Thurssday, January 19, 2017
On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the Lord had given her no children. So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. “Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?” Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.” As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!” “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.” “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” “Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad. The entire family got up early the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more. Then they returned home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea, and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.” 1 Samuel 1:4-20(NLT)
Year after year Hannah had to endure humiliation, because her culture looked down on women who did not have children. Hannah’s husband tried to console her, but little could ease the pain of this woman whose womb ached to hold a child of her own.
As a result of Hannah’s great anguish she was driven to prayer. It would have been tempting to give up even on prayer, because Hannah not only had to endure the mocking of other women, but her intense praying was interpreted as a substance abuse by the priest, Eli. It’s bad enough to have the women rubbing salt in her wound of barrenness, now even the preacher thought she came to church drunk.
If you’re like me you want to hear the sound of heavy equipment getting ready to move the mountain you have just asked God to take away. Hannah must have felt some of that, but she would not give up on God’s way, and, in due time the fruit of her prayer was named Samuel.
Now perseverance in prayer is certainly one of the main lessons of Hannah’s story – that it’s important to hang-in with God in your prayers. But we must not forget how the ball gets backhanded into our court in the postscript to God’s answering Hannah’s prayer:
She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.” 1 Samuel 1:20(NLT)
The name Samuel means name of God or God has heard[ii]. Either way, for all his days, and the last four thousand years, up to this present time, Hannah’s testimony of God’s answer to her prayer rings in our ears every time this incredibly important prophet’s name is spoken.
We are quick to pray when there’s an especially-urgent pressing circumstance in our lives. Are we just as diligent to name the answer as God’s answer?