Posts tagged ‘comfort’

Lessons in Prayer – Hannah

I don’t know about you, but I really like to learn by example. It is one thing to give me the theory verbally or in writing, but there is nothing as effective as following that up with actually demonstrating how something is done. In many ways, when we have Scripture that teaches a doctrine, it is great when we can see that doctrine lived out in a practical way. Such is the case with Hannah in First Samuel chapter 1. The Old Testament is there for our learning and instruction, so let’s see what we can learn from her.
1 Samuel 1:1-20
1 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 your wine away 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.”


I. When others constantly remind you of your shame or situation, pray. (vs. 6-7)
In that culture, not having children was considered a curse from God and those who were childless were assumed to have done something wrong. This is not so much a case of bullying as it is reminding and reinforcing someone’s shame.
We do this when we remind someone often of things in there life that are their own fault. Whatever we do, we should strive to never be the cause of increased pain for someone who is suffering inside or out. Walking in love means we need to be part of the solution, and we have not business reminding anyone of their problem if we are not prepared to be part of the solution.
Peninah was merely restating what Hannah thought was true and increasing her pain. She probably felt justified in what she was saying, because after all, she was correct. But rather than lashing out or retaliating, Hannah took it before the Lord in prayer.


II. When others mean well but say the wrong thing, pray. (v. 8)
Elkanah truly meant well and probably wanted Hannah to feel better, but some things are better left unsaid. Elkanah was trying to comfort his wife, but totally bungled the attempt. In some cases, perhaps most cases, it is better to just be there praying with someone than to say something well intentioned that increases their pain.
If this happens to you, rather than rebuking the person, pray!


III. When you hurt so much that you cannot find the words to say, pray! (vs. 10-13)
When we pour out our hearts to God and cannot find the words to say, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf before the Father and communicate in our place.

(Romans 8:26-27)
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
A broken and contrite heart is precious in the eyes of God and He has promised to pay attention to our prayers. (Isaiah 57:15)
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Be confident in this. God is true to His Word, and will comfort you in your affliction as you pour out your heart to Him in prayer.


IV. When others misunderstand or misinterpret your pain, pray! (vs. 14-15)
In the midst of pouring her heart out to God, Eli steps in with his man made wisdom and tells her to quit drinking. Be careful about making assumptions about the cause or severity of someone else’s pain. It is much more helpful to find out the facts than to jump in with something inane to give as advice.
People may misunderstand your pain or offer you the wrong advice. Pray anyway!


V. When you want your pain to somehow bring glory or God, pray! (v. 11)
Hannah was so desperate for a child that she vowed to offer him to God. How often do we pray for things and tell the Lord that we will use it for His purposes? It is fine to pray for a house and promised the Lord that it will be a place of refuge for the hurting or a place where my neighbors can come and learn about the Gospel. Or pray for the Lord to give you a car, and promise that you will use it to go and teach others, give rides to the doctor or to worship for those who need it. You can see what I am getting at here. If we are praying for something that we cannot use to further the “Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (John 6:30), should be be asking for it at all?


VI. When we have finished leaving our situation and are waiting for the answer, get up and worship God. (vs. 18-19)
No matter what our situation, need or circumstance, the Lord is always worthy of our worship. Once we have left our petition in His hands, arise and worship Him in gratitude for the answer, no matter what that answer will be. When we are going through a crisis, we need the encouragement and strength that only our brothers and sisters in Christ can bring. God put us in a family for a reason. Rather than staying away, come and be encouraged by the saints!


Hannah has much to teach us, and her request was granted by God, who caused her to give birth to a mighty man of God named Samuel. Rest in the Lord, and above all else, no matter what life throws at you, remember that the most important thing you can do is this. Pray!

The Crucible of Grief

“Why?”
It’s a question that leaps to the forefront of our thinking when we are confronted with a situation of pain and anguish. Especially when that situation involves the loss of a child. It’s difficult enough to bury your parents, but in the back of our minds we always knew we would someday. But it is totally unnatural to bury a child. There is a level of pain involved that never completely leaves us during this lifetime. We learn to cope and work through the pain, but the empty spot in our souls remains.
The songwriter Dana put it this way in a song about how Mary felt watching Jesus’ death:
I rocked him as a baby
I fed him as a child
I heard him call my name out in the night
I helped him take his first step
I cried when I heard his first words
I wish they all could see through a Mother’s eyes

There is no pain as acutely intense as that what a parent feels at the loss of their child. But our Heavenly Father knows how we feel at such a time, because he watched as his Son was illegally tried, falsely accused, and brutally murdered.

But we must never, not even for a little bit, think that the presence of pain is the absence of God. Jesus went to Bethany to comfort Martha and Mary after the death of their brother Lazarus. He came and wept with them, even though he knew he was going to resurrect Lazarus!
In Romans, Paul instructed Christians this way:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 NASB)

When ministering to someone who has lost a loved one, especially a child, there is nothing you can do or say that will make it all better. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and will accomplish His mission. But sometimes it is very comforting to have someone who is there to weep with you, like Paul said to do. That is even more meaningful if you have been through a similar loss in your past.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 NASB)

If you have suffered a loss in the past, don’t keep the comfort that was given to you all to yourself. Pass it on to another one who is suffering. Make sure they know that they are not alone. Just “be there” for them and take care of details so they can focus on the grieving process.

The sun will shine again, and life will go on. Know that you are not alone for you have brothers and sisters in Christ, and most of all, you are under the care of the Comforter. And when you feel like you have hit bottom, you are resting upon God!
“The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms”
(Deuteronomy 33:27a NASB)

In memory of Sarah Elizabeth Reeves

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