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The Power of Prayer: Hannah's Story

Updated: Feb 4

Sometime in the late 10th Century and the early 11th Century, there was an Ephraimite man known as Elkanah, who lived in the mountains of Ephraim (1 Samuel 1:1). [Ephraim is now modern-day West Bank, which is a territory occupied by Israel since 1967]. Elkanah had two wives. One was Hannah, and the other was Peninnah. Hannah did not have any children, but Peninnah had children.


As was custom, Elkanah would go to the city of Shiloh every year to sacrifice to the Lord. To Peninnah and their children, Elkanah would give a portion to them, but would give Hannah a double portion because he loved her. The Lord had closed the womb of Hannah, and Peninnah would provoke Hannah each year. Hannah would cry and would not eat.


Elkanah asked Hannah, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieve? Am I not better to you than ten sons?" (1 Samuel 1:8 NKJV).


The Holy Bible stated that she stood up after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. A priest named Eli was sitting near the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. Hannah prayed and made a vow:


O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head. (1 Samuel 1:11).


Hannah prayed these words in her heart, but only her lips were moving. Eli could see her lips move but did not hear the words out of her mouth. Eli thought that she was drunk and asked her how long she had been drunk and told her to put her wine away. Hannah explained that she was "a woman of sorrowful spirit" (1 Samuel 1:15) and that she has not been drinking. Hannah also said, "Do not consider me a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now." (1 Samuel 1:16)


A woman earnestly praying.
A woman praying in solace. Photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

Hannah's Prayer Answered

Eli gave her his blessing, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him." (1 Samuel 1:17). Notice how Eli did not say, "may the God of Israel grant your petition", but he said, "the God of Israel grant your petition." God was already speaking to Hannah at this moment.


Hannah replies to Eli, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." (1 Samuel 1:18). The Holy Bible tells us that she went on her way, and that she finally ate, and her countenance was no longer sad.


The family rose early one morning, and with time, Hannah conceived a son. When her son was born, she named him Samuel, which means "Heard by God." Hannah did not return to Shiloh when her son was born and told her husband that she would return when Samuel was weaned, "then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever." (1 Samuel 1:22).


Elkanah said, "Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the Lord establish His word." (1 Samuel 1:23)


After Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to Shiloh with "three bulls, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine" (1 Samuel 1:24.) Then they slaughtered a bull, and Hannah brought the young Samuel to Eli. "O my Lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord: as long as he lives, he shall be lent to the Lord." (1 Samuel 1:26-28). The Holy Bible says that they worshipped the Lord then.


Hannah's Next Prayer

Hannah made a second prayer, but it is not clear if she made this prayer during their worship or after their worship. Here is what she said:


“My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation.


“No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.


"Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the Lord is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed.


“The bows of the mighty men are broken, And those who stumbled are girded with strength.

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, And the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, And she who has many children has become feeble.


“The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.

He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory.

“For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, And He has set the world upon them.

He will guard the feet of His saints, But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.

“For by strength no man shall prevail.

The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed.”

(2 Samuel 1:10)


Elkanah returned to his house at Ramah, but as a child, Samuel remained in Shiloh where "he ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest." (1 Samuel 2:11).


Notes on Samuel

Samuel grew before the Lord, and he would earn the favor of both God and men. When he was established as a prophet, all of Israel knew this. His first prophecy was against Eli and his sons for the evil that his sons had committed (see 1 Samuel 3), and it would be fulfilled in the battle against the Philistines. In the battle, both of Eli's sons died, and the Ark of Covenant was captured. When Eli heard these things, he fell off his seat breaking his neck and he died. He was 98 years old and had judged Israel for 40 years (see 1 Samuel 4).


Map of ancient world during biblical times. The kingdoms of Philistines, Israel and Judah
Map of Philistine, Israel and Judah Territories. Citation: Bible History Online.

The Ark of the Covenant was with the Philistines for seven months. No matter where this Philistines sent it, people would break out in tumors, and destruction would come to the city. Eventually, the Philistines decided to return it to the Israelites at Beth Shemesh with offerings, hoping that their people would be healed of their infirmities. However, some people looked inside the Ark and the Lord struck 50,070 men for doing so (1 Samuel 6:19). The people mourned, and the people of Kirjath-Jearim took the ark from Beth Shemesh and brought it to the house of Abinadab and consecrated his son, Eleazar to keep the ark.


The Ark of the Covenant remained there for 20 years. At this time, Samuel told the Israelites to return to the Lord, and He will deliver them from the Philistines. Samuel instructed the House of Israel to gather the Israelites at Mizpah and he will pray for them there. When the Philistines heard about this, the lords of the Philistines came against Israel. the Israelites were afraid of the Philistines and told Samuel to keep on crying out to God for them (1 Samuel 7:8). Samuel made a burnt offering to the Lord and did not cease praying. The Holy Bible tells us that that Lord answered Samuel's prayers and caused confusion among the Philistines. This allowed the Israelites to overcome the Philistines.


In his older years, Samuel's sons would be judges in Beersheba. However, his sons committed evil against the Lord. Then the elders of Israel came to Samuel at Ramah, and they said that his sons did not walk in the way of the Lord and that they wanted a king to judge them, "like all the nations."(1 Samuel 8:4). Samuel was displeased about their request for a king to judge them, but God told Samuel to listen to them for it was not Samuel that they have rejected, but God Himself (1 Samuel 8:7). God also told him what kind of King who will reign over them. God told Samuel to tell the elders these things, and he did. Samuel would then anoint the first kings of Israel. Saul being one, and David being the second.


Conclusion

Prayer is powerful. Hannah was not the only one with a closed womb and pray for a child. Abraham prayed for Sarah to conceive a son, and Isaac would be born when they were quite old. Rachel was barren and her sister had children, but she had none. She petitioned to God, and she finally had her first son with Jacob (later called Israel), when Leah had already given birth to her sixth child with Jacob. Rachel and Jacob's son was named Joseph and he would be sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers but would rise out of slavery and become the ruler of Pharaoh's house and "all my people shall be ruled according to your word" (Genesis 41:41). Pharaoh set Joseph "over all the land of Egypt" (Genesis 41:41). Finally, Zacharias and Elizabeth were old and praying for a child. Zacharias was priest and Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist who would prepare the way for Jesus Christ and preach of repentance similarly to Jesus Christ.


I am not saying that childless parents are the only prayers that God hears. If you earnestly seek Him, and cry out to Him, your prayers will be heard. Read the Holy Bible and you will see countless examples of prayers that have been heard and answered by God. If you want a modern example, you can check out one of my previous posts here.









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