Bible Studies for Life

with Bobby McKay

Sunday,  June 16

Hannah: Faith That Prays

I Samuel 1:1-2,9-11,17-18,26-28; 2:1-3

Of all the things we do in the Christian life, perhaps the most used and at the same time least understood is the practice of prayer. I emphasize the word “practice” because it is something none of us truly master. It is an area we should all desire to improve in, but more than anything, it is a privilege. Prayer is the most intimate act of worship for a believer. In unpretentious prayer, the believer can see him/herself as God sees them and at the same time; receive the forgiveness or direction they need. In prayer, we find hope, encouragement, mercy, discernment, power and even refuge. Just as important as what we find there, is what we take. By that, I mean are we approaching our prayers with faith or unbelief?

As we continue to study some of the women in Scripture who lived by faith, we come to Hannah the mother of Samuel. Her heart was sad, her burden was sincere, but her faith was strong. The consistency she demonstrated in her prayer life serves as a reminder that if it matters to us, it matters to God. Hannah had one, perpetual request: “Give Thy maidservant a son.” (I Samuel 1:11) It has been well-noted within Hannah’s culture that having children (especially sons) was of great importance. On the other hand, a couple without a child was viewed with contempt. To be childless in Hannah’s day (they thought) meant God was displeased. So, we can understand the urgency and sincerity of Hannah’s prayer.

It is important to stop here and take note of Hannah’s petition. Her prayer was neither selfish nor shortsighted. She promised the Lord if He would bless her with a child, she would give him back to the Lord. Let’s get honest for just a moment. Think about the last prayer you prayed. If God were to answer that prayer the way you wanted Him to, would it be of greater benefit to your will or His? Would it mean your life would be easier or someone would be saved? Would it mean your stomach to be filled with expensive foods or the hungry be filled? When Hannah prayed, she asked God for something that would reflect His glory not receive it. Many times, our prayers go unanswered because we ask in pride.

We read in I Samuel 1:15-18, Hannah pours out her heart to the Lord and once again asks God to hear her request. Note at the end of verse 18 it says, “Her face was no longer sad.” This is important. At this point, Hannah had yet to conceive and had no promise of an answered prayer. Why would she no longer be sad? The reason is simple: she had been in the presence of God. Even when we are in our lowest of circumstances and seeking answers, there is a refreshing and renewing that takes place in prayer. There is an important lesson to learn here many never realize; His presence is sufficient to sustain us in all circumstances.

God, in His grace and lovingkindness, chose to answer Hannah’s prayer and bless her with a son. You can read of Hannah’s response in the first several verses of I Samuel 2 as she sings a song of thanksgiving and praise. Hannah did not forget her prayer and named her son Samuel; a name meaning “heard of God,” a reminder God heard her prayer. It also seems God kept on answering Hannah’s prayer! She later had five more children (I Samuel 2:21).

What about you or me when we desperately need the answer to a prayer? We have all been there. Maybe these words from author/theologian Frederick Buechner will meet you where you are: Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he answered, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-29).

What about when the boy is not healed? When listened to or not listened to, the prayer goes unanswered? Who knows? Just keep praying, Jesus says. Remember the sleepy friend, the crooked judge. Even if the boy dies, keep on beating the path to God’s door, because the one thing you can be sure of is that, down the path, you beat with even your most half-cocked and halting prayer, the God you call upon will finally come.

McKay is the pastor of Pleasant Grove Church, Brookhaven.