Hannah: Prayer

And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord.’
— 1 Samuel 1:20 ESV

Read 1 Samuel 1:1-20

Reading Hannah's story, I can't help but think back to first grade. In first grade there was a girl who had the same name as me, Erin. She was enormously tall (hit puberty really early and was the size of an adult) compared to all of the rest of us lowly first graders. And she was mean. I don't know what it was about her, but she had this way of making everyone want to be friends with her, but if you somehow didn't measure up, she was simply mean to you. 

I wanted to be her friend. I think the biggest reason I wanted to be her friend had less to do with who she was and more to do with the fact that I had never met anyone who had ever taken a dislike to me. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be accepted. Most of all, I thought if she'd give me a chance, we could be friends. Yet, there was that big issue of her being a bully that really got in the way of all of my goals for our relationship.

I remember trying so hard to be friends with her. I don't remember exactly what was said, but I remember her saying something not very nice about a handicapped girl in our class. I agreed with her in that way where you're like "yeah, uh huh" but not in the "I wholeheartedly agree with you" sort of way, and suddenly she's telling everyone "what I said" even though "what I said" was not what I actually said, but the mean thing she had said and I had half-heartedly agreed with her (to make her like me). It was in this moment I figured out and learned that I would never please this girl, I'd never be accepted by her, and frankly, I didn't ever want to be friends with someone as cruel as her. 

First grade was tough!

I just think about that bully from time-to-time. She caused so much stress, anxiety, and heartache in my own heart at that time. Yet, she taught me a lot about the person I didn't want to be. 

Bullies are hard, aren't they? We look at Hannah and her relationship with her own bully, Peninnah. Peninnah chose to constantly open and expose that super sore spot on Hannah's heart, her lack of children. I've always thought that the timing of Peninnah's cruelty made things even worse. She chose to bring it up to Hannah whenever they'd go to the house of the Lord. Peninnah's cruelty would have questioned God's provision, God's love, and even God's presence in Hannah's life. So many questions could have risen out of her intentional cruelty. Had Hannah done something to close herself off from God? Could God rescue her and give her the desires of her heart? 

Even in the midst of all the questions that would have arisen from the bullying, Hannah chose to take her heart to God's house and lay it at God's feet, entirely exposed. She laid out her anxiety, she laid out her need, she laid out her grievances, and she entrusted the result into His capable hands. 

Let's consider three lessons we learn from Hannah:

Take it to the Lord. In the midst of everything, she took her broken heart, her frustrations, her need, her lack, her wants, her desires straight to God's house and laid them at His feet. How often do we take our broken hearts, wants, needs, desires, etc. to a sympathizing friend rather than to God? How often do we turn to anyone else but Him for help? Hannah did neither of those things in this story, she took it to God. God's the only one who could remedy her situation.

Treat those around you gracefully. Eli had mistaken her prayer as a sign of drunkenness. Hannah didn't fly off the handle at this offense. She didn't react offended or offensively. She simply told him the truth and explained what she was doing. I recently read a book that talked about how it isn't always the "important" people who decide our fate (whether or not we get that job we so long for), but sometimes it's the people in the lowly positions whose word decides our fate. I wonder if Hannah had reacted differently if God would have come through with her answered prayer and blessing? Would God have responded with the blessing if she had chosen to treat those around her with a bad attitude?

Prayer requires humbly acknowledging and depending on God's sovereignty. Simply going to God with any need requires us to understand that He's the only one who can do something about it. He's sovereign. His timing is perfect. He works it all out for the good of those who love Him. He has a plan for each one of our lives. Sometimes the answers to our prayers is a "no" and sometimes it's a "wait" but no matter what, He hears us and is working to our benefit. God could have said no to Hannah. He could have said wait to Hannah. Instead, He says Yes to Hannah. It all started with humbly acknowledging God's position in her life.

What are we building?

Hannah built a family and a legacy on prayer. What are we building our family on? What's our family's foundation?