11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
(1 Samuel 1:11)
Yesterday we saw Hannah respond to her anguish in the proper way – by taking the problem to God. Today we’ll study what she prayed.
First off, notice that Hannah’s prayer is short. It is only 52 words. We don’t need to use a lot of words or give God a huge explanation of what is going on in our life. He already knows. Prayer is not about informing God of something He doesn’t already know. Prayer is about us realizing how insufficient we are and how all-sufficient He is. Prayer is about admitting that we cannot overcome our situation while recognizing that God can.
Notice also that Hannah understood the power of God. She calls Him the Lord of hosts. The first time in the Bible that God is referenced by this title was just the other day (1 Samuel 1:3). Hannah is the first person in the Bible to verbally address God in prayer by this title. It emphasizes the fact that God is an all-powerful sovereign who commands all the forces of the universe, both visible and invisible. Hannah wanted protection from her rival, Peninnah, who was attacking her. So she (Hannah) called upon God to be her protector.
As we study Hannah’s prayer we see that although she deeply desired a son she did not wish him merely for personal gratification. She wanted a son in order to glorify God. And as such, she offers her son back to God as a Nazirite before he’s even born.
A Nazirite was an Israelite male consecrated to the service of God, under vows to abstain from alcohol (symbolizing his lack of focus on fleshly desires), to avoid defilement by contact with corpses (symbolizing he was concerned with more than physical life), and to let the hair grow (as an outward sign of his service to God) [Numbers 6:1-26].
Typically, a man voluntarily took a Nazirite vow for a set and rather short period of time. Samuel and Samson [Judges 13:5] were unique in that they were Nazirites from birth.
By dedicating her as-yet-unborn son to God Hannah showed that she was more interested in honoring God than she was in her own desires. She was at her wit’s end with her family situation. But as dysfunctional as her family was, Israel was even more dysfunctional. And Hannah, again showing her wisdom, knew it.
At this time in history Israel was major spiritual decay. Every one did what they wanted to do; the culture as a whole did not seek God and therefore they did not hear from Him [Judges 21:25; 1 Samuel 3:1].
Hannah understood the spiritual times. She knew God’s desire for His people to return to Him. She also realized that God’s purpose for His people superseded her personal desire for a son. So, while she prayed for a son, she also prayed for God’s greater purpose and willingly yielded her son to meet that purpose. That’s how God wants us to pray—not just to meet our needs, but for His purpose to be fulfilled through the answers to our prayers.
There is nothing wrong with praying for our wants and needs. Jesus taught us to pray for our “daily bread” [Matthew 6:11]. But before that He taught us to pray for God’s kingdom and God’s will [Matthew 6:9-10].
The purpose of prayer is not to solve all our problems so that we can live happy, trouble-free, self-centered lives. The purpose of prayer is to see God’s will done so He can be glorified and have people drawn to Him to be saved from their sins.
Hannah didn’t simply want to be a mother. She wanted to see God’s plan come true and she wanted to be a part of that plan.
When we pray according to God’s purpose then God can use us to help achieve that purpose. But, of course, that requires that we understand God and what He desires to do here on earth.
Hannah understood God’s purpose. And as we’ll see, God used her to achieve that purpose by giving her a son who He will use to lead His people back to Him.
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