When you pray, how do you pray? What do you pray for? Do you ever wonder if you’re doing it right? Do you wonder if there’s a better way to pray?

In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at Hannah, a devout woman who truly understood the power of prayer and the way God designed prayer to work.

We meet Hannah in chapter 1 of 1 Samuel. She was the wife of Elkanah, a Levite who lived in the city of Ramathaim Zophim. The first thing we learn about her is that she was one of two wives, that the other wife had children, and she had none. It’s assumed that Hannah was the first wife, and when she was unable to conceive, Elkanah took a second wife, Peninnah, and although he took care of Peninnah and her children, Hannah was his first love whom he loved the most. 

Of course, as you can imagine, that didn’t go over well with Peninnah. The Bible refers to her as Hannah’s rival, and says that she provoked Hannah severely to make her life miserable. It was especially bad when the family would make the trek to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice. Year after year, at the time when Hannah should be able to find peace with the Lord, instead, she was antagonized to the point that she would weep and not eat anything.

Poor Elkanah. He worried about his wife and tried to comfort her, asking her why she cried and why she wouldn’t eat. Am I not better to you than ten sons, he asked.

No one understood Hannah’s sorrow, so she took it to the only one who truly understood what she was going through. She left the family’s table and went to the tabernacle where in bitterness of soul she poured out her heart to the Lord. She wept in anguish and prayed that if God would look down on her and remember her and give her a son, she would give that son to the Lord all the days of his life. 

Eli, the High Priest watched from his perch by the doorpost. He saw her crying and her lips moving but no sound coming forth and accused her of drinking and told her to put away her wine.

Most of us would have been greatly offended but that, but Hannah was too caught up in conversation with God to be offended. She explained that she was merely pouring out her soul to the Lord. 

Eli responded by telling her to go in peace and God would grant her petition. 

Hannah thanked him and went on her way. We’re told that she then ate and was no longer sad. 

I love that! Hannah prayed. She emptied her soul to God. And then she went on her way, no longer sad. She placed her burden in His hands. She no longer had to bear it alone. Even though God had yet to answer her prayer, her heart was at peace because she knew that He had heard her prayers. 

Early the next morning the family went once more to the tabernacle to worship before returning home and nine months later, or sometime around then, Hannah bore a son. She called him Samuel.

Now, here’s where the story gets interesting. Hannah had not just prayed for a son. She had made a vow with God. If He gave her a son, she would dedicate that son and give him to the Lord. And she was a woman of her word. For three years she nursed and cared for Samuel, teaching him about the Lord, training him for what was ahead. 

And when the time came and he was weaned. she took that little boy and presented him to Eli, the same priest who couldn’t even recognize what soulful prayer looked like, and she left her baby boy with Eli so that he could serve God all the days of his life. 

Then she worshipped God and prayed one of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible. It’s a prayer of praise, but it’s also a prayer of prophecy. It includes some of the earliest references to the coming Savior.

You see, Hannah wasn’t praying for a child just because she was lonely, or because she wanted to be free of the stigma of being barren, or even because she just longed to be a mother. No, Hannah prayed for a child because she saw the corruption around her, and she wanted to birth a son who would draw Israel back to God.

And God answered her prayer, giving her a son who became a light in the darkness, leading others back to God, and even being chosen to anoint the first king of Israel. He was the last judge and the first prophet to prophecy about Christ. He was a godly man who was exactly what Hannah prayed for. 

But God didn’t stop there. He gave Hannah five more children, three sons and two daughters. Her cup truly runneth over. 

We tend to read stories like Hannah’s and think that all we have to do is pray hard enough, and God will give us the desires of our heart. The problem is that we’ve got it all mixed up. We’re so busy making out our shopping list of prayer requests and then wondering why God doesn’t give us what we’re asking for. But that’s not how prayer works.

Prayer is emptying ourselves and baring our soul to God, coming to Him completely broken, seeking not selfish pleasures, but allowing Him to open our eyes to what it is that He wants for us. When we give ourselves over to Him and to his desires, that is when we truly start to see answered prayer. 

Hannah could have prayed for Peninnah to leave her alone. She could have prayed for Elkanah to have a better understanding of what she was going through. She could have prayed for a quiver of children to bring her joy all the days of her life. 

Instead, she prayed for the privilege of birthing a son who would change a nation. How could God not answer that prayer?

Lord of Hosts, we come to you today, humbled by Hannah’s prayer. We’re living in a time much like Hannah’s time, but our feeble prayers fall short. We’re asking for blessings and relief when we should be pleading for revival. Lord, forgive us our selfishness. Open our eyes to what You want us to pray for. Give us wisdom and direction. Give us peace as we await the answer to our prayers. Oh, Lord, if you might find favor and use each one of us, in however small a way, to help restore our nation to you. We love you. In Christ name. I pray.

That concludes today’s episode of All God’s Women. Tune in next week when we talk about Ichabod’s mother, the broken wife of a corrupt man of God. 

If you’d like to go more in depth in your study of Hannah, head over to the podcast website at www.allgodswomen.com where I’ve added Bible study questions and thoughts to ponder to continue your study. Then head over to the all new Bible study Facebook group where we gather to discuss and reflect on each of the women covered on All God’s Women. You can find links to my website and social media in the show notes.

Bible Study

Scripture Background

1 Samuel 1-2

Bible Study Review

  1. What was the name of the town where Hannah lived?
  2. What was the relationship between Hannah and Penninah?
  3. What did Elkanah say to encourage Hannah?
  4. At what point did Hannah sing her beautiful prayer of praise?
  5. How many children did Hannah eventually have?

Thoughts to Ponder

  1. Why was Hannah so sad during their time in Shiloh?
  2. Why did Hannah want a son?
  3. How might Hannah have felt when she presented Samuel to Eli?

Personal Reflection

  1. Why do/did you want children?
  2. Would you be willing to give up your young child at a young age?
  3. Do you trust God to answer your prayers?
  4. Do you have a burden for the sin of your nation?

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