A heartfelt prayer that was heard and answered (Part One)

1 Samuel, chapters 1 and 2

History is full of stories about people. They are people from whom we can learn lessons for our our life in today’s world. In 1 Samuel, we read about Hannah, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan and David. History tells us about God. It is His Story. This is important. We will only learn the deepest lessons history has to teach us, when we learn to see history as God’s Story. It’s more than many stories about many different people. It’s the story of God at work. The whole story starts to make sense to us when we learn to see God in it. God is more than a spectator. He’s more than a distant observer of human life. God is working out His purpose. He is the Lord of history.

Sometimes, we wonder, “Are things out of control?” This was precisely the situation at the start of 1 Samuel. See Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” It was a time of spiritual and moral chaos. What an apt description of today’s world! Why had things reached such a low pointin Israel? There was no king, but that wasn’t the real problem. The people did not regard the Lord as the King of their lives. Why is there such spiritual and moral chaos in today’s world? Some people look around for a human explanation. They bame all our problems on unemployment. The Bible gives us a much deeper explanation. We do not recognize the Lord as our King.

Can the present situation be turned around? Before we give up on any hope for today’s world, let’s begin by asking another question: Was the situation at the end of Judges turned around? The answer to this second question was , “Yes. It was turned around.” We ask, “How was it turned around?” The answer is clear: It was turned around by God. This is the lesson we must learn well. Our hope must be in God alone. He alone can transform the situation. Our hope is not in talented paeople. Our hope is in the Lord. We’re not to say, “We’ll change this, and we’ll change that, and everything will work out fine.” God is calling us to pray. As we look at today’s world, we must ask the question, “How can there be much blessing, if there is so little prayer?” We dare not forget about God, and think that we can get on fine without Him.

1 Samuel 1has so much to teach us about prayer. Here, we read about a woman who prayed that she would become a mother and a child who was born in answer to prayer.

First, we look at the woman who prayed that she would become a mother.

Some people say, “You cannot expect me to pray. I’m not a minister.” In 1 Samuel, how did the turnaround come about? Was it because Eli, the priest, prayed? No. The turnarond came when Hannah prayed. She prayed that she would become a mother. What about the priest? He was so insensitive that he didn’t recognize true prayer when he heard it. True prayer has less to do with getting the religious ritual right, and more to do with getting the heart right. Do you have a heart that longs for more of God’s blessing? This is the beginning of true prayer.

Some people say, “You can’t expect me to pray. I don’t know how to pray.” This is as stupid as saying, “I won’t go the swimming pool until I learn how to swim.” You learn how to swim when you go to the swimming pool. You learn how to pray when you go to the prayer meeting. You improve your swimming by swimming regularly. You learn to pray by praying regularly. The woman who that she would become a mother was a woman who learned to pray. When she began praying, she was preoccupied with her desire for a child. The more she prayed, she learned to pray for God’s glory. The more she learned to pray, “Thy will be done”, the more she became concerned that the child would be “given to the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11). How did Hannah learn to pray? How did her prayers become less self-centred and more God-centred? She learned to pray by praying and keeping on praying: “year after year, she went up to the house of the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:3 and 1 Samuel 1:7). Year after year, she was faithful in prayer. The longer it took for her prayer to be answered, the more she realized that the answer must come from God alone. This is a lesson of relevance to today’s world. What hope is there for our church and our nation? Our hope is in God alone. The answer must come from Him alone. If the answer is to be given, we must be faithful in prayer.

We look, now, at God’s answer to her prayer.

By the time God answered Hannah’s prayer, she was doing more than just praying for a child of her own. She was crying to God to give to His people, Israel, a mighty servant of God who would call the people back to God. This was the prayer that God answered. He did more than giving a child to Hannah. He sent a mighty prophet to the nation of Israel.

Samuel’s name was a continuing testimony to the fact that God is a God who hears and answers prayer: “She called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord'” (1 Samuel 1:20).

Samuel’s work was a continuing reminder that the work of God is done in in God’s way, not man’s way. Samuel, the last of the judges, is a model of trust in God, a model of doing God’s work in God’s way. One of the earlier judges, Samson, is a continuing reminder of the danger of relying on our own strength, without the power of God. Samuel shows us the better way, the way of calling upon God in prayer, the way of praying that the mighty power of God would be poured out on His people. “Lord, teach us to pray.” Make us the kind of people whose who whole life is being shaped by this prayer: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Hannah continued to pray after her prayer had been answered. As she conmtinued to pray, her prayers were answered more fully. A beginning to the mighty work of God had been made. A child had been born. A son had been given. From Samuel’s early childhood, he was taught to live for the Lord (1 Samuel 1, verses 27 and 28, and 1 Samuel 2, verses 11 1nd 18, and verses 21 and 26).

Beginnings are very important. It’s, also, very impoortant that we build on good beginnings. What a tragedy it would have been, if Samuel turned out like the sons of Eli (1 Samuel 2, verses 12 and 17, and verses 22 to 25). How we begin and how we continue: both are important. May God help each of us to begin with Him and go on with Him.

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