Hannah has always been one of my favorite names. Yes, it is my daughter’s name. And yes, we were inspired by Hannah in the Bible when choosing that name. Please read the entire story in 1st Samuel Chapter One to get the full picture. I’m just going to hit a few highlights of this amazing, admirable woman’s life.
Hannah shared a husband named Elkanah with a woman named Peninnah (interesting names, huh?). Hannah physically could not have children (which was severely looked down upon in that culture). Peninnah was able to have children – and would “taunt Hannah and make fun of her” (v.6) because she couldn’t. Elkanah wasn’t much help either. After finding Hannah crying and not eating because of her barrenness – he makes this clueless statement:
Why are you crying, Hannah? Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me – isn’t that better than having ten sons??? (1 Samuel 1:8) He might as well have said, “I’m Vinnie Barbarino!!!” (Welcome Back Kotter 70’s), “I’m Keith Hernandez” (Seinfeld 90’s) or “I’m Sheldon Cooper!!! (Big Bang Theory 2000’s).
Anyway, here are some key attributes we can learn from the life of Hannah.
- She pleaded intensely and honestly to God. Her praying was described as having “great anguish and sorrow” (v.16) and “I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord” (v.15). She even made this vow to God, ” . . . if you give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours his entire lifetime (v. 11). What a model for our prayer life. Do we lay our concerns, disappointments, and pain in front of God with upfront, raw, vulnerable truth and emotion? Or have we grown comfortable with cliched phrases, recited prayers, thee’s and thou’s, and bringing him our wish lists? As my friend says, “God is a big boy – he can take whatever you’ve got.” Plus, are we at that point where we can give up whatever he asks of us?
2) She made peace with God after getting it all out. Verse 18 says, “Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.” Just like a superstar athlete “leaves everything on the field” – she left everything with God. She got her appetite back and the sadness left her. That can only happen when we have a clear conscience and internal peace beyond our circumstances. She left that place still barren physically – but she also left trusting God and realizing only he could give her supernaturally what she was requesting. She chose to go on living her life and not let it be dictated by feelings.
3) She lived her life in the present moment. Micracuoulsy, God gave her a son (v.19,20) The tricky part was that she promised to “give him back to God” if he answered her prayer. Verses 24-27 show that she did that very thing. Here’s the deal – she learned to live every moment to the fullest with the baby before the time came to fulfill her promise. She enjoyed what she had instead of dreading what was coming in the future. There is no evidence of her having sorrow and anguish because she was going to have to eventually give him up. There are no examples of her backing out of her promise to God. She didn’t bargain with God or say, “Just kidding – do I really have to give him back to you???” She didn’t try to run and escape when the time came to deliver on her vow.
Hannah’s response is incomprehensible as she delivers the baby to the priest Eli for a lifelong commitment of service in the temple. “Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life. “And they worshipped the Lord there.“
Worship, seriously? Not a trace of crying, regret, or sadness? Not a plot to go back and snag the baby? No, here is her response instead, “My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong. . . ” (1 Samuel 2:1).
Conclusion – If you have a chance, also read 1st Samuel Chapter 2 verses 1-11 to see Hannah’s character on display in her prayer to God.
But the story doesn’t end there. The Bible talks about how God is able to do “exceedingly more than we ask or think . . .” (Ephesians 3:20). And the Lord blessed Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters! (1 Samuel 2:21) Wow! She went from barren to having The Brady Bunch!
Where in our lives to we need to turn something completely over to God? When do we need to start worshiping him instead of being made neutralized because of our circumstances? And where can we look back and see that God came through beyond our limited expectations? It starts with having a heart like Hannah.