God grants some of us an easy road to parenthood. You decide it’s time to start a family, everything goes along as expected, and babies are born right on schedule.
It wasn’t that way for us. After two years of trying to have a child, I finally got pregnant, only to have our first daughter journey straight back to heaven on the same day she was born. It was another two years before God blessed us with our now 16-year-old daughter.
So when I read the story of Hannah in I Samuel, I feel like I understand a little bit of Hannah’s heart. Admittedly, I had no Peninah to antagonize me, and the cultural pressure to have a son to carry on the family heritage wasn’t there. But when I read of Hannah in the temple, crying out her soul’s deep longing to have a child, I think I know at least to some degree how she felt.
But as we look at Hannah’s plea, the lessons we learn from her about prayer can apply to any hardship, anxiety, sorrow, or disappointment that has your heart heavy today. Hannah was a woman who had a heartfelt need, took it to God, and saw Him answer her request.
1. Every heartache and raw emotion can be brought to God. There is no trial too difficult, no pain too sharp, no burden too heavy that He can’t help you bear it. I Samuel 1:10 says that Hannah was in bitterness of soul and wept with anguish. In verse 15, we’re told that she poured out her soul before the Lord. Tell Him every hurt you feel, empty your soul at His feet. He is able to empathize with every feeling we’re having.
2. God is the only one who can solve my problem. I Samuel 1:5 reveals that the Lord had shut up Hannah’s womb. There was no special technique, no medicine, no person that could resolve this issue outside of prayer. How often I want to look all around for solutions to my problem or relief from my trial instead of realizing that going to God in prayer should be my first resort.
3. When I’ve left my cares with God, I can move on with my life. When Hannah leaves the temple after praying, I Samuel 1:18 says, “So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.” Once I’ve unburdened my soul to the only one who can solve my problem, I need to leave it with Him. Hannah didn’t continue to mope around; she was trusting God to answer her prayer in His way and in His time.
4. Take time to recognize answered prayer. Twice Hannah acknowledges that God directly answered prayer. It’s recorded in I Samuel 1:20 and in 1:27, where she says, “For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him.” Give God the glory He is due. Celebrate answers to prayer by offering thanks to God and by sharing stories of answered prayer with others. I know my own faith is always encouraged when I hear how God has worked in direct response to prayer in others’ lives.
5. Know that our good God so often gives us even more than we ask for. Here’s what we read in I Samuel 2:21. “And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters.” What did she ask for in chapter 1? A son. Yet God gave her so much more.
Let’s praise God for the privilege we have to bring all our concerns, our worries, and our troubles to Him! He loves us and knows the desires of our heart, and has the power to bring to pass what is best for us.