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.
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Several years ago, I attended a conference of authors for authors. One of them spoke on the importance of turning in your work by the deadline. In fact, he spoke of how he tries to beat the deadline by as much as he can. His reasoning was that the longer the editors have his work, the better it will be. Plus, he thought of it as the gift of time to them. He wanted to give them time to do their work instead of making them rush when he turns everything in at the last minute.
Sometimes I wish God had that philosophy! In all my years of praying and needing something from God, it’s never been early. I’ve been sweating it out, praying so hard that I can’t sleep and God showed up just in the nick of time with the answer. I’ve figured out He doesn’t work on my timetable. Many times I felt like He was late in answering my prayers, but it turned out that it was right on time.
There have been times where I’ve prayed for Him to respond because I thought it was critical, but He didn’t. In those moments, I felt crushed, defeated and disappointed. Looking back on those moments, I can see why God didn’t answer. There was something better waiting that I couldn’t see. Though I felt crushed in the moment, overall, God has proved that He will do what is right for my life and just barely beat the deadline.
Micah 7:7 shares my sentiments and confidence in God to do the right thing in my life. It says, “As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me” (NLT). Even though I have many seemingly critical prayers that have gone unanswered, I still look to God for help when I need it. I’ve learned to confidently wait for Him to meet a His deadline, not mine, and I know He hears me when I pray.
Recently I was working on our dishwasher. At one point, I got on my knees and looked up. As I looked around the kitchen, I thought, “This is the way my four year old looks at the kitchen.” My mind went back to when I worked at a childcare center. The owner used to make us crawl around on our hands and knees so we could see what the kids saw. We could then move things into their view and know their perspective.
I think that’s what Jesus did when He came in the flesh. He only had one view of earth and that was from the top down, just like I had in the childcare center. Until He walked this land, He had never imagined where Heaven was. He had never looked up and experienced man’s view of the heavens and understood how powerless we feel to reach them. He truly felt our limitations and feelings of insignificance in this universe.
Hebrews 2:17 says, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God” (NLT). Now that He has our perspective, He can be our greatest intercessor. Since He came from Heaven, walked the earth, and returned to Heaven, He can empathize with our prayers and speak to God the Father on our behalf.
The next verse says, “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” He became like us to help us. He humbled Himself, got on His hands and knees so to speak, to become frail like us so He could fully understand us. We can’t pray and tell God He doesn’t understand because He does. We can’t hide our emotions because He’s experienced them. So whatever you’re going through, be open and honest in your prayers, and let Jesus help you through it. He’s been in your shoes.