Pray the Prayer of Hannah for Your Prodigal
...the Lord remembered her.
1 Samuel 1:19b
Hannah was unable to have children. To make matters worse, her husband, Elkanah, had another wife who did have children. Each year the two wives went with Elkanah to the temple, where he would present his sacrifice to the Lord. He gave portions of the meat to Peninnah and her children, but only one piece to Hannah. Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. And Hannah would cry and not be able to eat.
Elkanah felt bad for Hannah but didn't really understand. He said, "Why are you crying, Hannah? And why aren't you eating? Why are you so downhearted just because you have no children? You have me--isn't that better than having ten sons?" Hmmm...
The Bible says, "Year after year it was the same..." Peninnah would taunt Hannah, and Hannah would cry and not eat. But one year, Hannah got up and went to pray. She was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed.
Maybe she had prayed other years too, but this year Eli, the priest, noticed her anguish and mistook it for her being drunk. Her lips were moving, but no words could be heard. "Must you come here drunk?" Eli asked her, "Throw away your wine."
Hannah set the record straight immediately, and Eli accepted her explanation. He told her to go in peace and said, "May the God of Israel grant your request." Eli's words and acceptance cheered Hannah up, and she went and ate some food.
The Lord heard her prayer, and the following year, she gave birth to a son. True to her word, when Samuel was weaned (about two-three years old), Hannah took him to the temple. She presented him to Eli, the priest. She said, "I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I have asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life, he will be given over to the Lord." When they went back home, Samuel stayed in the temple with Eli.
So what was her prayer, and why should we pray likewise? After all, we aren't childless. No, but many of us are in deep anguish over the state of our prodigal. I believe her prayer and subsequent actions give us insight. Hannah prayed and made a vow:
O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.
Okay, not all of her prayer is relevant, but let's break down what is:
O Lord Almighty...first, the obvious; you pray to God. He is the One who can change our loved ones' hearts and minds. He is the Almighty, the God who can do anything. He heard Hannah's prayer and gave her a son. God hears your prayer as well, and you can trust Him to answer you.
If only you will look upon your servant's misery and remember me...you can know God sees you. He sees every tear. Psalm 56:8 tells us, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." God has a book that records each one of your sorrows. You can be assured that He remembers you.
And not forget your servant but give her a son...believers are servants of Christ, and so we shouldn't let Hannah referring to herself as God's servant go unnoticed. She came to God humbly to make her request. You would replace what she requested with our own.
Then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life...I dedicated all my children to the Lord when they were babies. But I didn't take them to a temple and leave them there. When I think about what Hannah did, I can't imagine doing that. In fact, I have to continually remind myself now that my child belongs to God, not me. And He is the perfect parent. In this story, Hannah made a vow to give her child back to the Lord. And she followed through with her promise to God. The only vow I have made to God is that if He gives me my request, I will give Him all the glory. Make sure if you make a vow to God, you keep it when He gives you what you ask for.
When Hannah brought her son to Eli, she could honestly say to Eli that this was a child for which she had prayed. And even before she knew the outcome of her prayer, she was encouraged and ate some food. Not even Peninnah could bring her down. I think when we can honestly put our prodigal in God's hands, rather than focus on where they are at, we will be at peace. You might have to do it over and over, but that's okay. Just don't give up! I know God taught Hannah something that year when she prayed, and I believe God has taught each one of us something valuable that we might not have learned any other way. Don't dismiss what He is teaching you on this faith journey. And do not, for a second, think He has not remembered you or your request!