Read 1 Samuel 1:9-19
I want us to focus on how Hannah prayed more so than what Hannah prayed for; and to look at what Hannah did that prompted God to move on her behalf. We know she really wanted and even needed a son. Back in those days giving birth to a child and especially a son meant you were blessed. Without a child Hannah would be looked at as being a cursed woman, even though she was not, simply because people like to make assumptions about other people.
The meal the family is eating in this set of scripture represents a fellowship and communion with the Lord. I love how even in the old testament communion with the Lord was symbolized with food, with breaking of bread and even wine, all the same elements we use for our communion with Christ today.
The family was still eating their meal, but Hannah could not wait to remove herself from the table. She was in agony and that is when she moved. It was at her lowest moment, her time of deepest need that she moved. She stood up, she made a stand and she went to the only place she could. She went to the altar. She went to God. She didn’t turn from God because he wouldn’t give her what she wanted on her timeline. She turned to God even though she was hurting. She did not sit and wait for God to move first, she took the initiative and stepped out.
The tabernacle housed both the sanctuary and sleeping quarters, which is convenient for those attending from out of town. Eli the priest was sitting on his chair which was located in or near the entrance to the sanctuary. The chair that Eli sat on was more like a throne or even a judges chair, similar to what you would see in a courtroom which is fitting because his job was two fold. Eli was a high priestly judge. As high priest he would instruct people according to the word of God; as judge he would weigh in on any broken laws or injustices, putting an end to any disputes.
Eli, sitting in his seat, noticed Hannah walk into the sanctuary. He knew who she was as her family would attend the feast every year. She must have looked like a hot mess, at least I would have because I’m an ugly crier. “Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.” Have you ever prayed to the Lord while weeping? This is a deep anguish, a deep guttural sound coming from deep down.
Hannah’s need to give birth to a child is what drove her to pray this passionate prayer, her desperation fueled the flame and caused her to seek God on an entirely new level. In the past her prayers were probably like most of ours, a petition, or a simple request that we ask the Lord for. Honestly, that may have just been the reason for the lack of breakthrough, her lack of passion for God to move. Are you passionate about God moving in your life?
You see, there is a huge difference in making a petition or request of the Lord and the type of prayer recorded here. The example we are given here shows us that Hannah prayed on the level of intercession. You may have heard the term intercessory prayer, it is basically praying on behalf of others. Everytime a christian prays for another person, that is intercessory prayer.
Now notice Hannah was praying for herself, and there was no one else praying with her, not even the priest Eli. So why am I calling this intercessory? As men and women of God we can pray one of two ways, one way is from our thoughts and feelings, the other way is from our spirit. When you are making a petition or request it is often from our head. When you begin to pray from your spirit that is intercession.
When you pray from your spirit and you are filled with the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Christ will either pray on your behalf or inspire your prayers. When you pray from your spirit you pray according to God’s will not your own. Romans 8:26 says, “ In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Hannah was praying in the Spirit before Christ became man and was crucified and resurrected, by this description the Spirit of God was interceding for her. Hannah tapped into what I lovingly call her “God zone”. She was moved to tears, she was broken, and it was this current state that moved God towards her (Psalms 34:18), According to Psalms 51:17 God cannot despise or reject a broken and contrite spirit. Contrite means to be crushed like a powder referring to a time where you might feel totally helpless and need God’s intervention.
That is when the Spirit of God moved on Hannah, he led her prayer. You see the Lord needed a Godly man to take over as High Priestly Judge and he knew Hannah’s heart and her loyalty and he chose her to be the mother of the man of God he desired. Hannah was willing and God moved.
At some point in our lives we’ve probably made some sort of vow to God. For example, as a student you may have asked God to help you pass a test that you did not study for in exchange for going to church, for example. “Lord, just help me with this and I will… “ fill in the dots. Hannah’s prayer consisted of a vow that she made to the Lord. She made a binding promise to God, vowing that if God would give her a son that she would give him back to the Lord, that he would live in the tabernacle and never cut his hair.” Now that is a serious vow, that is not something that you would say other than by the leading of God himself.
Hannah asked the Lord to look at her, to see her affliction, her weeping, her suffering and she asked him to “remember” her, not just “see” her or acknowledge her existence, but to “remember” her as in to move into action on her behalf. In her pain, in her weeping she was begging God to move in her life, to look at her and to see her need and to heal her.
The cherry on the top of this prayer is her vow to give her firstborn son to the Lord. Hannah realized Israel was in spiritual decline, that the ministry team working at the tabernacle was living in sin and she knew God needed a Godly man to stand in the gap between God and his children. She pledged that her son would be that man. Her son would set the example for the Nazarite vow of not cutting his hair. God needed a voice and Hannah determined that this firstborn child would be that voice for God.
God’s will became Hannah’s passion. Hannah prayed and got on board with what God wanted to do, not the other way around. God wanted a man to be his voice to be a strong leader who would not betray him. Hannah understood what God was looking for, because she spent time in the presence of God, and she got on board with Him and His plans. If you want to see God move in your life then get on board with what He is doing, join Him and you will see Him move.
Imagine this woman kneeling in the sanctuary completely crushed and praying in desperation, praying with intensity, weeping bitterly, making a scene of herself, looking like a drunk. This apparently was not normal because Eli thought she was drunk, in fact he accused her of such. Telling her it is now time to put the bottle down, and sober up that she looks ridiculous, to clean yourself up woman. People don’t always see the Spirit of God on people, many of us just don’t know what that looks like even in the church sanctuary.
Hannah did defend herself, the woman barely ate anything let alone had enough wine to be drunk. She was pouring out her soul to the Lord (vs. 15). I wonder if Eli felt like a fool after this conversation? I think once he looked into her eyes he could see the truth, he could feel the presence of the Lord on her and that is when he gave her his blessing. “Go in peace, and may God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” Hannah’s reply is unique as well. She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” No one wants to have a bad reputation with a Priest. I know I don’t. She received his blessing and wanted it to be made known that she was not disrespecting her spiritual leader, she was following the leading of her Lord. Eli incorrectly reprimanded Hannah, she stood her ground, cleared her name and did her best to make amends with the Pastor instead of holding a grudge against him.
Hannah was given a new lease on life after her encounter with the Lord, he interceded on her behalf and this gave her peace, no matter what she knew the Lord was with her. Early the next morning Hannah, Elkana and the rest of their family rose early and worshipped the Lord. This is beautiful, how you can go from being crushed to worshipping the Lord.
The Lord remembered Hannah, she made an impression on Him and he remembered her and he remembered that her heart was in the right place and that she was a woman of her word and he could trust her. He opened her womb and she and Elkanah were blessed with a son whom she named Samuel.