We often fail to pray until we feel a desperate need even though we have the privilege of constant access to God. Many times, our desperation is the result of our own poor decisions. In such cases it is indeed appropriate to appeal to God. Simon was told to repent and to pray for forgiveness. (Acts 8:22) We must understand and accept that forgiveness does not usually mean escaping consequence. “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” (1 Peter 2:20-21 NKJV) Sometimes desperation is the result of circumstance. Such was the case with Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel.
Hannah lived in difficult circumstances. Despite being in a devout religious family, Hannah’s life was not perfect. Elkanah was a doting husband. This caused strife with Penninah, Elkanah’s second wife. The favoritism bestowed on Hannah was reason for Penninah to deride Hannah for being barren. “And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.” (1 Samuel 1:4-7 NKJV) The inability to bear children was at the heart of Hannah’s despair. A similar drama had played out long before in the life of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. (Genesis 16:1-6) Later, Jacob, Rachel and Leah faced similar circumstances. (Genesis 29:28-31)
On one visit to worship at the tabernacle in Shiloh, Hannah’s grief had again driven her to tears. Elkanah attempted to comfort her however she ultimately addressed her grief by speaking her heart to God in prayer. “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.” (1 Samuel 1:10 NKJV) Eli the priest was witness to her prayer. He saw her lips moving and her grief but did not hear her words because she was praying silently. Eli reprimanded Hannah assuming she had approached the tabernacle in a drunken state. “And Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”” (1 Samuel 1:15-16 NKJV)
It would be easy to assume that Hannah was praying with entirely selfish motives. Cultural pressures were such that her social status was diminished because she could not bear children. Having a son would elevate her social status and eliminate at least one point of contention with Penninah. However, we see Hannah making a vow to God promising to give up the very thing for which she was asking! “Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”” (1 Samuel 1:11 NKJV) God granted Hannah’s request and she fulfilled her vow by bringing the child to Eli for a life of service. (1 Samuel 1:20-28)
Hannah’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving is no less astounding than her prayer of grief. “And Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. “No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:1-2 NKJV) She goes on to describe how God humbles the arrogant and mighty while exalting the hungry, barren, and poor. It is God who gives strength and it is God who judges. “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed.”” (1 Samuel 2:10 NKJV) Hannah’s prayer is obviously prophetic. Hannah’s life circumstances are a foreshadowing of God’s salvation.
Do you truly believe that your prayers make a difference? Do you truly understand the impact your prayers can have on others? Believe and pray fervently.