Created to Belong: Hannah's Prayers
October 16, 2016
Preaching: Nate Schipper
Text: 1 Samuel 1:9-11; 2:1-10
Context before reading:
This morning… Continue our journey through the Old testament considering how God has brought people to Belong to Himself and to one another…
1. Started back in September with message of Genesis – God created us to belong
2. Promise of a People that belong to one another – Abraham – Family was created
3. The story of Joseph reminded us of the humanity of this family – conflict would exist
4. The family became a people group as they broke out of Egypt and entered into the wilderness
5. People group was given a set of rules after being set free from rule of Egyptians to mark themselves distinctly from other people groups but as a group that belongs to God
6. This mornings text comes from Samuel – we have jumped over a few books and now the people are settled in the promised land. The promised land does not make them an idyllic community in fact the book of Jduges which sets the stage for Samuel ends with the line “All the people did as they pleased…” Things were not good for Israel.
So our reading comes from this place – a people settled in Israel but a people in distress…
Read 1 Samuel 1-2:10 – others…
Story of Kids – mirror
Kids have a way of revealing to us our own tendencies/habits and even idiosyncrasies.
This can be both humiliating at times and comforting at others. This past week I realized a tendency I have in my prayers through the prayers of my daughter. In our normal bedtime routine we shared a prayer together giving thanks for what God had done in the day. We expressed our thankfulness to God for the things on our heart and then I asked God to be with some of our friends going through hard times. I asked Eva – Do you want to pray for anyone?
“Thank you God for my friend Evie who is sick and thank you that I don’t have any scary dreams”
Maybe some of us adults are thankful when certain people get sick in our lives but my hunch is that my 6 year old’s capacity for occasional spite isn’t that high.
Eva mirrored back to me my tendency to say “Thank you” often in my prayers. The prefix to all prayers- thanksgiving and supplication - in Eva’s mind, as modeled by her dad, is thank you…
In her memoir on life and brutally honest prayer - “Travelling Mercies,” Anne Lamott says that the two best prayers she knows are:
Help me, help me, help me, and
Thank you Thank you Thank you”
As I reflected on Hannah’s prayers from 1 Samuel 1 and 2 I couldn’t help but notice that her two prayers seem to fall in these two categories: Help me Help me Help me and TY TY TY
Help Me Help me Help me
Before the first of Hannah’s prayers in verse 11 we learn a lot about who she is….
Hannah is married to the well off Elkanah
- Family lineage is described – not random – comes from respect
- Annual pilgrimage to Shiloh – Tabernacles “permanent” spot until temple is built
- Not lack of access to resources – likely lives a good materialistic life
- problem is she is barren
1. Disappointment of family’s expectations for a son – an heir to Elkanah’s name
2. Shame associated with not having kids – seen as a curse from God – can’t have kids because of something you did.
Never say someone is cursed by god for not being able to have children – know enough about the challenges of having kids and the science behind it – BUT I know families who feel a great deal of DISSAPOINTMENT and SHAME around not being able to have kids…
- Heart breaks for those who like Hannah struggle with infertility
- Incredibly Isolating experience- something so personal and so painful that it can be impossible to let others in…
- Most of the time not invited into that pain/struggle into a pregnancy is lost or the last attempt is made…
- Which is why – Christian ministries have been created to walk alongside of families
- I found it interesting that so many of their websites offered lists of what NOT to say to these families and specifically the women ---- NOT a list of ONE Liners…
Warnings served as cautions for those honored with the invitation into someone’s struggle with infertility.
Well Elkanah could have used their advice….
- He seemed to DO and SAY the wrong things…
First he shows favoritism to Hannah – good for her maybe to be honored and shown double love during her time of grief at sacrifice BUT this only fueled the flame of resentment between Hannah and Penninah. Penninah who seems to have everything - husband, kids, good life – see’s herself as marginalized in favor of Hannah who doesn’t even have kids! OF course she provokes her – you get double portion of food and sacrifce for yourself and I have to share a single portion between all my kids and I! Not only that you don’t even eat your double portion… In the midst of her insecurity she pokes fun of Hannah…
Hannah’s response is grief and sadness… She is already down and then gets publically mocked year after year as her and her husbands other family sacrifice and eat…
SECOND he says the wrong things! In the midst of Hannah’s deep sadness and pain Elkanah comes over and asks her 4 questions like the bonehead husband who wants to fix her so he can have fun!
Why are you crying? - DUH
Why are you not eating the double portion I gave you?
Why is your heart sad – wasn’t all that food enough?
And if the food thing wasn’t enough he goes on…
Aren’t I as good as 10 sons?
“I mean, look what you got in me?? Look at THIS? Ain’t I good enough for you mama?”
Elky Elky Elky…. Cmon man! In the midst of your wife’s shame and disappointment you turn the table on yourself! Reluctant to give any advice from this text but the one bit I would offer is Try not be like Elkanah – don’t spin anothers person’s pain back on yourself- don’t try to fix them and then blame them when your efforts don’t work!
Hannah- filled with pain, shame, disappointment and now has no one to turn to… Loved one’s don’t get her, no friends to turn to, and the family she longs for is absent…
Have you been there? Are you there today? Filled with dissapointment or shame about where your life is? Hurting in isolation? Grieving what could have been? Curious if your life can ever turn around? Waiting and waiting and waiting some more on God?
Hannah’s prayer is for you, for us..
‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death…’
Hannah asks god to remember her – don’t forget me. In the midst of my pain answer me! Hannah prays the first of Anne Lamotts favorite prayers…
HELP me Help me Help me.
How many years has she prayed? How long have you been praying for something?
Stuck here… btw hannah’s 2 prayers… This story is written with hindsight in mind.. It knows the good news of the story is that Hannah has a son… but our lives don’t have that luxury… How many of us are still praying?
How many of us still pray for a miraculous healing?
How many of us still struggle with God for a child?
How many of us still long for a better day?
How many of us wait with no sign of a miracle in sight?
How I wish Hannah’s prayer/story had some magic bullet – some way to relieve the pain you and I go through…. Some way to neatly make sense of the pain with a pithy saying to neatly tie up the loose ends of your life. I searched but I can’t find it.
Miracles do not ALWAYS happen. SOMETIMES they do, sometimes the child is born, sometimes the disease is healed, sometimes the lost come home… Sometimes they don’t
God ALWAYS does hear our prayer. God is BIG enough to hear our lament, God can handle our frustration and still calls us his children. Our prayers are heard and we still Belong to God.
Second Prayer Thank YOU
Hannah’s second prayer to the miracle she experiences is a song of praise and thanksgiving.
OR as Anne Lamott would say in her other favorite prayer:
Thank you Thank you thank you
Her praise is not a silent prayer at the corner of the temple door post – public song of praise she can’t help but bust into…
I want to make a couple observations on her prayer and tten we will be done…
1. Her prayer is not a prayer of thanksgiving for the gifts she was given but to the GIVER OF THE GIFTS!
a. First verse: “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exulted in my God”
b. Not thank you for this baby who is my hope and strength, but thank you for who you are!
c. Her life is THEO-CENTRIC – literally centered on God – God gives and takes away she prays. It is God, as troubling as that is at times, that is at the center of Hannah’s prayer.
2. Hannah’s prayer is so similar to Mary’s song in Luke 1 and Psalm 13 that it is fair to assume that she is praying a song (or even a Psalm) that is used in worship.
a. In the midst of our thankfulness and in the midst of our pain we too can pray the book of prayer – the Psalms. When we do not know how to pray, when we aren’t sure what words to say, the Living word can be our prayer.
3. Hannah’s prayer is a sign of the coming Kingdom
a. The body of her prayer – the bulk of it right in the middle is a prayer announcing God’s justice that will someday reign fully. In the midst of Israel’s mess, in the midst of their own brokenness, and amidst their marginalization by the surrounding kingdoms, Hannah prays to the God who will:
i. Break the bows of the mighty
ii. Feeds the hungry
iii. Breath life into the barren
iv. Makes the poor rich
b. Hannah’s prayer is a prayer of hope that a king is coming, yes the writer has in mind king david, but we know that King david is just a foretaste of the true king that would also soon be born of a woman in despair. A time is coming Hannah says, a time is coming we say, when the kingdoms of THIS world will no longer reign but God’s kingdom will reign.
Whether we pray Help me Help me Help me, or we are in a place where we can pray thank you thank you, we pray in the face of hopelessness to the one who can bring life out of despair, brokenness, shame and disappointment. We pray to the Triune God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
God you are the giver of life, who has been risen from the dead. Breathe your life giving spirit into our bodies that we may experience your love and grace anew. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.