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Hannah: A Woman of Prayer

April 1, 2010

Welcome back for the next post in a new series With Child: Meditations on the Meaning of Motherhood. If you missed the previous posts, you can catch up by reading about Sarah, HagarRebekah, and Jochebed. Join me as I study the mothers of the Bible and discover what lessons can be learned from their lives. Come back each week for a new post in this series . . .

1 Samuel 1, 2:1-11

She was oblivious to all that was around her. Desperate to be alone, away from the provoking and cruel words of Peninnah, Hannah went to the tabernacle to pour her heart out to the Lord in prayer.

It was like this every year. Every year when they went as a family to worship and offer sacrifices at Shiloh, Peninnah—the second wife of Hannah’s husband Elkanah—took her snide verbal attacks up a notch. Hannah was so upset she no longer had the strength to eat. All she wanted to do was cry. Because, you see, Hannah was barren.

She couldn’t endure it anymore. Something had to change. Hannah made vow to the Lord, and a vow was no small thing.

“Lord, if you will give me a son, I will give him back to you for all the days of his life and no razor shall touch his head.”

A vow meant serious business in Biblical times. And Hannah’s vow reveals the purity of her heart. “She begged God for one son who would be fit to serve in the tabernacle,” writes John MacAruthur in Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You. “If God would give her that son, she would give him back to God. Hannah’s actions proved that she wanted a child not for her own pleasure, but because she wanted to dedicate him to the Lord.”

One son. And then she’d give him up. I don’t know if I could make a vow like that. Could you?

Suddenly, Hannah’s fervent concentration is broken by a harsh voice.

“How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you!” It was Eli, the high priest. Even in the temple she is not left alone, but falsely accused and misunderstood.

Eli’s words reveal the depraved state the tabernacle was now in under his leadership. “The priest who hadn’t dared deal harshly with his own sons felt no reservation in dealing with Hannah. The old man revealed a lack of insight and poor self-control. His words also revealed that in those days drunk people and [immoral] women were not an unusual sight in the house of God. Even Eli’s own sons slept with the women who gathered at the door of the tabernacle” (Gien Karssen, Her Name is Woman).

Eli doesn’t even recognize private prayer when he sees it. But despite his slander Hannah responds with grace, explaining that she was praying and very “troubled in spirit.”

“Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him,” is Eli’s response.

Hannah dries her eyes and leaves the temple. Breathing deeply, she knows she must face Penninah again but she doesn’t dread it anymore. She finds herself ravenous and goes back to her tent to eat. “Hannah cast her whole burden upon the Lord and left her sense of frustration there at the altar. She did what she had come to the tabernacle to do. She had brought her case before the Lord. Now she was content to leave the matter in His hands (John MacArthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women).”

And eventually, Hannah conceives a son. Can you imagine her joy as she felt the first kick? Her gratitude as her belly became swollen with the son of her prayers?

Samuel is born and I can imagine Hannah relished each moment with her him as he grew from a baby into a toddler. It wasn’t until he was weaned (which was usually around three during Biblical times) that she took him to the tabernacle to dedicate him to the Lord and leave him in Eli’s care.

This shows Hannah’s trust and faith in God. Eli had already raised two sons who were uncontrollably corrupt. How could she trust this man with her precious son? “Her prayer was radical in nature. So was her dedication. She had to offer Samuel to God daily, trusting Him to protect Samuel’s faith in the midst of the corruption he saw in Eli and his sons (Gien Karssen, Her Name is Woman).”

But she knew God heard her prayers. This had already been proven. And as she dedicated Samuel to the Lord’s service she prays one of the most beautiful prayers in all of scripture, foreshadowing Mary’s Magnificat. And no doubt in the years to come, as she sewed Samuel his new little robe each year to give to him when they went to the tabernacle, that prayer echoed in her heart. With each stitch a prayer for him would be on her lips.

And God’s blessings did not end with Samuel. Hannah would go on to bear three more sons and two daughters. She would no longer be the childless subject of Pennanah’s insults.

And Samuel? What became of this child of Hannah’s prayers? He would become the last judge of Israel and a prophet who led Israel spiritually towards righteousness.

Prayer characterized Hannah’s life. In two short chapters in the Bible, Hannah prays with such raw emotion and joy that one can only imagine the depth of her love for the Lord. She turns to the Lord in her darkest hour, and once that hour is passed, she turns again to the Lord in her deepest joy. “The value of persistent and passionate prayer is one of the central lessons from Hannah’s life,” observes MacAruther in Twelve Extraordinary Women.

My prayers seem to pale in comparison to Hannah’s. They seem lame and tepid. I could learn from Hannah’s specific and bold example in prayer. I want to pray and praise as fervently as she did. And to faithfully pray for my children as Hannah prayed for Samuel, both before and after he was born. And to be reminded that the prayers of the righteous have power to work great things (James 5:16).

Do you have a prayer story to share? Please feel free to bolster our faith by sharing how God used your prayers in either your own or another’s life.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Nicole Hammond permalink
    April 2, 2010 8:55 am

    Thank you for exploring Hannah as a mother, Danielle. When I was dealing with infertility and all of the emotions and breakdowns that go with it, I came back to Hannah’s story, and her prayer for a child, over and over again. I felt more empowered to go before the throne raw and to let out my anger, sadness, loneliness and desire, because I saw Hannah approach it that way. And, I saw God’s loving response, instead of chastisement. But, I concentrated on her longing for a child; her cries to the only one who could provide, or understand. And, I didn’t explore her as a MOTHER, just as a woman who desperately needed to be one. God heard my prayers – ranting, crying, begging – and blessed me after 3 years of imploring! So, I left Hannah and forgot to look at her as an example of a Godly mother. It was so good to be reminded that her story didn’t stop with God’s answer to her prayer to become a mother.

    • April 2, 2010 2:42 pm

      Wow, thanks for sharing how Hannah impacted your prayer life, Nicole! How awesome that you now have TWO answers to those prayers you prayed!

  2. April 3, 2010 11:49 am

    This is a great series. I really enjoy the time and thought you put into these posts. Hannah is such an example of faith and boldness and humility and submission in prayer, all at once. For the past year, God has been answering my prayers that I would grow spiritually and desire more of Him. He has encouraged me to hope, and to not be satisfied with where I am spiritually, to not think that I can never change, but to ask for more of Him and more of His grace and presence in my life. He is so gracious to answer those prayers, even though I still have a LONG way to go.

    • April 5, 2010 2:00 pm

      Awesome, Anna. Thanks for sharing how God’s answered you . . .

  3. April 5, 2010 2:27 pm

    what a wonderful series! the story of hannah is inspiring as is her strength and faith in prayer.

Trackbacks

  1. The Widow of Zarephath: A Faith that Lives « Dancing by the Light
  2. Elizabeth: Faith for the Barren Years « Dancing by the Light
  3. Mary: A Humble Heart « Dancing by the Light

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