Hannah was the second wife of a man of Ephraim, a Levite (1 Chron 6:33-38) named Elkanah. The story reminds me a bit of Leah and Rachel, except that Hannah and Peninnah were not sisters, and Hannah, the favored wife, was far more righteous and God-fearing than Rachel, who stole her father’s household gods (Gen 31:19) and nagged Jacob to death about her inability to conceive as if it were his fault (Gen 30:1,2). Going to God was Rachel’s last resort, after first badgering Jacob, then offering her handmaid (Gen 30:3) and finally using mandrakes (Gen 30:14), the aphrodisiac of the day. You should take a few minutes sometime and read the meanings of her children’s names (by her handmaid) if you want a flavor of her mindset, and compare them with the names of Leah’s children. Then of course, there was Joseph. When God answered her prayer for her own child, she named him, “Give me another one.” Look at the marvelous contrast of Hannah, who after asking for a child and receiving him, gave him up to God, with no promise that she would ever have another.
Hannah shows us what prayer is supposed to be—not some halfhearted muttering of ritual phrases, but a “pouring out of the soul” 1 Sam 1:15. She prayed so fervently that Eli, watching her, thought she was drunk. As she told Eli, “Out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken” v 16. Her prayer life was such that her relationship with Jehovah gave her the confidence to tell him exactly how she felt, in the plainest of speech, evidently. You do not speak to someone that way unless you have spent plenty of time with him and know him intimately. Are we that close to God?
She also teaches us what prayer should do for us. Look at the contrast between v 10 and v 18. Before her prayer “she was in bitterness of soul…and wept sore.” Afterward, she “went her way and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.”
Of course, Hannah had the reassurances of a priest and judge that God would give her what she had prayed for, but don’t we have the assurance of the Holy Spirit through the word He gave that God listens and answers our prayers? Shouldn’t we exhibit some measure of ease after our prayers? In whom do we have our faith? If the doctors say it is hopeless, do we pray anyway? Do we carry our umbrellas, even though the weatherman says, “No rain in sight?” Do we pray on and on and on, even when it seems that what we ask will never come to pass? God does not run by a timetable like we do. Hannah had the faith that says, “It’s in God’s hands now,” and she was able to get on with her life. Life does go on, no matter which answer we get, and God expects us to continue to serve Him with a “thy will be done” attitude.
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” James tells us in 5:16. Hannah shows us it works for righteous women as well. Can people tell by our lives that we believe it?
Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I call unto you, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been a refuge to me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will dwell in your tabernacle forever. I will take refuge in the covert of your wings. Psa 61:1-4
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