(See part 1 of the series here, on Acts 4:23-30)
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed and 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."
1 Samuel 1:10-11
And Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord;
my mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation."
1 Samuel 2:1
In the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, we are invited on Hannah's rollercoaster ride of desperate prayer and deep joy. What an incredible thing that the beginning of the stories of Israel's kings focuses on a woman who wants to have a baby. Many will recognize some type of foreshadowing of the incarnation of our Savior. But on a more basic level, Hannah is simply a great model of the power of prayer.
Hannah's first prayer is short and desperate - like many of our best prayers - granting us a powerful picture of prayer being a wrestling match with God. She wisely recognizes the Godness of God by acknowledging His absolute Lordship over all the "hosts" or armies of men and angels. She asks for His attention ("look on the affliction of your servnat"), not because God isn't omniscient, but because His special, gracious attention is a powerful thing. And then she makes her request, "...give to your servant a son."
But Hannah goes further than many of us, even in our most desperate prayers. She not only pleads with the Lord, but promises Him new obedience in the form of a vow: she promises her son will live a holy and separate life unto God. While we need to be careful with the use of this tool – avoiding especially any hint of buying the free grace of God – it can be a wise and Biblical thing to consider making a vow to God during passionate seasons of prayer. If you do this, keep in mind Psalm 56:12, "I must perform my vows to you, O God..." and read through the Westminster Confession chapter 22 on "Lawful Oaths and Vows" to make certain you know what you're doing.
Hannah's second prayer (1 Sam. 2:1-10) is full of joy, powerful celebrations of God's victory and profound praise to God, revealing a faith which made Hannah much more centered on God than her motherly motivations. It shows us a Biblical pattern for responding when God says "Yes!" to our prayers. Many times we focus on how to respond to God's "No", when it may be just as difficult to respond well when God grants our request. We might learn from Hannah by meditating on the following questions:
Am I responding to God's grace with thanksgiving and praise?
How will I obey God in response to His "Yes"? Did I make any vows I need to keep? Does His gracious answer provide new ways to obey?
What does God's answer to my prayer teach me about Him? How is my faith meant to be strengthened by that knowledge?
What role does God's answer to my prayer play in His grand scheme of redemption? How does God want me to look beyond myself now that He's granted my request?
Hannah's example is worthy of emulation! Here we can learn how to wrestle with God deeply, preparing ourselves for obedience and responding to His grace with praise and outward-looking faith.