This week in Sunday School, we took a look at Hannah’s prayer. Hannah was one of two wives of Elkanah and we find her story in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. Peninnah was the other wife and part of the source of Hannah’s problem. Hannah had no children and Peninnah had given children to Elkanah. The fact that she had no children was making Hannah depressed and as the scriptures tell us, she had a bitterness of her soul. She was hurt very deeply. Verses 3 through 8 tell us how that Elkanah would go once a year to Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts, and he would give meat to Peninnah for her sons and daughters and he would give a double portion to Hannah, even though the Lord had kept her from conceiving. Peninnah would taunt her because the Lord had kept her from conceiving. So, each year, Hannah would be reminded how she was barren and be taunted so much that she all she could do was cry and she would not eat. She had a husband who loved her but her life was incomplete without children.
As I was preparing to teach this lesson, I was reading the Bible and something stood out to me that I thought was a little odd. First in verse 9 we read that Hannah got up after they had eaten and then immediately we are told that the priest Eli was sitting in a chair by the doorpost of the Lords temple. My first thought was what does the priest sitting in a chair have to do with Hannah getting up? Verses 10 and 11 record her prayer and the vow that she made to God. Then in verse 12, I found this. Eli the priest was watching her pray, specifically watching her mouth. Her lips were moving but she made no sound. This looked so weird to Eli that he thought she was drunk and told her to get rid of her wine. Now I was hooked. Sometimes I have to stop and ask God why he included certain pieces of information in the scriptures. This is one of those times. Why mention the priest, where he was sitting, and even the part about him watching Hannah pray? Seemed weird to me to include that.
Then it hit me. Hannah was praying in an animated way. She was pouring out her heart to God and talking to God in a personal, this is me and I have a big problem kind of way. I was reminded of a day that I had experienced some bad stuff and I wanted so much for God to come and help me that I prayed with much emotion. So much that I was even using hand gestures. All this while driving down the road. I’m sure that if someone had seen me, they would have thought the same as Eli thought about Hannah, or probably worse. But I started to thinking about how we pray. So often we are so worried about our outward look that it influences our inward praying. Like when we feel the need to go to the altar to pray but we refuse because we don’t want the rest of the people there to know I have a problem. We are more concerned about the world around us than we are the God above us. Hannah had gotten to the point that she no longer cared about ritual, habits, or whatever. She just wanted to reach God. And here’s the most important part. She was praying to a God that she knew loved her, a God that would help her, and that she didn’t need to worry about how God would receive her prayer. So often we think that God’s response to us is determined by our lives. But it’s not. God has a plan for each of us. And that plan is to draw us closer to Him. There’s a gazillion ways that God uses circumstances in our lives to accomplish His plan in our lives. We just need to learn to pray to a heavenly Father that loves us and trust that His will is enough. After Hannah prayed, she returned and ate and no longer looked despondent. She was trusting God to work things out. And later in the chapter, we read about the birth of Samuel, Hannah’s son. Thanks to God for loving us and for hearing us when we pray. And I for one want my prayers to be like Hannah’s prayer. Filled with trust in God.