4-5: “On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah…but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.” – In these first verses in the book of 1 Samuel, we enter a story filled about a family that is aflame with feud, discourse, and bitterness. Hannah was a favored wife of Elkanah yet God had not blessed her with children.
6: “Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.” – Blessings, such as children, come from God, so it is natural for Hannah to assume that God was also responsible when no children came.
9: “After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord.” – Taking her misery with her, Hannah goes to the tabernacle to once again ask for His blessings.
11: “She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death.’” – Feeling separated and forgotten by God, Hannah beseeches His blessing. In exchange for His blessing, she creates a covenant that dedicates her son to a life of servanthood.
14: “So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself?” – Hannah’s prayer was so intense and with disregard of what others might think it caused Eli, the priest on duty, to accuse her of being drunk. (The disciples at the first Pentecost were accused of the same offense.)
15: “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” – She had held nothing back in her efforts to get God’s attention.
17: “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” – Eli blesses Hannah.
20: “In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’” – Her prayer answered she begins her covenant by naming the boy “Heard of God.”
Points to Contemplate:
Is God responsible for your life?
Are the situations you find yourself in, your wealth, your family, your general position in life, controlled by God? Do you praise Him for your blessings? Do you blame Him for your unhappiness and suffering? Can misery be a “gift” from God? Or is it a byproduct of your own selfishness? Do you turn to God out of your misery? Are these opportunities to grow stronger in your faith? Are these opportunities to learn more about God’s faithfulness?
What do you ask from God? Are your prayers vague and non-committal? Or are you very specific in your needs and requests? Do you pray with rote and formatted prayers? Or do you pour out your soul to the Lord? Do you provide God a list of needs? Or do you converse with Him, listening for His response? Do you expect answers to your prayers? Do you realize that God provides you with the grace to overcome all things?
How do you feel after you pray? Are you filled and comforted by the experience? Can you “go in peace” knowing that God has heard your prayer? Does this peace come from the knowledge that God will answer your prayer? Or does it simply come from the action of turning to God with your needs? Is prayer a means to an end or an open door to new opportunities?
What are you willing to give back to God?
Hannah bargained with God, offering Him a covenant relationship in exchange for an answered prayer? Can we bargain with God? Or is there always an assumed return on God’s investment in you? If His answer to prayer comes in the form of grace, are you not expected to do something with that grace? Are you not expected to worship Him? Are you not being called into ministry and service? Are you not commissioned to make disciples of all nations? Do you see how these responses are elements of our covenant relationship with God? That they are our responses to answered prayers? Promises of the Gospel:
Hannah’s story is very human. We have all found ourselves in situations of misery and discontent. We even tend to increase our misery through feelings of envy and self-pity. From this commonality with Hannah, we can then use her prayer-life as a model for our own. She shows us that we can turn to God in all situations. That we can feel free to ask Him anything that is on our hearts. There are no limitations to what we can ask from God. When we pour out our souls to Him, we walk away refreshed and with peace. God provides us with the grace to handle all the situations in life that He has sent our way. With that understanding we can then be freed to go forth and become the blessing to the world that He is calling us to be.