Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. (Luke 18:1)
There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zupha in the hill country of Ephraim. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.
Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to God of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of God at that time was Eli. On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because God had given her no children. So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because God had kept her from having children. Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat.
Sometimes, we do everything right before God and toward people, but things do not happen as we expect, which is a real pain in our hearts. Enduring such a pain is a real burden to our hearts, because there is nobody truly understanding the pain. However, the world does not stop there. There is always someone who add our pain by rubbing slat into the deep wound in our heart. Hannah had to go through this pain year after year. She prayed to God, but nothing was changed. For the year, she could to bear the pain any longer. She was in tears, and could not eat because the pain in her heart was unbearably great.
“Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah, her husband, would ask. “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?”
Her husband loved Hannah, and comforted her by telling his love to Hannah. For many past years, she was comforted by this loving and kind word of her husband, but that year was different. Her husband’s comforting voice did not register her ears at all, because her anguish was so deep, which had been accumulating many years in her heart. There was no room anymore in her heart. Her extreme anguish completely occupied her heart. In fact, no one, even her husband, could not comfort her heart. Her heart was completely out of touch, even to her husband. Have we gone to such a deep pain and anguish like Hannah? Surely some had.
Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray to God. She ran into the Tabernacle. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah had no heart to recognize Eli the priest. Coming in to the Tabernacle, he immediately bowed down before God as if she were collapsing because she was in deep anguish. She could not stop crying, and her cry was so bitter. She pour out her anguish heart as she prayed to God. The anguish that even her husband could not tame had she had poured out her before God. Initially, she could not tell whether she was actually praying or not. What she did was just emptying her heart. God, who was always merciful, heard her without missing even one single word from her mouth. God carefully paid attention to her prayer. She spread out her anguish one by one before God. God patiently heard her, and mercifully touched her heart, as she continued her prayer.
As she was praying, God continuously ministered her heart as she was empting her heart in anguish in tears. (Yes, Our God is really patient and full of mercy. God truly listens to our prayer whenever we pour our heart to Him. Why? He is our One and Only, Ever-Loving Father.) Hannah was venting her pain and anger in her heart to God. The merciful God was right next her, and patiently took out her pain and anguish in her heart. The tender and merciful hand of God touched her. She was completely in God’s hand as she pouring out her heart. God mended her broken heart to whole again.
And she made this vow: “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut.” She realized who God was, and she secretly made her vow to God with all of her heart and mind.
While praying deeply with God, She completely forgot Eli the priest, who was sitting in the Tabernacle. As she was praying to God, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”
She suddenly realized she was in the middle of the Tabernacle. Till the very moment, there was nothing between her and God. Except God and herself, nothing existed because her prayer was so sweet and comforting. God’s mercy touched her, and she was comforted. Her experience of God’s mercy was a secret between her and God, hidden to others even including Eli, the priest. Without knowing this, Eli thought that she was drunk because her lips moving without her voice. In fact, she was talking to God with all her heart and mind. She was talking to God, not a person on earth. Hannah’s prayer was silent to the ears of Eli, but it was loudly heard by God. Bible tells People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b) Amen to God, who sees the center of our heart, and answers our prayer from the deepest part of our heart.
Quickly posturing herself, “Oh no, sir!” Hannah replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the LORD. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.” Hannah response was brief and factual. Why? There was no word matching her precious experience with God in her prayer. Her heart’s pain and anguish were gradually melt away like an ice-covered lake exposed its fresh water as a warm spring sun rose. Then her heart was filled with God’s warm mercy and love. Her heart uttered a vow secretly to God with all her heart and mind.
“In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” (1 Samuel 1:17) Eli quickly dropped his suspicion. Instead, he gave God’s blessing. This voice was not from Eli, but from God. “Go in peace!” God knew her heart, and God grant His peace to her. The peace was for Hannah, and for those who faithfully believed Him. In her faith, Hannah looked up God as if a female slave look to the hand of her mistress. God answered her prayer.
Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad. (1 Samuel 1:18) Upon hearing Eli’s answer, she responded with thanks to Eli in joy because she truly believed. She knew she was barren, but she believed that she would have a son. She no longer revisited again and again the pain and the anguish in her heart. Instead, she fixed her eyes on God, and believed having her own baby. She was freed from her past bondage of the heart pain and anguish. Now she was in joy with God. Then she went back to her life and ate again. She was no long sad because she truly believed God and His mighty and merciful hand would give her baby.
I lift up my eyes to you,
to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,
for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end
of ridicule from the arrogant,
of contempt from the proud. (Psalm 123)
Praise God! His mercy endures forever. Sing praise the name of God, who hears our prayers when we are in pain and anguish in our hearts. Our God is merciful. He helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. Our eyes of all look to God in hope. God answers our prayer from the deepest part of our heart with His mercy and love. Praise Him, the One and Only One Our Ever-Loving God!