The story of Hannah, found in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, is remarkable and memorable at best. She prayers with a fervor that is like no other.
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” I Samuel 1:10-20 NIV
Hannah was one of two wives to Elkanah. Hannah had no children, a concern that weighed heavy on her mind and heart. Verse 5, tells us that for whatever reason, the Lord hadn’t blessed her with children.
Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, had children and chose to pick at her and put Hannah down.
“…the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.” I Samuel 1:5
This was bullying to the extreme. It was so bad that Hannah couldn’t eat! You can imagine the grief and heartache Hannah experienced. Elkanah tried to console her. He obviously loved her. This chapter is specific in saying Elkhanah cared for Hannah, even giving her a double portion of meat to sacrifice.
But Hannah was looking for something different – a child. She had a dream, an ardent desire, a true longing of the heart to have a child.
Most of us can relate to Hannah. We might not grieve to have a child, but we all have dreams. We all have that one pressing heartache for something to come true.
In our day and age, we live in a society that encourages us to follow our dreams, chase them at all costs and run after them, work for them, don’t give them up or let them die.
Although these are all very positive aspirations and sentiments, Hannah’s story and her example tells us to go about our dreams differently.
Hannah’s story teaches us to lay our dreams down, to let them die in order for God to resurrect them in His way and timing.
In verses 10 and 12, Hannah desperately prays and pleads for a son. She is found in the temple praying and Eli, the priest, sees her in anguish. Hannah explains to him that she was overcome with grief. She was so overcome that Eli thought she was talking to herself, intoxicated and under the influence of alcohol. Again, the dream of having a son was extremely special and important to Hannah.
You have to assume that Hannah had this dream for a while and that this wasn’t the first time she prayed for a son. But for some reason, this prayer was different – different enough to be recorded in scripture and different enough to get God’s attention. What makes this prayer so special is in her vow to lay Samuel down and offer him back to the Lord.
The traditional dream would have probably been to have a son, raise him, care for him, watch him grow and mature, have his own family and possibly Hannah would live with him when Elkanah died.
However, Hannah gave up that dream and to say, “OK God, I give you my son, whom I don’t even have yet. I trust that you’ll fulfill my heart’s desire you way and in your time.”
And God does just that!
The first lesson we learn from Hannah is that we need to let go, lay down our dreams and trust that if God chooses and that dream is from Him, He’ll be the one to raise it up and make it happen — in His way and in His time.
That’s exactly what God did for Hannah. Once she vowed to give Samuel, the son she hadn’t even conceived yet, back to God, big things started happening.