There are prayers that are common, such as blessings said over meals and prayers that we tend to repeat by memory. Other prayers are made that come from the anguish of spirit; deep prayers bursting from a wounded soul that no simple memorization of a phrase will satisfy the need for healing. Such was the case of Hannah.
In I Samuel 1:1-8, Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, have just made their yearly pilgrimage to the Temple at Shiloh. According to Jewish teachings, Hannah was Elkanah’s first wife. Since Hannah bore no children, Elkanah married another wife, Peninnah, who bore several children to Elkanah. Often, Peninnah teased, taunted and ridiculed Hannah for her lack of children. On feast days, Elkanah would give gifts to his two wives and several children, while reminding Hannah that his love for her was greater than 10 sons. He gave to Hannah the best gifts, the most expensive. His love never healed the emotional wounds that were inflicted by Peninnah. All Hannah wanted was to bear a boy, one that she promised to give back to the Lord.
On one particular feast day at the Temple, Peninnah was extremely rude to Hannah. Hannah was despised, ridiculed, and taunted to the point that Hannah left the family to seek a place of refuge. In the Temple courts, Hannah prayed alone, wept and refused to eat with the family. Hannah wept due to the bitterness of soul and prayed to the LORD. Her prayer was so deep from her spirit that she wept more than she spoke. Her words were so quiet that it looked as if her lips were moving, but no words were heard. Here, she promised to give her son back to God, if God would grant her prayer for a son. The High Priest, Eli, thinking that Hannah was drunk, began to chide her actions. Hannah explained the anguish of soul. Eli then prayed over Hannah and said that God would give her the request from her heart. Then, the LORD remembered Hannah.
What possibly made the LORD remember Hannah? If you analyze the type of prayer Hannah spoke, maybe it would shed some light on her effective prayer:
1. Hannah prayed due to the bitterness of her soul. Her prayer was from the depths of her heart. There was no pretense to her prayer. She prayed honestly and made supplication concerning her desire.
2. Hannah prayer was directed to God Himself. She knew that God was more than a heavenly being. She put her faith into God’s ability to work the impossible.
3. Hannah prayed with a vow. It says in I Samuel 1:11, “And she vowed a vow.” This vow, according to the writings of Matthew Henry, a 17th century theologian, was a vow that was based on her husband being a descendant of Levi. Hannah wanted this son of her answered prayer to continue the work of the Levites, to work in the priesthood in the Temple.
What can we learn from Hannah? Hannah prayed with her request from deep within her heart. Her prayer was not very lengthy, but she was very serious with what she needed. Hannah also worshiped God as the only One who could answer her prayer. At the end of the prayer, she rose up and enjoyed a meal with her family. Then, God remembered Hannah. By the next year, she had given birth to Samuel, which means “asked of the Lord.” For the next few years, Hannah took care of Samuel until he was old enough to leave her and begin his training with the priesthood. Then, God remembered Hannah’s vow. Hannah later gave birth to 5 more children.
Hannah left a lesson of prayer seasoned with worship. Hannah was true to her promises to God. Hannah knew that God Himself was the giver of answered prayer, especially from a heart that knew the power of God.
Rev. Kitty Mears serves at Mt. View Pentecostal Holiness Church where she is an assistant adult teacher.