Mid-week Bridge 29 May 2024

From Pat with thanks

Mid Week bridge – The Story of Hannah 

 1   Holding on in pain, crying out in desperation.

Hannah was not a famous woman, a prominent leader. What she was, however, was a woman loved by God and who loved him in return.  She was a woman who cried out to God in prayer, her prayer was answered, and she experienced restoration and joy but still suffered much loss and sacrifice in her life. Her story is found in 1 Samuel 1: 1 – 28. We’ll look at her story over the next 3 weeks and consider her song of praise 1 Samuel 2: 1 – 11. and what it teaches us on prayer.

So let’s read v. 1 –  13.

“There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphitefrom the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk.”

Hannah lived in a tense family situation.  Polygamy was a way of life but through this and other biblical narratives we see how it has challenging consequences and was not what God intended for marriage and family life. Peninnah, although she had many sons and daughters, knew that her husband loved Hannah more and that angered her. It made her spiteful and mean, so she tortured Hannah, provoking and irritating her with cruel insults and harsh words. Hannah was suffering this situation year after year, v. 3, she refused to eat and was downhearted. Her husband Elkanah didn’t understand Hannah’s distress at not being able to conceive a child. But Hannah knew that God did. In her song of praise ,1 Samuel 2: 3, Hannah declares “for the Lord is a God who knows”.  Hannah was deeply aware that God understood how she felt and was with her in her sufferings.  In her deep despair Hannah knew the only one to turn to was God.

Hannah did not pray with a well-crafted, articulate prayer but rather, weeping bitterly, she poured out her raw emotions in utterances that probably she herself didn’t understand, letting the Spirit take over. She was misunderstood by Eli the priest who witnessed her praying, and he thought she was drunk.  In desperate times our asking may also be as Hannah’s, echoing Paul’s words in Romans 8: 26 – 27 “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.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Our asking may not always be a neat “Lord please do this” because we may not know what to ask or can’t imagine our situation ever changing or believe that things could get better. Hannah trusted God and asked the big ask – for a son. Her request and raw outpouring were coupled with a promise, an oath, that she would give the answer, a son, back to God to serve him. We also need to be bold in our asking, pray believing and then be prepared for the answer, and its consequences. However, we should be careful not to pray with empty promises or negotiating tactics. Hannah gave her word, God knew her intention and we’ll see that she was sincere, God was faithful and so was she. Prayer can move us forward into new commitments and service to God, but we need to make sure that we are not making promises we have no intention of keeping or will be unable or reluctant to follow through.  

So as our story unfolds, Hannah’s experience teaches us that we can draw near to God in prayer, being real in our emotions and pain, realising that he knows and understands us and our circumstances. We need to acknowledge that there is no pain or disappointment too great for God to deal with and we can ask our hearts desire and for his will to be done in our lives. He is the God who knows, knows our pain, our suffering and he’s the only one who knows how it will end. It will end for his glory and our salvation if we trust in him and pour ourselves out into his purpose and plan.

Thank you, Father, that you know all our pain and heartaches. Help us to trust in you in every situation even though it might seem impossible right now. Amen