think it to be someone else.
Perhaps what is more realistic: is to let someone wise like Eli to guide us to interpret what the Lord might be telling us. We would do well to remember that Samuel needed to be told 3 times that it was not Eli calling him. Remember also that it took Eli some time to discern and figure out what was happening.
Samuel did not become impatient with the situation - Eli did not become impatient. Both Samuel & Eli persevere so that they will know the Truth - they knew they could find it. For Samuel, it was to decipher the voice. For Eli, to know who it was that was actually calling Samuel.
When both of them focus their attention on God for answers in the midst of confusion - everything falls into place. We would do well to remember that our our vocation is more about God and less about us.
Samuel listened, and Eli directed. Samuel misinterpreted, Eli corrected him (some of us may not be as patient if our sleep was disturbed). Samuel was a “rookie” in the spiritual life. Eli finally saw what was happening, but both of them had to sort out what God was doing.
+Only after some direction from Eli and some obedience from Samuel, did the “Lord come and reveal His presence.” But why did this not happen earlier? Why only then, after all of that?
Until we recognize that it is the Lord, and until we listen,...God may not reveal Himself to us. Samuel needed the wise counsel of Eli to do that. The letter tells us that Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him. No word of the Lord which he spoke was without effect. Samuel became a prophet.
This transformation to prophet and preacher did not happen overnight but took a lifetime with prayer and searching, and seeking good counsel. Such transformation is the work of God in the man who gives himself over to formation - the kind of formation offered in Dominican life.
Does God have a plan for searching (like that of Samuel) for each of us? To transform us like Samuel, to become Heralds of Salvation? Most certainly! It will look different. But as we progress and are obedient, like the Son is to the Father, the “Lord certainly will come and reveal His Presence.”
And then we will recognize Him more wonderfully and we will say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
Some good articles on Spiritual Direction & Discernment (various authors)