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God Answers Hannah’s Prayer

Two weeks ago we began looking at 1 Samuel chapter 1 – which was the introduction to the life of Samuel. However, we were never actually introduced to Samuel himself (since he hadn’t been born yet at this point in the story), but we did meet his parents. In fact, our passage revolved mainly around his mother, Hannah. You’ll remember that Samuel’s father, Elkanah, actually had two wives – Hannah and Peninnah – and in the early verses of this chapter, we are told that Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.

Of course Hannah wanted children more than anything – but twice we are told that…

“…the Lord had kept her from having children.” 1 Samuel 1:6b

And when we read that at first glance, it almost seems kinda unloving for God to have kept Hannah from having children – the one thing she wanted most! Why would God do that? Didn’t He care about Hannah? (And certainly I can imagine Hannah asking those questions!)

But as we look at the whole story, we see that God hadn’t kept Hannah from having children because he was upset with her or was punishing her for something she had done! Certainly not! God wasn’t keeping her from having children simply to be cruel. But rather, God had prevented Hannah from having children at this time because God was setting the stage to do something amazing!

And that’s such a good reminder for us – that when it seems that God is withholding some good from us – it’s not because He doesn’t care for us – but rather it’s because He has something even better in mind for us. God is always at work setting things up for our good and His glory!

Of course, Hannah didn’t know what God was up to and our story finds Hannah in bitter sorrow – broken-hearted that God had not given her any children. And to make matters worse, her rival, Elkanah’s other wife Peninnah, mocked and taunted her for not being able to have children.

And so one year, when the family went to Shiloh to present a sacrifice to the Lord, Hannah goes to the tabernacle in bitter tears and pours out her heart to the Lord. She says in first Samuel 1:11…

“O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.” 1 Samuel 1:11

Hannah is so earnest in her desire for a child and would be so thankful to the Lord if He were to grant her request, that she promises to give back to God the very child that he would give to her.  She is praying so fervently and out of such emptiness – that the priest (as he watches her pray) thinks that she’s drunk! Of course, that’s not the case – and Hannah explains to the priest what’s going on.

But to make a long story short, after pouring out her heart to the Lord in prayer, Hannah returns to be with her family and it was noted that she was no longer sad.

She hadn’t yet received any answers to her prayers, but she had the assurance that God had heard her. She was able to trust in His goodness and His wisdom – no matter how He chose to answer her prayers. And so her spirits lifted – as so often happens when we pray – and that’s about as far as we got in the passage.

So today we’re going to pick up the story where we left off and see what happens next in 1 Samuel chapter 1 verse 19.

19 The entire family got up early the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more. Then they returned home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea, 20 and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”

1 Samuel 1:19-20

Now these verses really do read like a textbook – it has the facts of the situation, but it doesn’t really capture the feeling! Can you imagine how excited Hannah would have been to discover that she was pregnant!?? Can you imagine her joy when she held little Samuel in her arms for the first time?

I mean, holding your baby for the first time is pretty awesome as is, but I would expect that for Hannah, her joy would have been even greater!

After years of being barren, after years of feeling like a failure to her husband, after years of being mocked and taunted by Peninnah for having no children, God had finally answered her prayers!

And I just love how she names him “Samuel”! In the Hebrew language, the word Samuel sounds like a mashing of the words ‘asked of God’. And so Hannah names her little boy “asked of God” because as she says in verse 20 “I asked the Lord for Him.” She asked for a child, and God granted her request!

This little baby boy was the living proof that God answers prayer. For the rest of his life, Samuel’s name would stand as a testimony to God’s faithfulness in answering prayer.

In fact, as you read through the rest of Samuel’s story, you see that the hallmark of His ministry is prayer. You see that’s he’s constantly praying to God for Saul or for the people of Israel or for God’s guidance in his own life. There’s a verse a little later on where Samuel says he’d consider it a sin if he ever stopped praying for the people of Israel.

“As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you.” 1 Samuel 12:23a

Samuel was dedicated to prayer – as he no doubt learned from his mother – and his name would stand as a testimony that God does indeed answer prayers.

And just by way of practical application today, do you believe that God answers prayers? Now, I realize that you’re sitting in church so you can hardly say otherwise, but do we really believe that God answers prayer?

If so, why don’t we pray a whole lot more than we do?

I was doing little study with Jesse and Coleson a couple weeks ago about God’s promises throughout the Scripture to hear and answer our prayers. We looked up about 10 different passages that all talked about how if we ask God in faith for something that would glorify and honour Him, then God will hear and answer our prayers.

Here’s just one such example:

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. 1 John 5:14-15

We have these repeated promises through the Bible that God answers our prayers. And we have these repeated examples throughout the Bible of God doing exactly that.

    • Hannah prays for a son, and God grants her request. 
    • Hezekiah prays that God would extend his life, and God gives him 15 more years. 
    • The church prays that Peter would be released from prison, and God sends an angel to escort him out.
    • Elisha prays that God would strike the enemy army with blindness, and God strikes them all with blindness.
    • Peter prays for Tabitha after she died, and God brought her back to life again!
    • Elijah prayed that it would not rain, and God stopped the rain for three and half years!

And these are just a few examples! Time and time again, the Scriptures remind us that God answers prayer.

So why oh why, do we not pray more!? And this is the question that I’ve been asking myself recently… Why do I not pray more?

Do I doubt the power of God?

Do I doubt the goodness and wisdom of God?

What is it? What keeps me from taking hold of God’s promises and from going to Him constantly in prayer? 

Is it my own pride? Is it a sense of self-sufficiency? I’m not sure what it is.

Maybe we just need this reminder that we are invited and commanded to come to God with all of our requests in prayer. The writer of Hebrews says:

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

That’s exactly what Hannah did – she came boldly to the throne of her gracious God and as a result, she received His grace and mercy. She received exactly what she asked for. As we read in verse 20… “In due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”

God had graciously answered her prayers and given her a son. But if you’ll remember, in her prayer, Hannah had vowed to give her son back to God. It’s one thing to make such a promise – it’s another thing to actually keep it. So let’s see what Hannah does. verse 21

21 The next year Elkanah and his family went on their annual trip to offer a sacrifice to the Lord and to keep his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go. She told her husband, “Wait until the boy is weaned. Then I will take him to the Tabernacle and leave him there with the Lord permanently.”

23 “Whatever you think is best,” Elkanah agreed. “Stay here for now, and may the Lord help you keep your promise.” So she stayed home and nursed the boy until he was weaned. 1 Samuel 1:21-23

Now consider for a minute the difficult task that lay before Hannah. She had promised God that if He were to give her a son, then she would give him back to God. And that seems to be exactly what she is planning to do. As soon as the boy was weaned – in those days probably somewhere between the ages of 2-5 years old, she would take little Samuel to live and be raised at the Tabernacle.

I know moms who have a hard time leaving their kids at camp for a week – how hard would this have been for Hannah to leave her 2-5 year old son to live permanently at the tabernacle?!

But yet, that’s exactly what Hannah determined to do. Hannah obviously did not take her promise to God lightly! God had come through for her, and so she was determined to carry out her promise to Him. And considering how difficult that would have been for her, that really shows her integrity of character!

Here was a person who kept their word – no matter what the cost. I think that just speaks volumes to her godly character. Being trustworthy and faithful are characteristics that please the heart of God. Proverbs 12:22 says:

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. Proverbs 12:22 ESV

Hannah was someone whom God could delight in. Her faithfulness brought a smile to his face. And I think that’s something for us to shoot for too. God delights in us when we stick to our commitments and keep our promises. Why? Because that’s exactly what God does. God always keeps his Word – He is the definition of faithful and true. And it pleases Him when we act like his children and do likewise. And not just in the big things – in the little things too!

Sometimes we let the little things slide because we think they don’t matter so much, but Luke 10:10 reminds us:

10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10 NIV

Our faithfulness in the little things demonstrates our ability to be faithful in the big things. 

At camp several years ago, there was an old gentleman who came out to help out for a few weeks each summer. He’d build sheds for the camp and things like that using the camp’s scrap lumber pile. While he was staying at the camp, the camp director told him he was free to use the shower house and things like that – but this gentleman didn’t want to shower. Why? Because he didn’t want the camp to have to pay to heat the water that he would use for his shower!

That has always impressed me. I mean, how much would it cost to heat the water for a shower – a few cents!?? Here was a man who was faithful in the little things. If he’s not going to take advantage of the camp in something as small as a hot shower, you know you can trust that guy with anything! Give him ten cents or ten million dollars – it doesn’t matter – he’s proven his trustworthiness by being faithful in the little things.

How about you? Are you faithful in the little things? Because if you aren’t faithful in the little things, you won’t be faithful in the big things. Practice being faithful in all things – big and small. Be like Hannah. Be a man or woman of your word.

Well, as difficult as it must have been for Hannah to keep her promise to the Lord – the time finally came when young Samuel was old enough to go to live at the tabernacle. It says in verse 24…

24 When the child was weaned, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They brought along a three-year-old bull for the sacrifice and a basket of flour and some wine. 25 After sacrificing the bull, they brought the boy to Eli. 26 “Sir, do you remember me?” Hannah asked. “I am the very woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. 27 I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. 28 Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the Lord there.

1 Samuel 1:24-28

I don’t know if you noticed this or not, but one of the characteristics of this family is that they routinely worshipped the Lord. Three times in this short chapter we are told about how they worshipped the Lord together. Even now, in this difficult moment as they prepare to leave little Samuel with Eli, what do they do? They worship the Lord.

In fact, the next several verses are Hannah’s prayer to God. And it’s not a prayer pleading for God to watch over her little boy while he’s away from home like you might expect, but it’s a prayer of worship – a prayer rejoicing in the Lord – praising Him for his goodness and strength! Have a look with me… Starting in chapter 2 now:

Then Hannah prayed:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord!

    The Lord has made me strong.

Now I have an answer for my enemies;

    I rejoice because you rescued me.

2 No one is holy like the Lord!

    There is no one besides you;

    there is no Rock like our God.

3 “Stop acting so proud and haughty!

    Don’t speak with such arrogance!

For the Lord is a God who knows what you have done;

    he will judge your actions.

4 The bow of the mighty is now broken,

    and those who stumbled are now strong.

5 Those who were well fed are now starving,

    and those who were starving are now full.

The childless woman now has seven children,

    and the woman with many children wastes away.

6 The Lord gives both death and life;

    he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.

7 The Lord makes some poor and others rich;

    he brings some down and lifts others up.

8 He lifts the poor from the dust

    and the needy from the garbage dump.

He sets them among princes,

    placing them in seats of honor.

For all the earth is the Lord’s,

    and he has set the world in order.

9 “He will protect his faithful ones,

    but the wicked will disappear in darkness.

No one will succeed by strength alone.

10  Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.

He thunders against them from heaven;

    the Lord judges throughout the earth.

He gives power to his king;

    he increases the strength of his anointed one.”

1 Samuel 2:1-10

This whole prayer is a song of worship and praise! It’s quite a contrast to her first prayer in chapter 1 which was a prayer of anguish and sorrow! God had totally changed things around for her. And that’s a theme that runs throughout her prayer – how God intervenes in people’s lives and flips their situations around….

4 The bow of the mighty is now broken,

    and those who stumbled are now strong.

5 Those who were well fed are now starving,

    and those who were starving are now full.

The childless woman now has seven children,

    and the woman with many children wastes away.

8 He lifts the poor from the dust

    and the needy from the garbage dump.

He sets them among princes,

    placing them in seats of honor.

1 Samuel 2:4-4,6-8

God is the master of reversing people’s situations. That was certainly Hannah’s experience. 

She went from being barren to being pregnant. From being mocked to being blessed. From being sorrowful to be being joyful. God had totally changed her situation.

And God can change your situation too! No matter how hopeless it may seem. 

I know we all face a number of different issues in our lives – situations that we desperately want to see changed… Some of you have shared some of those things with me – but I know there are a lot of things that I don’t know about. But you know what they are – and God does too.

I asked you earlier – do you believe that God answers prayer? If so, let me ask you a second question: Do you believe that God can change your situation?

If you answered “yes” to both those two questions, (And the Scriptures certainly seem to support that!) then I would encourage you to follow the example of Hannah. Bring your requests to God. Go to Him with your earnest desires – go to him with your bitter tears – and ask Him to change your situation. God is a situation changer! He wants to rescue you. He wants to provide for you.

Psalm 145 is a great reminder of that. Take a look – starting in verse 8..

8 The Lord is merciful and compassionate,

    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

9 The Lord is good to everyone.

    He showers compassion on all his creation.

then jump down to verse 13

The Lord always keeps his promises;

    he is gracious in all he does.

14 The Lord helps the fallen

    and lifts those bent beneath their loads.

15 The eyes of all look to you in hope;

    you give them their food as they need it.

16 When you open your hand,

    you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in everything he does;

    he is filled with kindness.

18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,

    yes, to all who call on him in truth.

19 He grants the desires of those who fear him;

    he hears their cries for help and rescues them.

Psalm 145:8-9, 13b-19

If what the Bible says is true – If God is merciful and compassionate, if He helps the fallen, if he feeds the hungry, if he hears our cries for help and rescues us – then doesn’t it make sense that we would go to Him in prayer with all of our requests and desires?

God is a situation changer. He delights in answering our prayers!

While we have no right to demand anything of God, God has invited us to bring all of our requests, all of our needs, all of our desires to Him. And God in His goodness and in his wisdom, and in his time and in his way – will answer our prayers. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them.

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