Summary: Hannah’s prayer changed the history of her nation. It was a prayer used by God to bring into being the first -- and in some ways the greatest -- of the prophets of Israel, a man who would become the spiritual guide and mentor of the first two kings of Isr

A Study of the Life of Samuel

Sermon # 2

The Prayer That Changed History

1 Samuel 1:1-20

Samuel was the last of the judges and the first of new line of prophets after Moses. The law of God was openly ignored. It was into such a time that Samuel was born. Samuel gave the nation of Israel spiritual leadership in a dark period when even the priesthood was defiled. This evening I what us to examine the prayer of his mother, Hannah, a prayer that changed the history of her nation. A prayer used by God to bring into being the first -- and in some ways the greatest -- of the prophets of Israel, a man who would become the spiritual guide and mentor of the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. I want you to note with me the characteristics of a prayer that can change the course of history.

1. This Was a Prayer Born out of Despair and Misery (vv. 1-9)

“Now there was a certain man …. of the mountains of

Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah (el-ka-‘nah)… (2) And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. (pe-nin-‘ah) Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. (3) This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh.”

We are first introduced to Samuel’s father a man named

Elkanah. In many ways Elkanah seems to be a good and godly man, except that he had two wives. Apparently Hannah was his first wife and when she could not have any children, he married Peninnah so he could have a family.

While having more than one wife was permitted in the Old Testament it was never God’s original plan which is one man and one woman for one lifetime. Inevitably when do come across homes in which more than one wife lived, there was strife and heartache and Elkanah’s home was no different.

Hannah already felt badly enough, Peninnah, seemed to have a baby every time she turned around. Just as regularly as the seasons there came a new son or daughter to the family, so that the house was filled with children, but none of them were Hannah’s. The ache in her heart deepened as time went by. The final wrench of agony, of course, was that Peninnah could not keep from taunting Hannah about her inability to bear children. She found a thousand and one ways to remind Hannah of her barrenness.

According to our story each year Elkanah took his family to Shiloh to worship (v. 3). This annual visit should have been a joyful time for the family but each year Peninnah used it as an opportunity to harass and shame Hannah’s inability to bear children. Verse six reveals, “And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb.” She taunted her and mocked her because of it, and every word sank deeply into the spirit of Hannah. She grieved over her inability to bear children and she was devastated by Peninnah’s cruel words. And yet it continued year after year, verse seven, “So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.” Peninnah’s verbal abuse was so intense and painful for Hannah that she often burst into tears and became so emotional distraught that she could not even eat.

Elkanah’s response in verse eight is both humorous and embarrassing because it is such a typical male response, “Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"

Let me break this out for you. There are four questions and in each he reveals his insensitivity and his inability to connect with his wife’s feeling.

“Hannah, why are you crying? As if he did not know already. “Why don’t you eat?” As if he really did not understand why she was unable to eat. “Why are you so down hearted?” Is he really as dumb as brick wall or does not know what is happening in his own family? And the last is best of all, “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” He is lucky if she didn’t hit him after that last one. He telling Hannah she has no reason to be sad since she has him. If anything Elkanah had just added to her emotional turmoil. He had intensified her pain by telling her that she had no right to feel the way she felt.

It’s still a difficult task for us men to relate to our wives on an emotional level. When our wives tell about a problem, we want to fix it. Our natural tendency is to be threatened when it is something we know we cannot fix, to feel inadequate. But the response that is needed is to listen, to try to connect with the emotions that they are feeling.

The name Hannah means “a woman of grace” and she certainly lived out this grace in the way that she handled her inability to bear children and especially how she handled the continual abuse and cruel words from Penninah. Penniah’s name by the way means “venomous” and she to lived up to her name. Hannah however, expressed her anquish only to the Lord and she did not create problems for the family by taking on Penninah is a argument.

One of the benefits of this kind of emotional pain is that it drives us to our knees. Verse nine reveals, “So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD. (10) And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.´

We learn that she wept "in bitterness of soul". It seemed to her that she just couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much to bear. The shame, the lack of fulfillment, the taunting looks and even words of the other woman; watching the children of the other wife playing in the yard, - the hopelessness, the despair. Her first response was bitter tears. Others may have come with burnt offerings but she came with a broken heart. David tells us in Psalms 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.” Hannah offered the shattered pieces of her heart to God.

It not only was a prayer of born out of misery and despair but also

2. It was a Prayer of Submission (v. 11a)

“Then she made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant,

She presented herself before God as his handmaid, to do whatever he wanted her to do. Doubtless she had prayed many times for a child but now she releases it all into God’s hands. Not only was it a prayer of great submission but also

3. It was a Prayer that Involved Sacrifice (v. 11b)

“… 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."

At first glance it almost seems like Hannah was trying to bargain with God, “If you will give me a child I will give him back to you.” But I don’t think that is Hannah’s intent at all. I think that she is revealing a new understanding. Let’s remember that Hannah had nothing to bargain with, she was simply making a vow to give back to God what was already His.

Having worked through years of barrenness and having thought deeply about the problems, she realized for the first time something she had never known before. She realized that children are not just for parents -- they are for the Lord. They are given to parents, loaned for a while, but the reason they are given is for the Lord to use. Certainly this account indicates that fact, as this little boy who was ultimately born, Samuel, was God’s man to meet the need of a nation. Undoubtedly God had taught Hannah deeply through these hours of struggle over her barrenness, so in great distress and with intense earnestness she prays that God would have what he wanted, a man for his glory and his purposes, and that he would let her be the instrument of that blessing. It is awesome consideration that humanly speaking the future of the whole nation rested on this godly woman’s prayer.

Not only was it a prayer that involved Sacrifice also

4. It Was a Prayer of Great Persistence (vv. 12-15)

Verse twelve says, ”And it happened, as she continued

praying before the LORD. Hannah’s prayer was so intense and persistent that Eli, the high priest, thought she was drunk “… Eli watched her mouth. (13) Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. ( 14) So Eli said to her, "How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!" Because her lips were moving and no sound was coming out, the high priest thought that she was drunk. Think about how devastating this must have been. Hannah’s husband had not handled her emotion state well at all. And now her “pastor” tells her she need to clean up her act and stop drinking.

Her rival had provoked her, she had been misunderstood by her husband and now Eli had condemned her.

Not only was it a prayer of great persistence but also

5. It was a Prayer without Reservation (v. 15)

Hannah defended herself nobly but with great humility in verse fifteen, ” But Hannah answered and said, "No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.

When she was falsely accused she quickly set the record straight. “No,” she said, “It’s not what you think! I am not drunk, but I have simply poured out my heart to God.”

Oh that we would follow the example of Hannah in casting all her cares upon the Lord. 1 Peter 5:7 invites the believer to “cast all your care upon him for he Cares for you.” The Philips translation of that verse reads, “you can throw the whole weight of your anxieties on him, for you are his personal concern.” How much better it would be instead of pouring out our hearts to friends if committed our cause to God.

Hannah’s prayer was so focused on God that it was able to withstand the misunderstanding and criticism of the highest religious leader in the land. When you make it plain that you intend to follow God, in fact you intend to give you best to God without reservation, you can expect to be criticized by people who ought to encourage you. Moses was criticized by his own brother and sister (Numbers 12), David was criticized on his devotion to God by his own wife (2 Samuel 6:12-23) and Jesus was thought to be crazy by his own family (Mark 3:21).

The result of her conversation with Eli is seen in verse seventeen, “ Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him." (18) And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.”

Having laid everything at God’s feet she went away at peace. After years of anxiety and stress she was at peace with God and herself.

This is a beautiful commentary on that well known passage in Philippians 4 where the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Be anxious for nothing, but everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” {Phil 4:6} You might expect that a continuation of this verse would read, "and your prayers will be answered," but what it goes on to say is, “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, [which cannot be explained] will guard your hearts and minds [guard your emotions] through Christ Jesus.” {Phil 4:7 RSV} That is what Hannah experienced here.

Not only was it a prayer without reservation but also

6. It Was A Prayer That God Could Answer Because It Was A Prayer From A Heart That Is Broken And Sincere (vv. 19-20)

”Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. (20) So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked for him from the LORD."

When her family returned home, God answered her prayer and gave her a son. When her son was born she gave him the name, Samuel, which comes from two Hebrews that mean “asked” and “heard” with addition of “el” which is one of the names of God, so Samuel means “heard of God or asked of God.” All of his life, Samuel was both an answer to prayer and a great man of prayer.


Lets review the characteristics of a Prayer that will change history.

1. It was a Prayer Born out of Despair and Misery (vv. 1-9)

2. It was a Prayer of Submission (v. 11a)

3. It was a Prayer that Involved Sacrifice (v. 11b)

4. It Was a Prayer of Great Persistence (vv. 12-15)

5. It was a Prayer without Reservation (v. 15)

6. It Was A Prayer That God Could Answer Because It Was A Prayer From A Heart That Is Broken And Sincere (vv. 19-20)