Prayer is essential in our Christian lives. It is our communication with the Father. It is a way to bring our requests before Him.
We try to establish rules for everything…even prayer. We try to say what it should look like. In reality, it is communication with the creator God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a way we show respect to Him. It is also a way of showing our trust in Him.
Today, we are looking at the story of Hannah and what she offers to our understanding of prayer.
1 Samuel 1
There are several things going on in this scripture. Let’s look at some of the characteristics and circumstances for Hannah.
First, Hannah is unable to have children. In this time, a man often had more than one wife. Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, had another wife named Peninnah. It appears she was jealous of Hannah and in turn, made Hannah feel inferior and beat down because she couldn’t have children. It was definitely Hannah’s desire to have children.
Second, we see that Hannah is a faithful follower of God. She went to the house of the Lord and offered her sacrifice. This was a time of great pain because it was a reminder year after year that her prayer had not been answered. It was also a time when she was provoked most by Peninnah.
Elkanah wanted to make her feel better. He really did love her. But, this wasn’t something he was suppose to fix. It was something that God was going to handle. He couldn’t change the situation…only God could.
Third, we see that Hannah brings her requests before God. She does it sincerely. She does it whole-heartedly. She does it with a heavy heart and sorrowful spirit. She is so intense that Eli, the priest thinks that she is intoxicated. She was definitely deep in prayer. She makes a vow to God. That is important to note. This wasn’t just a minor promise she would forget…this was a vow to God.
What happens? Eli lets Hannah know that God has heard her prayers and speaks a blessing over her. She gets up, washes up and moves on. She does become pregnant and not only does she have a son, but she does just as she promised God she would do…she offered him back to God to use.
What does this all mean? God heard Hannah’s prayers for years. He knew her heart’s desire. It wasn’t that He didn’t love her. It wasn’t that He didn’t care about what she wanted. It wasn’t that He was trying to punish her. She didn’t do anything wrong. But, God had a plan. He had an important plan for Hannah. He had an important plan for Samuel. In this plan, Elkanah had an important part, as did Peninnah.
Hannah was chosen to be Samuel’s mother. God chose a woman who would be faithful and would give her son back to Him to use. He chose a woman who was faithful and believed in Him. He chose Hannah. He chose Hannah to have Samuel at that particular time. God saw the whole picture. Hannah only saw her immediate need. In Hannah’s life and call, God used those around to help her as well. Elkanah was a supportive, loving husband. She had someone who cared for her and really wanted to give her everything. The realization that he couldn’t do it encouraged even more dependence on God. As well, Peninnah was a part of that plan as well. We can look at her and think how hateful and spiteful she was. Or, we can see that the taunts from Peninnah gave Hannah even more fuel in her prayers. It drove her to her knees like never before.
Samuel was important to God and definitely had a purpose. You have to know that Eli’s two sons were crooks, liars, and horrible priests. They did things that were evil in the sight of the Lord. God couldn’t use them because they weren’t willing. Eli would grow old. God wanted a faithful servant in the absence of Eli. Since neither of Eli’s sons would make it, God looked to Samuel. Samuel was exactly what God chose…for such a time as that.
God uses me and you as well. He uses us in our willingness. He uses us in our faithfulness. He uses us in our pain and sorrow and in our joys. He created us for something for Him. We aren’t able to fulfill that when we are disobedient, unfaithful, and not willing. Our circumstances don’t determine God’s faithfulness. What we see isn’t what God has done. God sees from a different perspective and thus, God has a plan despite our circumstances. God can even use our circumstances to do mighty things for Him.
Eli’s sons weren’t what God needed. Samuel was. Hannah was. You are.