Another year has passed and we're here again in Shiloh. My husband is faithful servant of Jehovah. This should be a time of holy worship, of peace and of rejoicing. But each year we come, while my dear Elkanah is making the sacrifices, Peninnah, his second wife chides me about my empty womb. I know it is out of jealousy- I know women well. I see how it angers her when Elkanah bestows upon me double the amount of food and drink. She's cruel, I tell you! I can barely even think about eating when I see her and her children together. I can't bear this pain of not providing my husband with a son. He is so understanding too. He truly loves me. But still, what a dishonor not to be able to offer this gift. Peninnah continues to taunt me. Here come the tears again...
Oh, Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of my life. He will be yours Lord. I will not allow his hair to be cut, to signify that he is yours.
In the middle of my quiet prayer, the high priest Eli came to me. I must have been moving my mouth while praying. He begins rebuking me for drunkenness. Really? I sigh, and then in earnest sadness explain that it is out of sorrow that I weep and pray. Then, he softens and says, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him." I left the temple feeling a sense of peace I had not had in years.
(Some time later...)
What a truly faithful Lord we serve. I say this with utter joy and humility as a hold my son, Samuel in my arms. It is almost time to return to Shiloh, and I have told my husband about the vow I made to the Lord. Tomorrow I will go and present him to Eli. He will be a servant of the Most High God.
It was during that moment that Hannah presented her treasured son to Eli that she began to pray as Eli worshipped the Lord. I posted the prayer in the previous blog and just want to walk through each part of it. This will spill over into another post, as the prayer is 10 verses long. I'll take the first 5 tonight. Before I do though, I want to note that I see a delicate intimacy in Hannah's relationship with God. It's this very private, very valuable. She is a daughter crying out to a father. I just love that image of her silently praying-that connection of intimacy in the midst of pain. I feel like I know that place well.
"My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies because I rejoice in your salvation."
The exultation and worship-the power in this first bit brings the attention the One who has provided. The strength that she has comes from Him. The second piece- her mouth derides (or scorns) her enemies...because she rejoices in His salvation. He has redeemed her by providing this son. She has found new life in the ability to provide it. And those who oppose her (remember the 2nd wife?) now are shamed because of what He has done in her and through her. That is cause for celebration!
"There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God."
This declaration of who He is- I feel like this is missing a lot in my prayers. So often I just come with requests, but part of being in relationship, I think, is verbally acknowledging and celebrating who the person is! And what a way to lavish love and praise on the Lord, but to declare the truth that none is like Him. Amen and amen.
"Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed."
In other words, "Lord, keep us from arrogance-shut us up in our pride!" This exhortation for us to be silent in our pride-for the Lord is the one that measures our actions and our deeds. How often does pride infiltrate into my relationship with God? He knows all things and judges all things perfectly. She's getting ready to declare what the Lord has done- and she does it in beautiful and eloquent poetry. Do you sense the spirit of strength in her?
"The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn."
Here she specifically addresses what the Lord has done for her and I love the way she does it! Not only has He blessed her with a son, but the joy she has is the same as if she were blessed with seven children! In addition, those who opposed her no longer have the power over her. They are put to shame in seeing what the Lord has done.
I'll continue with part 2 soon, but what we can take from here about prayer...
1. Prayer is intimate. The value of intimacy with the Lord-and knowing that that comes in the knowledge of who He is. We often actually see this in great pain, because that is when we feel need deeper.
2. Prayer is a response. Hannah responded in pain and responded in joy. Both moments, she cried out to God. One was pleading, asking, based on His character. The other was joyfully declaring His character. In addition, the Lord wants for His children to have joy. He provides for that. Not always in the way we understand it or think it should be, but He has made us to rejoice in Him. How incredible that His power brings us joy, thus Him worship.
3. Prayer helps us remember. We must remember who provides the blessing and declare it often. The moment we forget who provided, we lose sight of purpose. And prayer is one of the ways we can continue to remember His works.