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
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.