I recently completed a Bible study with a group of amazing women about fervent prayer. Going into the lesson, I assumed that it would be a pretty standard study on the importance of prayer and how we can apply it to our lives on a more consistent basis. Let me tell you; I was so wrong! The things that I learned during that Bible study have stayed with me and I have meditated on them every single day. I guess that’s how Bible studies should be, though. We should become invested in digesting every bit of what we can get out of the topic that we continue to pull purpose out of what we are studying. This was so evident in my study of 1 Samuel 1 and 2.
Honey, Hannah got me all the way together! When I read this stretch of scriptures, I was shocked at how much I was able to grasp. While I am familiar with Hannah from studying 1 Samuel in the past, I was amazed at how much more it meant to me now. (That is the beauty of the scriptures. You can study a book, chapter, or verse(s) again and again and erect something applicable to your life in every stage). In a nutshell, Hannah was married to Elkanah, but was unable to have children. Elkanah was also married to Peninnah, who was blessed with many children. Although coupled with the relentless taunting from Peninnah, Hannah never allowed her desire for a child to cause her to react in an ungodly fashion. What strength that must have took! The family set out on their annual trip to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice. While there, Elkanah gave Peninnah a portion of the sacrifice, yet he gave Hannah a double portion. The scriptures tell us in verse 6 that he loved Hannah. Well, of course Peninnah had to taunt and try to provoke her. Hannah was overcome with grief that she couldn’t even eat, and this resulted in a flow of tears. She decided to go pray near the tabernacle of the Lord. She vowed to the Lord that if He gave her a baby boy, she would ensure that he would be given to Him and that no razor would ever touch his hair (a Nazarite vow). While there, Eli, a priest, saw her and assumed her to be drunk by the way she was praying quietly. In fact, the scriptures state, “Now Hannah was speaking in her heart. Her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard” (v.13). She let him know that she was praying to God. Eli, understanding now, told her to go in peace and may God grant her requests (v.17). Hannah went back to her meal, ate her food, and was no longer sad. When they returned to her home in Ramah, she had a baby, who she named Samuel. And just like she promised, after Samuel was weaned, she took him to Shiloh to live in service of the Lord.
Can you imagine the level of love and commitment to the Lord that Hannah must have had?! She was faced with animosity from Peninnah, someone who had the very thing that she yearned for! How interesting that although Peninnah was blessed with what Hannah wanted, she still felt a sense of jealousy toward her. This made me think of the fact that some people will have malice in their heart for you, even if they seemingly have more than you. What reason would Peninnah have to cause pain to Hannah, knowing that she was hurting inside? Instead of being there for a fellow woman, she made it her mission to try to provoke her. I suspect that Peninnah was jealous of Hannah. The love that Elkanah must have showed her, even without her bearing any of his children, must have caused Peninnah to despise her. In my mind, I think of her stewing with anger wondering “Why does he love her so much? She hasn’t even given him any children!?” Sometimes, people can not like you just simply off of the fact that other people love you. They don’t have a real reason. They just don’t like how you are so loved. What they don’t realize is that it isn’t anything tangible or something that can be seen with the naked eye. It isn’t how much you have or how much you don’t. When God is in you, there is a light about you that no one can dim. It shines indefinitely and cannot be duplicated. This alone can cause you to be admired by people….and hated by some, too! I imagine Peninnah was just waiting for a reaction out of Hannah, but she never received an out-lash of anger (or a slap). Hannah gave her troubles to God and left them there. That is exactly what God wants us to do with our troubles. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths”. We often try to fix our own troubles and things end up a mess because we leave God out of the equation. We can learn from Hannah that it is okay to fully trust God in our times of uncertainty.
Aside from the way that Hannah handled adversity, we can learn a lot from how committed to the Lord that she was. Hannah made a vow to God that she would give up the one thing that she longed for and she followed through on that promise! Can you imagine giving up your child that you prayed for and constantly yearned for? I know she vowed to God, but come on, we promise God a lot of things and renege. We say, “I promise Lord if you just get me out of this situation, I am going to do right, and I am going to devote my life to you”. As soon as things get better, we are back to putting Him on the back burner. But Hannah was faithful. She stood on her word that she would dedicate Samuel to the Lord. Even after she gave Samuel up, she praised the Lord (1 Samuel 2:1-10). As a mother, this portion of the scriptures made me so emotional. Hannah set the bar pretty high. She made me realize that I need to be more intentional about my relationship with God. He has all that we need, if we just trust Him. The very thing that the world says, “you cannot do”, “it won’t happen”, “it’s crazy to think you can do that”, God will show up and show all the way out like he always does. In fact, Hannah remained faithful and kept her vow to God, giving up her child that she longed for in dedication to the Lord. And what did God do for her? All those years, Hannah suffered in silence, desperately wanting just one child. The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 2:21 that because of her selfless sacrifice, God blessed her with five more children! It is so true that God is able to “…do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…”(Ephesians 3:20). We must trust in Him. We must pray fervently for the things that we desire. If it is in His will for our lives, just like Hannah, our blessings will overflow.