I was reading 1 Samuel’s first chapter today. I noticed some things about Hannah in particular and her praying at the temple in Shiloh. Here’s a bit of background.
Hannah is married to Elkanah. He has two wives. Hannah is barren. His other wife has a ton of children and lords it over Hannah to the point of depression and anxiety for her. I’m mad at the other wife and frankly a bit perturbed that Elkanah has another woman. The thing that saves him in my eyes is the fact that he is truly burdened for Hannah and feeds her double portions to lift her spirits since her depression causes her to have a lack of appetite. (Side note, I don’t understand people who have a loss of appetite when depressed. It has NEVER happened to moi!).
Anyway, on one of their yearly treks to Shiloh, Hannah prays at the temple. Here’s where the application comes in. I looked at her praying and these are some of my observations.
1. Even though Hannah was sad, she continued to be with others and made the trek. She could have sequestered herself from the rest of the family to ruminate in her sorrow over being barren. This barrenness was devastating to her and any woman back then. I noticed also that God had closed her womb. There’s a whole sermon in that one statement.
2. Some of us have children, but are perhaps barren in other ways such as a long-awaited hope, dream, desire that just doesn’t seem to be happening. Some reading aren’t married, but nonetheless have a long-hoped-for…hope such as a husband (wife if you’re a man reading this), situations to disappear that are just so painful and frustrating, etc. Perhaps God has closed the womb, so to speak, to the birth of that hope and maybe it’s forever or maybe not. God only knows.
3. While praying, she wept bitterly. Are you real before the Lord (Yahweh) when praying over your long-desired hope?
4. She considered herself the servant (even amidst her pain) of the sovereign God (Yahweh) and asked Him to look on her affliction. Have you established who you are in Him and have you invited him to look on your affliction? Are you remembering that He is aware?
5. She asked Him to remember her. That’s not to say that God forgets us, but she was asking him to be mindful to her sorrow over this circumstance. What’s your circumstance? Now, look to the One who is aware (El Roi – the God who sees) and beseech Him to be mindful of what you’re going through. In addition to her pleading with Him to remember her she also asked that He not forget her. Sounds redundant? She was being specific.
6. Then she asked Him to give her that hope, a son. Let us be specific in that for which we seek God to supply.
7. Then, WOW, she tells God that if He will do those things (remember her, give her a son) then she will give him to Him all the days of his life. Okay, I cannot imagine Hannah’s willingness to claim this. By the way, she followed through with this! Here’s the LFL (lesson for life). First, all we have is His to begin with. Second, when hope is birthed we are to give it right back in thankfulness to the One who blessed us with it to begin with. I’m not saying that we mothers need to load up the family van with the children and haul off to the steps of the church and leave them there for the senior pastor to care for, although some of you are considering it right now if you’ve had a really bad day with the darlings. No. Hannah vowed a vow as the ESV words it. She had to keep her vow to God. This spoke to me in this way. Am I willing to let go of the birthed hope and give it right back to the One to whom I prayed about it all along? Or, do I forget that He was mindful of me and hold it so tight that it becomes my prized possession (idolatry) that I won’t let out of my sight?
8. When she prayed she was near Eli, the priest. Her mouth moved but no sound came out. He accused her of being drunk. I love how her praying is described as “praying in her heart.” Here’s what I got from that. She wasn’t praying aloud for Eli’s sake. No. She was praying in her heart to God knowing that He could and would hear her. Simple application is that we don’t have to pray out loud for God to hear us. Whether or not man hears our supplication doesn’t matter to God. He HEARS the praying in our hearts! AWESOME! Throw up your hands and give Him a wave offering!
9. She admitted to Eli, when confronted about her possible imbibement in too much alcohol, that she was troubled in her spirit, not drunk. LFL – when troubled in spirit, pray, no matter what others think. Just don’t do it for your glory and their thoughts about you.
10. After praying, she ate and her face was no longer sad. The next morning she got up with the family and they worshiped. That says to me that once you’ve prayed, walk away from the anxiety. Leave it at the altar. Go back to life with people. The next day, instead of getting up and being anxious, worship God.
God remembered her. He opened her womb. She conceived and eventually, in God’s time, Samuel was born. After he was weaned, she returned to Shiloh and dedicated him to God and left him to be raised by Eli. She would return each year after that with a new tunic for him to wear. Most mothers mark the growth of their children on the doorframes of their houses or on a growth chart taped to the wall. Hannah? She marked her little son’s growth with fabric yardage needed year after year as he worked in the temple where she prayed for God to birth the hope in her.
Something I noticed in this was that Samuel, upon being “dropped off” at the temple, worshiped. That word “worship” means that he laid himself down prostrate on the ground in awe and reverence for God. A little boy, long prayed for, worshiped in such a way. I bet I know where he saw this style of worship exemplified – at home, from his mother, Hannah.
When hope gives birth, let us worship.
Don’t lose hope. Pray.
Soli Deo Gloria!