In 1 Samuel chapter 1, we read about Elkanah and his wives Penninah and Hannah. God had given favor to Penninah. She birthed sons and daughters to Elkanah. Hannah, however, was barren.
Each year, as Elkanah would travel with his wives and children to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord, Penninah would, at some point, provoke and irritate Hannah over her barrenness. This troubled Hannah to the point of weeping and being unable to eat.
But then we read Hannah's prayer in verse 11: "“Lord Almighty, if you will only look on 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 for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
In verse 12, we read that this wasn't a one-time or one-off prayer. "As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard." Her prayer was a prayer of desperation.
For full context, read 1 Samuel 1
in its entirety. Later, she stops praying after Eli blesses her by agreeing with her desire for the Lord to grant her favor.
Hannah, certainly frustrated, then provoked in her barrenness, could have tried to do many things to overcome her frustration. But she went to the Person she knew would make a difference; the Lord! She humbled herself and prayed. She didn't hide her fear, frustration, tears, or shame. She let it out before the Lord- to the point where she could no longer speak her prayers aloud (God still knew her heart- even if others around her didn't).
Hannah humbled herself before God (and around others, too) in prayer. God gave her favor (as she had specifically prayed), opened her womb, and gave her a son. In return, she was thankful and obedient to fulfill her vows to the Lord; giving her son (one of the specific answers to her prayers), Samuel, at a very young age to serve the Lord.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
- James 4:6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones. - Proverbs 3:5-8
Chapter 2 opens with Hannah's prayer of praise, truth, wisdom, understanding, and strength. We can learn a lot about God, and ourselves, by what Hannah prays here!
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn (strength) is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
2 “There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
3 “Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.
4 “The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.
6 “The Lord brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
7 The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
"For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
on them he has set the world.
9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.
“It is not by strength that one prevails;
10 those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.
“He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
Hannah remembered to give thanks to the Lord! But she did more than give a simple thank you to God. She offered Him praise and honor; bringing glory to His name- for she recognized that all that happened was done by Him. She worshiped Him, thanked Him, prayed truth about Him and others. All this helped remind her, and others, of the mightiness of God and the low position of man before Him.
Our sinful nature, spurred on by our flesh, the world's influence, and our adversary, often tempts us to do this or that; ignore this matter, or make a bigger deal out of something than it really is- all as a means to distract us from God; the One who knows us, hears us, loves us, and does all of this and more in degrees far beyond what we understand or comprehend! We miss out on so much of God by trying to solve matters out of our own knowledge or strength first; often leaving the humbling of ourselves in prayer to be the very last thing we'll do or consider.
Then, the same forces working against us will do whatever possible to distract us from remembering God when He gives us favor. We often miss out on glorifying God when He gives favor because of busyness, distractions, stealing a little bit of the favor or credit for ourselves, etc.
Humbling ourselves before God, in matters great and small, places and keeps God before us (keeps Him first in our minds, hearts, and more). The more we do so, the more we'll see and know Him. If He truly is our Source, Strength, and All-in-All, we should want more of Him and much less of ourselves!
While we often think of prayer as a means of humbling ourselves before God when we pray, we also do so when we worship Him. Humbling ourselves aligns our hearts in the right position of where we stand before the Perfect, Holy, Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent, God of all. The Holy Spirit helps us to do so when we yield to Him. Without His help, it's difficult, if not impossible to do so on our own.
Simply put, God is first. Everyone and everything else (including ourselves) comes after Him. When we get out of order, we suffer in many ways (great, and sometimes in imperceptible ways).
There are many lessons to learn from Hannah's story, praises, and prayers.
What are one or two take-aways for you?
Lord, there is no Rock like You. You are our God. My heart rejoices in You; for You are lifted high. In You I find deliverance and delight. You bring poverty and wealth; you humble and exalt. The foundations of the earth are the Lord's, and you've set the world upon them.
Continue to teach us to pray- not only for our growth and edification, but ultimately for Your glory- in heaven and on earth. Lead us in prayer far beyond what's written here. Holy Spirit, lead us now as we continue to pray...