Friday, December 10, 2004

Lessons from Hannah

This past Sunday our class began a study of I & II Samuel. We spent the first week in I Samuel 1-2, focusing on Hannah’s prayers for a child and on Eli’s wicked sons. There are a couple of points I was reminded of in our study that help me in my prayer life, and I thought I’d share them with you.

First, timing is key. Consider the timing of Hannah and Eli’s trials. Hannah was childless, and longed for a son. Eli had sons, but they were wicked and God was planning to destroy them. Eli needed someone to succeed him as priest, to carry on the service of God and minister to the people of Israel.

Had Hannah not suffered years of heartache over her longing for a child, she might not have come to the point where her heart was turned towards God with a willingness to dedicate her firstborn to His service. The birth of Samuel was more than just fulfilling a childless woman’s dream. He would become the successor to Eli, fulfilling a role that Eli’s own sons could not.

Timing remains a key element of our prayers. Many times I pray for good, Godly things, but become frustrated when those prayers seem to go unanswered. How often I forget that God’s timing is never late, always perfect. And usually what I’m asking for affects other people’s lives in some way, too. Sometimes God has to work in several other lives in order to bring about fulfillment of prayer in another’s, and that takes time as well.

Second, this prayer was answered for the glory of God. Hannah’s vow to dedicate her firstborn to God was not some last-ditch effort to coerce God into giving her a child. Back in those days, vows were considered extremely heavy-duty stuff. (By the way, God still considers vows to be serious business, but we tend to take them pretty lightly these days.)

Hannah would not have made her vow if she did not intend to follow through on it. When friends and family came by to admire newborn Samuel and wonder out loud about what his future held, surely Hannah told them that he would be serving with Eli. Word probably quickly spread through the town that Hannah was willing to give up this long-awaited child. When visitors to the tabernacle saw little Samuel helping Eli, they knew that this child was special, set apart for God.

Our prayers are always answered in a way that God is glorified. Some answers make it easier to recognize that glory than others. But God is not in the business of answering our prayers in a way that always makes us happy. It’s not about us—another difficult thing for me to remember at times! We were created to glorify God. Our lives are meant to be living, breathing testimonies of His attributes--His love, His mercy, His power.

When certain prayers are not answered in the way I want them to be, it’s easy to get discouraged. But I have to remember that sometimes what I ask for, while good, may not be what’s best for bringing God glory. God dreams so much bigger than we do. We’re so willing to settle for less than what He truly wants to give us. Hannah only asked for one child; God ended up giving her five more after Samuel. Don’t you know that Hannah couldn’t help but tell other people she met about how God had worked in her life?

The greatest testimonies I can give of God meeting my needs or blessing my life usually come about as the result of some trial I go through. I think we tend to be more appreciative, and more willing to give God the glory, when He comes through for us under seemingly impossible circumstances.

Hope these reminders enrich your prayer life today.

1 comment:

Anacaonadr said...

Hi.

What a great lesson the story of Hannah teaches us!

I just wanted to leave you a comment on your posting! Even though I do not personally know you, I cant help but to agree with you on the things you wrote.

Thanks for encouraging me on my prayer life!