Welcome back for day 2 of 31 days of prayer! I’ll likely not blog on each passage we study, but how can I not when we read about my girl Hannah? If you haven’t checked it out yet, today’s reading is 1 Samuel 1:1-28. It is so full this first chapter. It shows heartache, love, longing, jealousy, submission, sacrifice, and so much more. To really get a feel for what’s going on in this chapter and why it’s so important, let’s first look at Hannah.
We know that Hannah was married. She was one of two wives to Elkanah and her sister-wife was far from her best friend. The text tells us that while Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, had many children, Hannah’s womb was closed. And even though she had no children, Elkanah seemed to love her the best, giving her double the sacrifice for the temple and begging her to let loose of her sorrow over infertility. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Hannah. To an extent, I’ve been her. I know her story. I lived and breathed the sobbing to God, the calling out for mercy and remembrance. It is the most painful place to be, to want nothing more than to carry a child and yet be barren. Let alone have my husbands other wife rub it in my face and watch him play with her children, seeing the joy that it brought him. Ugh. It makes me sick to my stomach for her.
But Hannah’s story is more than infertility. Hannah’s story is that of promise and faithfulness. Hannah poured out her heart and soul to God in prayer. She made herself vulnerable there in the temple and in her heartache she makes a vow: if God grants her a son, she will give him back. She provides a litany of things she will do: she will insure that the boy serves God for all the days of his life and his hair will never be cut. So what is the significance of this? Well first off, Hannah promises the boy’s whole life, from the time he is weaned until he dies. Back then, the standard time for a Levite priest to serve was 25 years, from the time he was 25 until he turned 50. That left the mama a chance to raise her boy before sending him off to the temple. Hannah forfeits this. As we see later in the text, she takes the boy when he was weaned, usually about 3 years old. Do you feel that sucker punch right there? I have a babe that’s 2 and a half. I did not have the opportunity to carry him as Hannah did, he is not blood of my blood, but the depths of my love for him run just as deep. I cannot even fathom taking him and giving him over to someone else in 6 months.
Hannah also vows that her son’s hair will never be cut. She invokes the requirement of Samson, without the requirement by God. Long hair was a common Nazarite vow which showed dedication to God, but again, it was typically only done for a period of time, not one’s whole life. Do you see her desperation here in this brief text? Hannah anguished over having a son and she showed her dedication to motherhood and her God in the vows that she made.
In verse 19 it says that God remembered Hannah and her womb was open. She gave birth to a son and she named him Samuel because “I asked the Lord for him.” (v. 20). God remembered Hannah. And in return, Hannah remembered the vow she made in her prayers. When the boy is weaned, she takes him back to Eli the priest, the one who years earlier had accused her grief-stricken prayers as that of a drunkard. She tells Eli “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” Let’s just look at that again: his whole life. Hannah did not get to put her preschooler to bed at night, tucking him in with prayers and stories and songs. She wasn’t the one to help him learn his letters or numbers and watch him read his first sentence. She didn’t clean up the scraped knees of childhood and chase away the bad dreams. She didn’t see him grow into adulthood before her eyes, but in patches of time when they went to the temple.
Hannah begged for a child, and then kept her vow and gave him away. If you go on to read chapter 2, you see just how faithful Hannah is. When she leaves Samuel with Eli, she says a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to the faithfulness of the Lord. Hannah is one tough mama. I can’t say that I would be rejoicing as she did when I dropped my baby off in the hands of the priest and then went home. I think that the joy she found there was the joy of the Lord. Her mama heart must have been busted wide open, of that I’m sure, but it opened for God’s grace and mercy to flow in and fill in the cracks. God had been faithful, and in turn Hannah was faithful also. She kept the vows she had made, and knowing that she would do so, God rewarded her with a son.
Hannah’s story is one where we truly see the power of prayer. When she went to God, she did so with an open heart and countenance. She held nothing back and God honored her vulnerability and her dedication. Jeremiah 29:13 says “Seek me and you will find me when you seek me with your whole heart.” Hannah did this and in doing so she found God. What is it that you’re praying for today? Are you seeking God with your whole heart, or are you holding back a piece of yourself, not fully ready to let go? Will you pray with me today?
Lord God, the God of Hannah. El Roy, the God who sees us in our struggle, I come before you today as Hannah did, my whole heart on the line and I seek your face through the struggles of my day. Let me be faithful as Hannah was. Let my days be filled with seeking you out. Fill my life with you so that others might see you through me. Thank you for being the Rock of strength and stability in my life.
In your name. Amen.
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