She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.1 Samuel 1:10(NASB)
The book of Samuel was written in the times of the judges, when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Despite the many ungodly behaviours and pagan customs that had infiltrated the camp, the gracious hand of God was ever present to bring good out of evil and to turn the hearts of His people back to a trusting faith in Him.
Hannah was the beloved wife of her husband, Elkanah, but because she was barren, he had taken a second wife – a practice that was never sanctioned by the Lord. This bigamous relationship caused much bitterness, jealousy, and heartache in the lives of all concerned.
Hannah's husband was a Levite by lineage and a resident of Ephraim, who travelled to Shiloh three times a year to attend the compulsory feasts of the Lord. At that time, the Tabernacle of the Lord was pitched at Shiloh, and Elkanah was accompanied by his two bickering wives.
Hannah's prolonged barrenness did not diminish over time and on one occasion she was so distraught and in such deep pain that she cried out in desperation to the Lord for help. This happened during one of their visits to the tabernacle at Shiloh, and we read: "Hannah – greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly."
This was not a shallow prayer with a pretty petition, which asked for wide-sweeping blessings and ended with the obligatory 'amen'! This was a cry of desperation from the heart of a despairing woman - who had no one to help her but the Lord Who made her. The grieving lady had no one who could offer her comfort and relief. The Lord Himself was the One Person who could provide all she needed.
We read that Hannah made the following vow to God in her heart: "LORD of the Heavenly Armies, if you just look at the misery of your maidservant, remember me, and don’t forget your maidservant. If you give your maidservant a son, then I’ll give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and a razor is never to touch his head."
There are many biblical characters like Hannah e.g. David, Jonah, Jeremiah, and Paul, who having reached a point of desperation in their life, simply turned to the Lord for help and comfort. Each one discovered that His grace is sufficient in the lives of those who live by faith and reach out to Him for help, in time of trouble.
It was not the words that Hannah spoke which reached the ear of the Lord, for her pain was so deep that her prayer was silent. Indeed, Eli the old priest of the Lord, thought she had been drinking for only her lips moved as she cried out to the Lord in her pain.
It was not so much the bargain that Hannah appeared to be trying to make with the Lord that touched His heart, but a cry of faith from a woman who trusted God. The Lord will never barter with His people. He will not respond to men's own prideful 'positive declarations' nor can we entice Him to carry out our bidding, demands, or decrees! However, He hears the cries of those that trust in Him and answers the prayers of His people as He deems fit.
Hannah knew that God alone could supply the desires of her heart, and she trusted Him to hear her request and by His grace to act on her account. The Lord did not answer her because of her beautifully composed petition. It was not the length or style of her prayer which moved the heart of the Lord. He responded to Hannah because she had a heart that trusted Him, and the Lord was able to read her thoughts and know that her faith and trust in Him was honest and genuine.
May we learn to pray in spirit and truth and to trust the Lord with our whole heart, knowing that He is a God Who hears and answers prayer. May we seek to align our prayers with His will for our life and not regard prayer as a technique to twist God to do what we want. Rather, may we be ready and willing to trust Him in all things and to hand over the hopes and desires of our heart into His gracious will, and be ready to leave them with Him.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Hannah and the lovely lessons we can learn from the painful episode she underwent in her life – so that her trust in You could be ignited and her faith in God could be strengthened. Teach me to pray aright and help me to hand over every circumstance in life to You, knowing that Your way is best, and Your will is perfect. Increase my faith, I pray, and should I ever become careless in my prayer-life, bring me to that point of desperation, for You alone have the words of life. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.
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