First Samuel is a book of new beginnings, a transition from the old ways of the judges to the new ways of the kings. The first chapter in this book paves the way for this transition through the recounting of the story of Samuel’s birth, the prophet God would use to usher in the monarchy in Israel. It begins with a story of prayer in which one childless woman, Hannah, begs God for a son. Her example teaches us key principles about presenting our prayers to God.
God Invites Us to Draw Near
First, we read in verse 10 that Hannah was “greatly distressed” and “prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” Hannah’s suffering drove her to the Lord, to the throne of grace. She had a longing so intense that she wept before Him, begging Him to answer her prayer.
Notice that when she offered her child up to the Lord, there was no guarantee she would have any more children. But when she offered her prayer to the Lord for children, she had a right awe of God. She knew the child would be a gift from God, not something done in her own power. And when she did eventually conceive and give birth, she demonstrated a deep sense of gratitude for what the Lord had done, dedicating Samuel when he was weaned.
Often God uses affliction to draw us to Himself. It’s often in the adversities of life that He gets our attention. These severe mercies shake us free of the illusion of our autonomy and remind us of our dependence on God. When things go well, it is too easy to believe that we deserve good. But when we experience difficulty, as Hannah did, we are reminded to draw near to God. When we do so, we should come before Him in awe of Him, presenting our prayers to God in the knowledge that He listens.
For more on how God uses suffering in our lives, check out Ken Boa and Jenny Abel’s Shaped by Suffering.
God Listens to Our Prayers
Another truth we see from this passage is that God is concerned with the things that matter to us. He cares about Hannah’s desire for a child, and He grants her request for a son. He listens to what we ask of Him.
This goes hand in hand with Philippians 4:6–7:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Now, as we share our thoughts and desires with Him, we also need to hold those desires with a loose grip. In many cases, we do not know what our best interests really look like. As a result, we should never turn a desire into a demand. Otherwise, we will be tempted to get angry with God if He doesn’t get through. But God is in control, and He knows what is best. Let us, then, present our requests to Him with thanksgiving, trusting Him for who He is.
This teaching is based on Ken’s Handbook to Scripture.