What Do the Two Prayers of Hannah Teach Us about Prayer?
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What do the two prayers of Hannah teach us about prayer?
In 1 Samuel 1:10,11, Hannah vowed in “bitterness of soul” to give the Lord her son in return for God’s favour in giving her that son. She prayed as a “maidservant”—a humble, submissive way of referring to herself in the presence of her superior, sovereign God. “Remember me,” she requested, asking for special attention and care from the Lord. She would give the child to the Lord “all the days of his life,” which was in contrast to the normal Nazirite vow, which was only for a specified period of time (see Num. 6:4, 5, 8).
In contrast to the prayer that came from her bitterness, Hannah prayed from joy in Samuel 2:1–10. The prominent idea in Hannah’s prayer is that the Lord is a righteous Judge. He had brought down the proud (Peninnah) and exalted the humble (Hannah).The prayer has four sections: 1) Hannah prayed to the Lord for His salvation (vv.1, 2); 2) Hannah warned the proud of the Lord’s humbling (Samuel 1:. 3–8d); 3) Hannah affirmed the Lord’s faithful care for His saints (Samuel 1:. 8e–9b); 4) Hannah petitioned the Lord to judge the world and to prosper His anointed king (vv. 10d-e). This prayer has a number of striking verbal similarities with David’s song of 2 Samuel 22:2–51:“horn” (2:1; 22:3),“rock” (2:2; 22:2, 3), salvation/deliverance (2:1, 2; 22:2, 3), grave/Sheol (2:6; 22:6),“thunder” (2:10; 22:14),“king” (2:10; 22:51), and “anointed” (2:10; 22:51).
1. Taking our Problems to the Lord
Each of us is tried and proven by life’s experiences. Peninnah also felt deep sorrow, the pain of loneliness. Despite her joy of mothering many children, she carried the pain of knowing her husband's love for Hannah was far greater than his love her her.
After years of doing all she could to bear children, Hannah acted in true faith and went directly to the Lord, trusting in Him to help her with the righteous desire of her heart.
After we have done all we can do, and the burden is still there, we can ask the Lord in faith to either sustain us in our trial, or lift the burdens off of our shoulders so we cannot feel them; or, we can make a vow with the promise of making a personal sacrifice to receive the desired blessing.
“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee…” (Psalms 55:22)
2. Seeking Miracles
Hannah’s story teaches us that asking for a miracle at God’s hand is not always wrong. The motivation or reason behind sign-seeking should be for the good of men unto the Lord’s glory, not to increase our faith or for selfish reasons.
“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised…by faith…Abel…Enoch…Noah…Abraham…Moses...” (Hebrews 11:1-40) (Other prophets named in this chapter who performed miracles).”
3. Making Vows
There are two kinds of vows, both offered to obtain some favor from the Lord:
1) Dedication Vow – a person or thing is given to the Lord. The Lord chastened the Israelites in the wilderness to teach them to place the Lord at the center of their lives. He told Moses to speak to the Israelite men and women who “separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord.” Leviticus 27:2; Numbers 6:1-27
Those animals or people offered as a vow had to be the firstling and completely unblemished. Samuel would be Hannah’s first child. Leviticus 27:26, 22:23
Provisions were made for ransoming votive offerings that could not actually be sacrificed. An example of a votive offering would be Hannah’s desire to offer her child to the Lord in gratitude for granting her desire.
2) Abstinence Vow - a promise made to abstain from some lawful act or enjoyment. The law of the Nazarite was set forth in Numbers 6:1-27, whereby the children of Israel could consecrate themselves to the Lord by a vow in return for the Lord’s promised blessings. They were to drink no wine or strong drink, and not cut their hair; and if defiled, must shave their heads. John the Baptism and Samson were also Nazarites, who were “holy unto the Lord” while living this law.
When faced with some of life’s greatest trials, by which we are all tried and proven, we realize when we need extra help. Hannah realized she needed extra help when she decided to make a vow with the Lord. After pleading with the Lord for a son, and in anticipation and gratitude for this miraculous blessing, she “vowed a vow.” She promised to make the enormous sacrifice of giving up the opportunity to raise her son to adulthood for the privilege of bearing him and nurturing him for about three years.
Most people learn at an early age that they have to work and sacrifice for many of the things they want. Children learn to work and save money; students work hard to get a college degree; parents work diligently for many years to pay for a home; and couples work and sacrifice every day to have a good marriage and raise children.
Why then should spiritual desires require less effort? We hope that if we simply ask God with enough faith, that He will give us what we desire. It doesn’t usually occur to us that we should offer to make a significant sacrifice to earn desired blessings, or make a personal sacrifice to show our gratitude for the Lord’s assistance with our pleadings.
The Lord, who desires to bless us and help us grow spiritually, has provided an opportunity for us to increase our personal righteousness by making vows with Him.
Righteous women and men who have done all they can, may better deal with their worry, pain and grief by pouring out their sorrowful souls to the Lord, petitioning the Lord for His help, and vowing to offer a personal sacrifice unto the Lord—in return for His assistance in particular matters. In addition, our children can also be taught to make and keep personal vows with the Lord.
Others who offered vows in the scriptures were…
Jacob vowed a vow to ask God to be with him, keep him on a path of righteousness, feed and clothe him. Jacob covenanted to pay 10% of all the Lord gave him in tithing. His grandfather Abraham had also paid tithes. Genesis 18:20
Absalom vowed a vow to ask the Lord if He would take him to Jerusalem so he could serve the Lord. Absalom, however, was actually conspiring to take the place of his father, King David, King of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:7-8
Those who lived under the law of Moses offered sacrifices. The women were only expected to participate in an annual offering; however, the law directed every Israelite man to appear before the Lord three times in the year at various feasts—Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread; Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost; and the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.
Learn to give willingly to the Lord, remembering that everything we have comes from the Lord. The Lord will bless those who give required offerings. The Lord has asked few people to sacrifice the very lives of their children or animals; but He has commanded us to sacrifice our sins, our pride, our hardheartedness, our bitterness, and resentment. We may be asked to give up those things we love more than we love God.
We may also approach the Lord with a vow—a promise to offer Him a specific sacrifice. And what should that offering be? It may be a broken heart and a contrite spirit, admitting that our actions have offended the Lord and contributed to His suffering, resulting in real mental and spiritual anguish and a desire to forgive and love all others. It may be a sacrifice of our time, with a promise to attend church weekly; study the scriptures for 30 minutes/day; give up an addiction or sin; teach your children from the scriptures; magnify a church responsibility; or magnify our marriage and family responsibilities.
“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” (Psalms 4:5)
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)
Hannah prepared to make her vow by fasting. Fasting (abstaining from eating for a period of time, such as 24 hours) cannot stand alone. Without prayer, our fast is not consecrated to the Lord. If we do not direct our thoughts and desires heavenward and direct our goodness toward our fellowmen, we are not fed spiritually by our Father. Correct fasting sharpens our spiritual perception, demonstrates our faith, empowers our prayers, and ennobles our motives.
“…I humbled my soul with fasting...turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting…when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” (Psalms 35:13; Joel 2:12; Matthew 6:16-18)
6. Worship Services
Attend your place of worship often, whether it is a temple or a chapel, to claim a continual flow of teaching, inspiration and blessings to meet the trials and challenges of life.
“Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem…and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people…But the Lord is in his holy temple…It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer…he had seen a vision in the temple…” (Isaiah 2:3; 56:7; Habakkuk 2:20; Matthew 21:13; Luke 1:22)
7. Waiting Patiently
Wait patiently for the blessings that will come in the Lord’s time. What we want or what has been prophesied may not come to pass as soon as we would have it happen. We must remain righteous and trust in faith that God will keep his promises. Remember Hannah’s song, and look for the growth, strength and wisdom which come after the trial of our faith.
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalms 27:14)
8. Thanking the Lord
Hannah expressed deep appreciation for far more than the blessing of bearing a son. Hannah’s loyalty was to the Lord. She lived a meaningful life serving and worshiping the Lord, regardless of her great disappointment in her barrenness. She gave willingly to the Lord, remembering that everything she had came from the Lord. Upon receiving any blessings from the Lord, we should pour out our soul in thanksgiving to Him, especially for healing our sorrows, giving glory and honor to the Lord, always.
“Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me…Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving…in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God...” (Psalms 50:14-15; 147:7; Philippians 4:6; 1).
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