Faith to pray. Real faith has the capacity to persevere in prayer in the face of disappointment. Hannah took her disappointment to God and saw extraordinary fruit from her prayer.
Words for the Week
1 Samuel 1: 8-12
“Her husband Elhanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?”
So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried – inconsolably. Then she made a vow:
“Oh, God of the Angel Armies, if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, if you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a holy life of discipline.”
1 Samuel 2:1
“Hannah prayed: I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air! I’m laughing at my rivals, I’m dancing my salvation. There is no one holy like the Lord, for there is no one besides you, there is no rock like our God”
One definition of faith is ‘divine persuasion’ – a kind of God-given capacity to believe and trust in Him in particular situations, often difficult ones. Faith arises with in us when we choose to trust in God’s nature and his goodness despite our circumstances.
Having read 1 Samuel 1 and 2 a few times now, I’m incredulous to the insensitive people surrounding Hannah, and amazed at her patient attitude towards them throughout her time of longing! Her husband is a self-interested and inconsiderate fool (‘Why are you sad? Being married to me must be ten times better than having a child?’), her husband’s other wife is a cruel bully, and even the great prophet Eli incorrectly assumes Hannah’s desperate prayer is actually drunkenness.
If nothing else, we should all be as patient as Hannah is for putting up with those around her! But that isn’t the point of today’s passage – we are looking at Hannah’s faith to pray; her faith, and the resulting miracle is why Hannah’s life and story made it into the Bible.
Hannah certainly prayed long and hard to have a son – but I question if it was only faith which led her to this. Hannah seems more desperate than anything else. Often prayers come from a place of desperation as much as a place of faith. Faith and desperation don’t negate or even oppose one another, rather they work hand in hand to keep us praying about the things that really matter to us. That we even pray at all shows we have faith in God’s power and goodness.
Feeble, whispered, faithless prayers invoke a thunderous, resounding, bone-shaking great ‘Amen!’ from countless angels, from heroes of the faith and from Christ himself!
These passages leave me with many questions;
- what is our theology on bartering and making deals with God?
- why did God let Hannah go through such a hard time before eventually answering her prayers?
- what happened to Hannah’s faith after she had a child?
Many of us live with deep questions about prayer and the miraculous. These may never get answered this side of Heaven. What we must learn to do is hold them in tension, continue to pray and continue to have faith. This will be easy at some times, and be incredibly difficult and costly at others. But the longer we pray for the issues that move us, the more we show our seriousness to God, and the more we are in conversation with Him, which are two things He massively loves.
The last two things to note about Hannah, are that she follows through on her promise to God and she worships Him for His answer to her prayer. Once Hannah finally has a son, she gives him back to the Lord. This one faithful, but incredibly difficult, act Hannah makes changes the rest of the history of the Jewish people, as Samuel the great prophet begins his journey.
It begs the questions – how much do our prayers really reflect God’s heart, and do they line up with His plans for the Kingdom? After this, Hannah also praises God for hearing her prayer. We have prayers that are answered every day (‘Give us this day our daily bread’), and, to borrow from Anglican liturgy, it is right that we praise and worship God, for all the good things He does, for His continued faithfulness and simply for who He is.
Prayer does certainly change us, but that’s not why we’re told to engage in it. We’re commanded to engage in prayer because it is a God-ordained means of impacting him and changing the world. Jesus didn’t say if we have faith and pray our attitude toward mountains would change. He said the mountain would move! Prayer changes what happens in world.
Own it personally…
Ask God to bring your prayers into alignment with His heart – that we could pray and care about the things He has already planned to do
Write a list or keep a record of every prayer you see answered from now on and use it to remind you of God’s faithfulness – this can inspire us to keep going
If you don’t have an ‘issue’ that you regularly petition God about, find one! Look around at your non-Christian friends, situations that need a miracle and issues of injustice and war around the world for inspiration. Pray every day for these issues until they change (you may also notice yourself changing in this process). You may wait for years for ‘results‘, but you’ll be in good company with Hannah, Abraham, Joseph and Jesus!
If you feel all out of fuel to pray for situations that don’t seem to ever change, come to God with your frustrations. Tell him honestly how you feel about your unanswered prayers and ask him to help you pray honestly and faithfully
Speak it Out – Pray and Prophesy
would you help us to align our prayers with your heart for the world and for individual people. Please equip us to pray faithfully and enduringly. Please give us the faith, determination and desperation to keep bringing our hearts to you. Please move in the situations we bring to you and give us patience, understanding, acceptance and faith to believe that you hold all situations in your hands, with perfect wisdom, insight and timing.
P.S – anyone in need of encouragement, check out ‘The Vision’ published by 24-7 Prayer available in many different formats. Here is a youtube video.