Friday, March 27, 2009

Hannah's Prayer of Thanks

These are a few of my thoughts about how Hannah could give her miracle child to the priest to raise up in the service of the Lord. Nothing in the scriptures reveals that she had any hope of having more children and even her husband was accepting of the decision. As I meditate on thoughts like this and also read Hannah's prayer of thanks given right before she hands Samuel over to the priest ... I think that today's Christians have somehow lost sight of something so important to our collective faith. I think Hannah, Elkanah and all the "barren" couples we discussed in this series had a better understanding of God, his significance, his holiness, his awesome wonder ... they understood this better than we do. These people - our examples in faith - were truly in awe of God.

Read Hannah's prayer and think about God - really think about Him and ask yourself "why not me? If this is only a tiny piece of who God is, first, I want to understand Him better, but second, is anything really impossible for a God like this?"

Hannah's Song of Thanksgiving
1 Samuel 2:1-10 KJV

Then Hannah prayed and said,
"My heart exults in the LORD;
My horn is exalted in the LORD,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
"There is no one holy like the LORD,
Indeed, there is no one besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
"Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the LORD is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.
"The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble gird on strength.
"Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
But she who has many children languishes.
The LORD kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The LORD makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S,
And He set the world on them.
"He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail.
Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens,
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed."

"Barren" Women of the Bible Part 4 - Hannah

Although all of the barren women stories are inspiring on some level Hannah's story truly sparked a chord in my soul. I actually modeled my prayers after Hannah's tortured and passionate pleas unto God.

Her story is told in 1 Samuel 1.

We know that Hannah is married to Elkanah. His second wife (and Hannah's arch enemy) Peninnah had a cart full of sons and daughters, but Hannah had no children. In Peninnah's free time she would provoke and torment Hannah because (1) Hannah didn't have kids (vs. 5), but (2) Hannah still somehow managed to be Elkanah's favorite wife (just my 2 cents!).

Hannah was so highly favored that when the family would take the annual trek to the temple to make sacrifices to God, Elkanah would give Hannah double the portion he gave to his other wife, Peninnah. So anyway, before heading to the temple Peninnah teased Hannah. She probably said something like, "HA! All these years you've been taking double portions to the temple and you still can't have a child!!" (vs. 7).

Let's stop here for a sec. I know I can relate to this one. I had been praying and pleading for YEARS while watching other friends and acquaintences who have turned their backs on God seemingly pop out babies like a cork out of a bottle! Let's keep going, we're soon to find out that we cannot measure God's faithfulness or attentiveness by the blessings others are receiving.

So, Hannah in her misery and torment refused to eat and just cried. Elkanah tried to be supportive but couldn't understand why his love - his favor - was not better than 10 sons. He was okay with her not bearing a child. Well, Hannah could not let it rest. She went to the temple while crying bitterly and in deep distress she vows to God:

"O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head." (vs. 11)

Hannah cried and prayed with all her heart, she moved her lips, but no sound came out. She was in such a state that the high priest thought she was drunk! When the priest confronts Hannah, she says that she isn't drunk but sorrowful ... she poured out her soul to God. She said her grievance was so great and her grief so intense and she poured all of it out to the Lord. Eli simply tells her to go in peace and may God grant her request.

Guess what she did next? She put away her tears and her sorrow, stopped starving herself and the next morning she woke up early and worshipped God. When Elkanah and Hannah went back to their home, they made love and the scriptures say, "And the Lord remembered her" (vs. 19). That simple statement puts a knot in my throat everytime because ladies ... God hasn't forgotten us either!!

Needless to say, Hannah goes on to give birth to Samuel, whose name means "I have asked him of the Lord." The story doesn't end here. Hannah also remembers what she promised God and she gave Samuel to the Lord. She actually took him back to the temple and gave him to the priest there. She said:

"For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there." (vs. 27-28)

She went on to have 5 more children (1 Sam. 2:21)! And Samuel went on to become the greatest priest in the Bible.

So many nuggets can be taken from this amazing story.

1) A humble, passionate prayer from the depths of one's soul COMBINED with fasting is more effective than years of passionate prayer. Some things are so serious that they cannot be resolved without fasting AND praying (check out Matt. 17:21 for another example).

2) God does not forget what has been promised to you.

3) After we send up our passionate prayer we need to (a) put away our sadness (b) go in peace and (c) worship God

4) Our relationship with God is not a one-way relationship. We cannot expect to receive blessings and answered prayers without keeping the promises we make to God. We have to do our part ... we've learned He WILL do His'! It is better to not promise than to make a promise and break it.

5) We have to grow to a spiritual place where we love God so much that we would give up everything - even our child - the very person we longed for with all every fiber. I'm amazed at Hannah's love for God. She is an inspiration in so many ways.