In the Bible Hannah’s prayer is found at the beginning of 1 Samuel. In fact, there are two prayers recorded and they are set apart by a couple of years. The first is with tears and a desperate vow, but the second prayer is regarded as a song of praise and worship. Hannah had received the answer to her prayer and moved from despair in her situation to delight in God. What lessons can we learn from her prayer for our lives today?
Hannah and Peninnah
The background to the story is Hannah’s feeling of desperation with her situation in her marriage. She was married to a man called Elkanah, who was a godly man. He followed the requirements for all Israelite men to present themselves to worship the Lord at the Sanctuary three times a year. And Elkanah loved Hannah, but she had no children.
To be married and childless in Hannah’s time and culture was regarded as shameful. But to make matters worse, Elkanah had another wife called Peninnah and they had sons and daughters together.
When the family went to the Sanctuary to worship, Elkanah would give portions of meat to Peninnah and her children. To Hannah, he would give a double portion – because he loved her. But his love and generosity did not console Hannah or compensate for her lack of children.
Going to the Sanctuary, which at this time was at Shiloh, would be a difficult time for Hannah. One of the festivals, the Feast of the Tabernacles commemorated God’s care for His people during their journey through the wilderness. But it was also a time of celebration and feasting for God’s blessing on the year’s harvest. To be there every year, without any children would be particularly poignant.
There was rivalry between the two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Elkanah’s declarations of love for Hannah, even though she was barren, must have made Peninnah feel jealous. And Hannah must also have found it difficult to see the results of Elkanah’s love for Peninnah, the sons, and daughters that she bore for him.
“Because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.” 1Samuel 1:6 NIV
It’s easy to condemn Peninnah for her attitude towards Hannah. But in close relationships, we know exactly how to annoy each other! In our extended families, school, college, or workplace, insecurity can reveal itself in rivalry. But in Christ Jesus we can be secure in our identity, in knowing how much we are loved, and be kind! Our words have such power to wound, but equally to support, encourage and bless.
Hannah’s Prayer for Samuel
Then Scripture tells us that finally ‘one year’ everything changed, it was time for a breakthrough. The family was at Shiloh for one of the annual celebrations, and they had finished eating and drinking. But Hannah was not finished, and she stood up to pray:
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. 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 him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 1 Samuel 1:10-11
Hannah began to pray in her heart to God, her lips were still moving but her voice was silent. She poured out her pain to the Lord. Eli the priest was sitting at the doorpost to the Lord’s house watching what was going on. To add to Hannah’s humiliation he accused her of being drunk. But Hannah replied that she had not drunk any wine or beer. She was pouring out her troubles to the Lord.
“Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” 1 Samuel 1:17
Hannah received this blessing of peace as confirmation that God had heard and would respond to her plea. The next day, after worshipping in the Sanctuary, the family returned to their home at Ramah.
In time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel because she had asked the LORD for him – and Samuel sounds like the Hebrew for ‘heard by God’.
Related Post: Which Parable Teaches Us About Persistence in Prayer?
For the next couple of years when Elkanah took the family to Shiloh to offer the annual sacrifices, Hannah did not go. She had not forgotten her vow but was waiting to present Samuel to the Lord. Once the boy was weaned Hannah fulfilled her promise and took him to the Sanctuary. She brought Samuel to Eli and reminded him of who she was and her vow to dedicate her child to God.
““I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted 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.” And he worshipped the LORD there.” 1 Samuel 1: 27-28
Hannah’s Prayer of Praise
Hannah’s song is found at the beginning of 1 Samuel chapter two. This is Hannah’s prayer of praise and reveals her heart of gratitude to God. But it also makes a prophetic declaration of a new era in Israel’s history. A season in which her son would have an instrumental role!
Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. v1
There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. v2 Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. v3
The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. v4-5
The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world. v6-8
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken.1 Samuel 2:1-10 NIV
The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed. v9-10
Hannah’s Prayer Points – Six lessons for our lives today
From Hannah’s prayer, there are six powerful lessons to influence our prayers today. The first three points reflect our position and the attitude of our hearts as we approach God in prayer. Then the final three points remind us of attributes of God’s character that we can rely on. It is this combination that is powerful – understanding our position before God, and knowing who He is. This is essential to our faith, and builds confidence in our prayers, when we are secure in the love of God.
- Begin with praise! – ‘my heart rejoices in the LORD.’ There is no better place to start our prayers than to follow the example of Hannah’s prayer and begin with praise. We might not always feel like it, but praise realigns our perspective. Lifting our hearts and minds to the vastness of our God, and His love for us changes the way that we feel. As we praise God, He returns a blessing!
- Honor God for who He is – ‘there is no one holy like the LORD.’ There is a balance that we need to keep with an awareness of the holiness of God. We are secure in His grace, but we also revere God’s righteousness. When we believe in the holiness of God, that He is just, we honor Him with our respect.
- Trust in Him always – ‘the LORD is a God who knows.’ There is such reassurance here that God sees and hears. And more than that He knows how we feel – He is not remote! God is compassionate, He is gracious, and draws the best out of us. God sees the big picture and our part in it. He knows what is needed and when. His answer is true, and His timing is always perfect. Trusting in God when we don’t understand His plan is only possible when we know, that He knows!
- Know that God is our Deliverer – ‘those who stumbled are armed with strength.’ God is faithful. You know even when things look grim, and we can’t see a way out of our situation, God is there with us. Maybe you feel as if your circumstances will never change, but don’t give up. Sometimes we see a process of change, but other times God moves swiftly, and change can come in an instant. God is faithful to deliver all that we need, just when we need it…
- God is Sovereign overall – ‘for the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s.’ When we really believe that God is overall we find the way to inner peace. There are so many situations that are beyond our power to influence or change. So many things over which we have no control. But we are not powerless or helpless – we have access to the throne of grace! With prayer, we can bring all of our worries to God. And then leave them with Him knowing that He is able to take the weight of our concerns!
- God is our Protector – ‘He will guard the feet of His faithful servants.’ God is our protection and strength, all the time, in every circumstance. There may be times when we waver and doubt, but God is faithful. This is who He is, His character does not change and does not depend on our faithfulness. We are eternally safe and secure in Him.
Knowing that God is our Deliverer, Protector, and Sovereign LORD transforms our lives. Our prayers flow from a thankful and grateful heart as we rejoice in Him. This is our inspiration from Hannah’s prayer to focus on who God is and to trust in Him all the time!
Now we know Hannah’s full story. At the time of her prayer she would have had no idea what lay ahead for Samuel. God had a particular role for her child and the timing of Samuel’s birth was tied to his destiny. God honored Hannah for fulfilling her vow and He blessed her with five more children, sons and daughters. Truly, ‘there is no Rock like our God.’