There have always been seasons when the people of God have seemed to be on their last legs – and have needed significant spiritual revival to keep going. 1 Samuel 1 takes place at such a time in Israel. This is a time of spiritual decay. Even worse, there don’t seem to be any good spiritual leaders who are able to bring about change. There’s no king (Judg. 21:25) to rally the people, and the priests aren’t living as godly role models (1 Sam. 2:12).
However, despite this pervasive negative spiritual atmosphere, God is still at work to bring change. The change doesn’t come, though, through the spiritual hierarchy of Eli the priest and his family, but through the simple and desperate prayer of a bullied and barren woman, Hannah. This is God’s surprise in the story. Her ‘bitterness of soul’ (v. 10) in childlessness leads her not to unbelief but to prayer (v. 11). For Hannah, anxiety and disappointment don’t serve as barriers to prayer but, on the contrary, they become her spiritual rocket fuel!
This prayer has a greater significance, though. It will, remarkably, be the means by which God raises up a new leader, Samuel (v. 20), who will bring the much-needed spiritual change to Israel. We should be encouraged by this to see our prayers in light of God’s big global plans and purposes. Forgotten, harassed and unimportant people on their knees in prayer are more powerful than princes and priests.
As she promised (v. 11), Hannah, with supreme faith, dedicates the precious answer to her prayer, her only son, to the Lord (vv. 24–28). She teaches us that we really can dare to give over the most valuable things in our lives to the Lord, even when they’ve been given to us miraculously! We have even better reasons to do so than Hannah because we’ve experienced our God giving up and dedicating his own precious Son for us. Hannah gave her son up to temple service, but the Father gave up his Son to the cross for our sake.
1. Why is prayer so powerful?
2. Is there anything in your life that you’re refusing to give away to the Lord for his use? How does the Father’s offering up of his Son change your heart on this?