One of the stories on the Bible that speaks to me every time is in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah wasn’t able to have a child so she was ridiculed, taunted, bullied and shamed. Year after year this went on. One year she had enough. Instead of attacking her bully, she went into the Sanctuary to pray. She wept bitterly before God, crying out in prayer for a long time. As she prayed, her lips were moving, but the words were coming from her heart. She wasn’t leaving until God answered her prayer for a son.
Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). One of the first questions that comes to my mind is, “When is the last time I prayed with that kind of desperation?” Most of our prayers are simple ones with little emotion. I believe one of the reasons God answered Hannah’s prayer, and will answer ours, is because it was fervent and came from deep within her soul, not just her mind.
Verse 12 says, “Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time” (GNT). I’ve heard the saying, “Don’t pray until you’re through. Pray until you’ve prayed through.” This is where it is applied. Too many times, we ask God for something and when He doesn’t answer right away, we quit praying. Hannah didn’t just pray for a long time, she prayed a long time for years. God uses her internal torment to develop a life of prayer. She wasn’t going to stop until she got her answer. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is because of persistence.
After the Eli, the priest, had told her God would answer her prayer, verse 18 says, “Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (NLT). Hannah believed God would answer and acted accordingly. She didn’t let the years of God not answering prayer create doubt. She held onto the promise and acted in faith before God answered. She quit believing the words of the bully and held onto God’s Word instead. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is when we act in faith.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
I once heard about a farm community who was experiencing a drought that threatened to bankrupt the whole town. One church decided to hold a prayer meeting to ask God for rain. Many people from the community showed up and lined the pews of the church. The preacher walked up front to address the crowded church. He said, “This prayer meeting has been cancelled.” The people gasped in disbelief. They had shown up to pray. How could he dismiss them? He said, “I noticed that none of you came with an umbrella. Why pray if you don’t believe God is going to answer?”
I’ve always loved that story. It reminds me of Hannah in the book of Samuel. She had wanted to have a child, but couldn’t. Her husband would go to the temple every year to offer sacrifices. He would then give his other wife, Peninnah, and her children meat from the sacrifice. He then gave the best piece of meat to Hannah. When he did, Peninnah would taunt her and tease her because she couldn’t have kids. Hannah would get so upset she would break down in tears and couldn’t eat.
On one such occasion, Hannah ran to the temple to pray. She quietly wept before the Lord as she prayed. She asked God for a son and promised to give him back if He answered her. As she sat there weeping, Eli the priest, confronted her thinking she was drunk. When she explained that she hadn’t been drinking and had been in prayer, he responded, “In that case, go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him” (1 Samuel 1:17 NLT). Hannah then went back, ate food, and was no longer sad.
She acted in faith before she got her answer. She believed that God heard her prayer and answered it. We could all learn from her and the farming community. Jesus said in John 14:13, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” If we will start acting like God is going to answer our prayers, we will start to see more of them answered. Faith doesn’t wait in order to act. It acts before it knows there will be an answer.