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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Samuel 1:4–20

On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.” As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” (NRSV)

In the text we find Hannah in a desperate position. Hannah was barren, a condition of disgrace for Hebrew women during the time of the story. To further complicate the situation, Hannah’s husband took another wife who was able to bear children. The other wife not only had children, but she repeatedly insulted Hannah.

It can be difficult holding on to hope when unpleasant conditions show no signs of improving. It can be even more hopeless when prayers are not answered as we think they should be.

Sometimes God will not give us immediately what we ask for. In times of delayed response we may experience spiritual growth. In our suffering, persistent prayer moves us to total dependence on God when we realize the Almighty is the only source to satisfy what we desire. Through this time of seeking answers to our request, our relationship with God will deepen.

Hannah had sufficient justification to give up, but she did not. Instead, she took her problem to God and passionately prayed, “Look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son.” In return for God’s favor, Hannah vowed to dedicate her son in lasting service to God.

What a woman of faith. Despite her unhappy situation she continued to seek the Lord. Perseverance in prayer is an essential quality of the faithful. Endurance during times of trial leads to strength of faith and expectations that will not disappoint. After expressing her pain, Hannah felt peace and confidence knowing that her request would be answered.

Always remember that persistent prayer will move us beyond the limits of trouble. Allow Hannah’s story of faith to encourage you during the barren times of your life journey.

Almighty God, please refocus our hearts toward your will and purpose so that we will experience peace during times of trouble. Amen.

Written by Robert Crouch, Director of Volunteer Ministry

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