Sermon: Prayer Transcends Trouble (1 Samuel 1:1-20)

Remember, Prayer Transcends Trouble

1 Samuel 1:1-20

 

Have you ever been in a situation in which you knew you should pray, but for whatever reason you didn’t?  Have you ever simply forgotten to pray? Have you ever been in a terrible situation and so caught up in the circumstances that you forgot to call on the Lord? You were so busy trying everything else that you forgot that God stands ready to hear our pleas. 

I was in Cleveland a couple years ago attending a pastor’s conference.  I forgot to pray.  It wasn’t a real big deal, it wasn’t life or death, but I forgot to pray.  Imagine that, on your way to a pastor’s conference and forget to pray.  I was driving around the east side of Cleveland for a bout an hour not stopping to ask directions or to pray.  I was lost.  The road work was everywhere and signs were nowhere.  Finally, I remembered to pray.  It wasn’t long till I saw what I was looking for…a road sign that told me where to go.  God wanted me to forget my situation and remember Him.  All I was doing was thinking about being late and I was forgetting God.  Pray…

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (ESV) 

    There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite.  [2] He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

    [3] Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord.  [4] On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters.  [5] But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.  [6] And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.  [7] So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  [8] And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

    [9] After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord.  [10] She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.  [11] And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

    [12] As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.  [13] Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.  [14] And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put away your wine from you.”  [15] But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.  [16] Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”  [17] Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.”  [18] And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

    [19] They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.  [20] And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”

1)  Hannah’s Hurt   (1 Sam. 1:2)

[2] He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

She had almost everything a Jewish girl could want.  She had a husband of social standing.  She was well provided for.  She was genuinely loved by her husband.  However, she was living in a mess.  She was a part of major domestic disorder.

It happened every year.  Year after year it was the same thing.  There comes a time when a person has had enough.  Hannah’s husband Elkanah had another wife.  This other woman, Peninnah, was ruthless.  She constantly reminded Hannah that she was blessed while Hannah wasn’t.   There is only so much jeering and ridicule a person can take. 

Have you ever been there?

Hannah was married to Elkanah, but she didn’t have him, she shared him.  Not only did she share him, but she shared him with Peninnah, an overly fertile, mouthy thorn in the flesh.  Peninnah knew how to push Hannah’s buttons.  She could really get her goat.  Because it was evident Elkanah loved Hannah more, Penninah loved to continually remind Hannah of her fertility and Hannah’s infertility. 

Every year they went to the temple in Shiloh to worship.  The festive mood of the religious celebration only made it worse.  It added to Hannah’s disgrace.  She couldn’t bear children for her husband.  While she was to be focusing on God at the feast in Shiloh, all she could think about was her lack of children.

She was supposed to be there to worship, but worship seemed to be the farthest thing from her mind.  Her trouble was a wedge that separated her from her Lord.

Have you ever been in a place where some troubling circumstance has taken your thoughts?  You are consumed with the trouble. This trouble separates you from the joy you had in the Lord. Your trouble has become your obsession.

Can you imagine how some of the conversations may have gone in the household of Hannah and Peninnah? 

Mommy, why dosn’t Miss Hannah have children?  “What did you say dear?”  Peninnah, answers.  Why doesn’t Miss Hannah have children for us to play with?  I don’t know dear.  Doesn’t Miss Hannah want children?  Oh She wants them very much…don’t you Hannah? 

On and on it went, day after day, year after year the same.

Hannah literally means Grace.  She is mentioned first, because she was her husband’s beloved.

Then the order changes because Peninnah has given her husband children… many children. 

2)  Hannah’s History    (1 Sam. 1:3-8)

    [3] Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord.  [4] On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters.  [5] But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.  [6] And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.  [7] So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  [8] And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

In ancient Israel the greatest stigma in society was to be barren.  A wife that could not give her husband children was unable to allow her husband’s inheritance to remain in the family. 

Can you see this picture in your mind?  Elkannah would pass out the pieces of the sacrifice to all his family.  He would pass them out to his children, and in Hannah’s mind it would take forever.  Meaning well, he would come to Hannah and give her two pieces.  Trying to ease her pain, he only was making it worse.  This was the peak of Hannah’s pain.

The trip to Shiloh was a trip that made her pain unbearable.

If Hannah was only allowed to read verse five, she would have been given a bit of hope because this verse says; the Lord had closed her womb.  It wasn’t bad luck, it wasn’t chance, it wasn’t her husband’s fault, and most importantly it wasn’t her fault.  God closed her womb.  It wasn’t time for her to have children yet.  So often in Scripture we read about barren wives and then we read about great works of God. Their wombs were closed because God closed them. 

Sarah- Genesis 11:30 (ESV) Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

Rekbekah– Had no children for 25 years.

Manoah’s wife- Judges 13:3 (ESV)  And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 

Elizabeth- Luke 1:5-7 (ESV) In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  [6] And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.  [7] But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Every time God introduced a woman in the Bible and said she was barren, He introduces a miraculous birth.  Isn’t that just like God?

When God’s people begin with nothing but God, it is then He works.  God’s tendency is to take our total inability and make it His starting point. 

I remember a story of an old preacher down in Mountains.  He was well known.  What he was famous for was his prayers for ladies that could not have children.  Many women would go to him and through his prayers would have children.  He tells the story that on one occasion he was preaching on this passage.  At the end of the sermon he felt there were some women in the church who were not able to have children.  So, he asked all the women to stand.  He meant to say, would all the ladies who would like to have a baby please stand so we can pray for you.  Instead he asked for all the women to stand.  It wasn’t until his prayer started, it happened.  He recounts the story, He said when I got to the part that I said Lord, I ask that you would give all the women who are standing a baby.  He said you would have thought someone was firing a machine gun in the sanctuary…they were falling very quickly.

3)  Hannah’s Heart   (1 Sam. 1:9-20)

    [9] After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord.  [10] She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.  [11] And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

This message isn’t about having children or not having children; it is seeing a sovereign God and coming to Him with empty hands and a broken heart.  God loves people in such estate. 

With nowhere else to turn, she remembers.  The reason for her being in Shiloh was to meet with God, but she was so wrapped up in her trouble, she forgot.  With nowhere else to turn, Hannah turns to God.  Fleeing Peninnah’s cruel mockery, she found a peaceful place in God.  No one understood her pain except the Lord.  The priest of God didn’t even understand the pain in her heart. 

She only had one place to turn.  Have you ever been in a place where the only person you could turn to was God?  Have you ever cried bitterly before God?  Maybe it hasn’t been so long ago?  Maybe you’re there now?

Hannah knows that God is O Lord of hosts.  Hannah knew she would live up to her name, Grace, if she called upon the Sovereign Lord. 

The Bible says she is praying but not saying a word.

    [12] As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.  [13] Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 

Another soused woman from the feast, or so Eli thought.  However, it was Hannah’s heart cry to God.  She didn’t need to pray out loud, there was no one except God who could help her anyway.

She was pouring out her heart before God.  God hears our prayers.

After her prayer, her heart was focused.  After we pray, we are placed back on the playing field of God’s sovereignty.  Prayer doesn’t get us things, it shows us things.  Hannah was comforted because she realized that God was in control.  Her fear and disappointment left because she met with God.  The Lord filled the void in hear broken heart. She learned that day in prayer that waiting for God to answer was much easier when she trusted God. He was the One she longed for and probably didn’t even know it. Her downward spiral of obsession was broken when she met with the One who had closed her womb. 

 [18] And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

 find favor-  She found Grace from God.   Grace found grace.

Her heart had met with God’s heart, she was no longer sad.  Peninnah’s jeering didn’t affect her as much now.  The thought of her worthlessness disappeared because God showed her His love.  Grace found grace.

She was now above her circumstances.  She transcended her despair.

She now placed herself on God’s time table, she rested in His plan.

[20] And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”

How can we live as we wait for the Lord to answer our prayers? We see with eyes of faith and with a heart that trusts God supremely. When Christ becomes our treasure everything else is placed in order. We’re not anxious, inpatient, or irritable. God becomes our supreme possession and everything else falls away.

Are you in a situation that has you in despair? Why not spend some quality time with God and allow His presence in your life set things back in prospective.

God will answer prayer…sometimes He answers immediately and sometimes He answers… in due time.

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