We generally think of bargaining with God as a bad thing, yet it seems to be common in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 1:10-11 Hannah recognizes that only God can help her. She prays a very simple prayer in the form of a vow.
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “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.”1 Samuel 1:10-11 NIV
She appeals to God’s character by drawing attention to the misery she experiences as a childless wife and then she asks for a son. She doesn’t just ask for a child, but she specifically asks for a son. If God provides her with a son, then she will give the son back to God. She has made her request to the right person and God honors her request and more. In 1 Samuel 2:21 we are told that Hannah was given 6 children, 4 sons and 2 daughters.
We can learn much from Hannah’s simple prayer. It is short and specific. There was no question about who answered the prayer, at least in Hannah’s mind. In response she prays one of the most eloquent prayers of praise in the Bible. The focus of the prayer is God, specifically His sovereignty. In 1 Samuel 2:1-10 she pours out her heart in praise to God who has lifted her out of her misery and provided her with a son.
1 Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn 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.1 Samuel 2:1,2 (NIV)
Hannah begins her prayer where every prayer should begin. She begins with praise of the God she cries out to. God answered her previous prayer and delivered her from the desperation she experienced. He is unique and never changing. We can always rejoice in who God is.
I must admit that verse 3 of this prayer bothers me. It bothers me because it directly confronts sin, and I am uncomfortable with confrontation of any kind.
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.1 Samuel 2:3 (NIV)
Peninnah deeply hurt Hannah over a long period of time by provoking her and reminding her of her barrenness. Yet, Hannah expresses her hurt in a way that models for us a proper way to confront. She speaks directly to the sin and turns it over to God to judge. It seems that part of the purpose of prayer is to communicate to others the truth about God and the world he has created.
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.1 Samuel 2:4-8 (NIV)
Hannah recognizes that God is sovereign and rejoices in this. God’s sovereignty and goodness will ultimately see that justice is done. Hannah’s words do not bring comfort to those of us with wealth and high positions. We must make every effort to work with God to use the resources God has provided to lift up the poor and the oppressed. Hannah’s prayer is not an exception. The actions she associates with God are expressions of His values that are repeated throughout scripture.
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.”1 Samuel 2:9,10 (NIV)
Hannah rejoices in the security that God provides for those who serve Him. Once again, she contrasts the response of God to those who serve Him with the judgment of the wicked. I must be continually reminded that success in doing God’s will does not flow from my strength. Instead, my strength will more often be used to accomplish my will with the result that I will be broken.
Hannah concludes her prayer with a prophecy of hope. A king is coming, and He will bring God’s kingdom to earth. It is hard to imagine how much this meant to Hannah as she and her family struggled to survive in the lawlessness that was the period of the judges. We have a similar hope in the second coming of Jesus. An appropriate ending to every prayer we make would be, “Come, Lord Jesus.”