When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was called “Hannah’s Prayer”. Of course, my true interest as a five year old was that the main character shared my name– though she spelled it wrong– but after hearing Hannah’s story probably hundreds of times, Hannah’s Prayer became one of my favorite passages in the Bible.
The children’s book was based off an Old Testament story found in 1 Samuel. Hannah was married to a very good man but struggled with infertility and desperately wanted a child. After years of crying out to the Lord, she makes a vow to God that if He gives her a son, she will dedicate him to the Lord by having him grow up in the temple in order to become a priest.
If you are familiar with the story, you know that God hears Hannah and answers her prayer by allowing her to become pregnant and give birth to a son. And then, the author of 1 Samuel records what I think is the most beautiful and amazing prayer perhaps in all of Scripture. Now, I will admit I am partly drawn to this prayer because it is spoken by a woman but it really is the most captivating and breathtaking prayer.
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
my horn is exalted high because of the Lord.
I loudly denounce my enemies,
for I am happy that you delivered me.
No one is holy like the Lord!
There is no one other than you!
There is no rock like our God!
Don’t keep speaking so arrogantly,
letting proud talk come out of your mouth!
For the Lord is a God who knows;
he evaluates what people do.
The bows of warriors are shattered,
but those who stumble find their strength reinforced.
Those who are well-fed hire themselves out to earn food,
but the hungry no longer lack.
Even the barren woman gives birth to seven,
but the one with many children withers away.
The Lord both kills and gives life;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord impoverishes and makes wealthy;
he humbles and he exalts.
He lifts the weak from the dust;
he raises the poor from the ash heap
to seat them with princes
and to bestow on them an honored position.
The foundations of the earth belong to the Lord,
and he has placed the world on them.
He watches over his holy ones,
but the wicked are made speechless in the darkness,
for it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.
The Lord shatters his adversaries;
he thunders against them from the heavens.
The Lord executes judgment to the ends of the earth.
He will strengthen his king
and exalt the power of his anointed one.” (2 Samuel 2:1-10)
Does that not make your heart swell with praise and gratitude? Phew. But here’s what I just discovered last week.
Though I knew that story like the back of my hand, I had one detail wrong.
(I’m learning more and more that the bible stories we are sure we know, we usually remember some piece of it incorrectly.)
In my memory, Hannah uttered that beautiful prayer after she gave birth to her son, Samuel. She was thanking God for answering her prayer! But that is not the case. Hannah did not pray that prayer right after she realized she was pregnant or right after Samuel was born. She proclaimed that prayer right before she gave her son up and left him to be raised by the temple priest.
Hannah prayed and rejoiced in the Lord– not when God gave her what she wanted– but when she was facing sacrifice and loss.
For five or six years, she had cared for and cherished Samuel as her one and only son. She headed for the temple knowing she had to make good on her promise. Her prayer is not one of weeping, complaints, or asking God for another way. Her prayer is full of confidence, hope, joy, and trust in the Sovereign and Almighty God.
How opposite is that from how you and I operate?
We love to worship God and sing His praises when things are going our way, when we are being given what we want. When was the last time you praised God like Hannah in the midst of loss, hardship, or sacrifice? When was the last time God asked you to give something to Him and instead of praising Him you whined, complained, or begged Him for another way?
You and I need to learn how to recognize God’s goodness, faithfulness, and perfect provision in the midst of challenging times.
And not just recognize it– how to shout it out for all to hear. Because here’s when it gets really good: After Hannah prays her magnificent prayer and leaves her son in the temple as she promised, God blesses her even more. After years of struggling with infertility, Hannah ends up having three more sons and two daughters.
When we joyfully look to God and keep our eyes fixed on Him in the midst of grief, hardship, or sacrifice, God will overflow our cup with His goodness and abundant provision. It’s in His nature to care for those who choose to praise Him in the difficult times. And He is always, always worth of our praise.