Prayers of Anguish
Gracious Lord, help me to see my years as a hallowed trust, and to see Your Kingdom and its righteousness as the end toward which I move.
Read 1 Samuel 1:1-28
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psa. 55:22). That great verse in yesterday’s psalm has insight for today’s reading!
“There was a certain man … from the hill country … He had two wives” (1,2) is an inauspicious opening to a book that leads on to David’s reign in Jerusalem, just as “a virgin [in Nazareth] pledged to be married to a man named Joseph” (Luke 1:27) is an unexpected introduction to the story of Jesus. God’s ways are not bound by human ideas of status, worthiness and significance. This is highlighted as focus shifts to Hannah, the first wife, who after many years has not borne children, a matter of failure and shame in her culture. Worse, the second wife, Peninnah, with her many children aggravates Hannah’s pain, continuing “year after year” to “provoke her” (6,7). Even Elkanah, who loves her, can only question her attitude to him (8, Peninnah’s taunting presence is a reminder he wanted children). Eli the priest, without seeking clarification, assumes she is drunk. Like many through to today, Hannah is alone in her grief, but she turns to God. She finds assurance and relief in prayer and in Eli’s subsequent blessing. In due time “the Lord remembered her” (19) and Samuel is born.
“It is tremendously encouraging to all who feel their misery is not understood … to know that the account itself and, more especially, the Lord who stands behind the account, do not share Elkanah’s [and Eli’s] limitations” (Mary J. Evans, The Message of Samuel). Like Job and the writer of Psalm 88, Hannah turns to the God who is ultimately behind her situation (twice, vs. 5,6) knowing that he alone understands the depth of anguish and grief, and can bring the solution. Unlike Peninnah’s superior taunting or Eli’s ready categorization or Elkanah’s inability to understand, the Lord does not despise the plea of the destitute (Psa. 102:17). His answer may surprise us in its results.
Do you grieve? Bring your pain again to God. Do others near you suffer? Pray that you might see through their eyes and share appropriately in their anguish.
Loving Lord, You are more eager to listen and respond than I am to pray. Renew my trust in You as I remember that my life is in Your hands.