Hannah Prays for a Son by James Tissot

Women of Strength

Hannah     1 Samuel 1:1 -2:21

The story of Samuel, the last Judge of Israel, cannot be told without mentioning his mother, Hannah. She was one of two wives of Elkanah and was childless, which caused Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, to ridicule Hannah. This left Hannah bereft and desperate.

One day Hannah went with her husband to the temple to pray and offer a sacrifice. Overcome by her grief, she stood up and began to pray to the Lord for a son. She promised God that she would dedicate the child in service to him. She prayed silently, but her lips were moving. Eli, the priest, noticed Hannah and accused her of being drunk. She denied this and explained her heart’s desire to have a child. Eli blessed her and asked God to fulfill her request.

In time, Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, which means “name of God”. She cared for her baby until he was weaned, between two and three years of age, then took him to the temple and presented him to Eli. In return, Eli asked God to grant Hannah more children. Hannah did have more children, three sons and two daughters, but she didn’t forget her first born. Each year, Hannah would sew a robe for Samuel and take it to him when she went with Elkanah to offer sacrifice at the temple.

The story of Hannah and Samuel seems very strange if we try to understand it with our twenty-first century mores. Who would take a small child and hand him over to be raised by a priest? It is inconceivable. Yet, this story, which takes place nearly three thousand years ago, should not focus on how odd it seems to us, but Hannah’s devotion and faith in God should be the emphasis. As a mother, I know I wouldn’t have given my sons away, but as a follower of Jesus, I understand Hannah’s action. She was not only faithful, she had faith. Her actions were a direct result of her faith in God.

What should we take away from Hannah’s story? None of us would take our toddlers to church and leave them to serve in ministry. So, how do we apply this to our lives?

First, Hannah turned to God with her plea. She didn’t consult a sorcerer or a fortune teller. She didn’t blame Peninnah, although I’m sure she might have wished to do so. She didn’t take a “magic potion” or act on any number of other suggestions she might have received. She took her heart’s desire to God. She had faith in his mercy. So often, I pray to God for a solution, but I don’t give it to him. I hold it close, worry about it, try to solve something I cannot solve, and eventually fail miserably. Hannah’s faith was strong enough to give the problem to God and wait.

Secondly, she was patient. The scripture says she conceived “in the course of time”. 1 Samuel 1:20.

The answer to Hannah’s prayer didn’t happen right away, but she trusted God, and her patience was rewarded. It would be wonderful if we could ask God for something and get a clear answer immediately, or at least quickly, but that isn’t how God works, it? Sometimes, the answer seems to take forever, or the answer is not what we expected. That is the time when we must trust in God’s wisdom and be patient.

Finally, Hannah was faithful and praised God for her son. She followed through with her pledge to surrender Samuel in service to God. I am sure her choice was difficult to make, but she was faithful to her promise and glorified God. In all we do, in all we ask of God, the question we need to ask is will it glorify him.

When I think of Hannah’s faith and her sacrifice, I am amazed at her strength. She knew she was God’s and she acted accordingly. Everything was on the table. She surrendered it all to God and patiently waited on him to hear her prayer and answer it in his own way. Hannah’s example will make a difference in how I pray. All that I have and all that I am belongs to God, and he knows better than I what to do with it. It won’t always be easy, but I will surrender everything to him and wait patiently for his plan for my life. To God be the glory.

Prayer: God help me to step aside and let you work in my life. Forgive my impatience and hesitation to turn over everything in my life to you. I know you love me and want only the best for me.  AMEN

Debra Ison