Shmuel has a powerful meaning: G-d has heard. It comes in context, as Shmuel the prophet’s story begins with his mother’s long history of infertility and devastating heartbreak that yields to prayer. Shmuel’s mother, Chana, set the model for how we pray today, moving our lips silently and using communal prayer as a vehicle to connect with G-d privately, sharing our innermost thoughts and struggles with Him.
Interestingly, Shmuel’s name doesn’t say what we’d expect it to say: That G-d has answered. After all, Chana finally becomes pregnant with Shmuel after many years of waiting. So why only credit G-d for hearing? Why not more dramatic language?
Perhaps this tells us something deeper and more profound about prayer. In our lives, some of our most precious prayers will be answered, and some will not. We beg G-d for so many resolutions, but some never come and some are much more limited than expected. And yet, our relationship with G-d can continue despite the gaps that wait to be filled. We can be human, heartbroken, lost and confused, and still connect with Him. Because He has, and will always, hear us.