by Jerram Barrs
Chapter 10: Hannah: A Woman of Prayer
What, did you forget I was supposed to be hosting a book discussion here? Oh no? I guess that was me. I just looked and realized I'm an entire MONTH behind. I shake my head at myself. My profuse apologies to the two faithful ladies who have simply been waiting on me to get my act together. Next time I'll just suggest the two of you do a book discussion on your own without me because clearly I can't be trusted.
Now then, the chapter.
Before specifically getting to the story of Hannah, Jerram reminds us on page 156, "All the stories in the Bible and all the teaching of God's Word rest on this understanding of what is central in our lives. How faithful is God to us, and in return how faithful are we to him and to one another?" I was taken in by this reminder. It isn't always what I think of when I read God's Word. It needs to be.
One of the major things I've appreciated about the chapters we've read so far has been the emphasis placed on historical setting. I've been taught for so long that the Bible is a rule book to follow and indeed, there are many passages of exhortation on how we are to live. But if the Bible is only a rule book, then what do I do with the passages that tell of lifestyles I would never want? How do I reconcile the way the people lived with what I believe to be the way God really wants us to live? Those stories aren't told in such a way as to be rules for us to follow, but they are told so that we see the faithfulness of God unfold in the midst of their own historical context. On page 159 Jerram says, "The biblical text does not approve of polygamy; rather it simply recounts what took place." That helps me a lot.
This story of Hannah is really sad in the beginning. She is married and childless and lives in a culture in which it was considered necessary and essential to have male children to carry on the family name. A male child was needed to preserve the family name and inherit the land. Hannah's husband, Elkanah, feels this need and since Hannah is barren, he takes a second wife.
Just as we saw with Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar and with Jacob, Rachel, and Leah, this arrangement is not ideal. It produces tension and trouble (can you just imagine? It makes me sick to my stomach to imagine an arrangment like that). Elkannah's second wife, Peninnah taunts and provokes Hannah because she has children while Hannah does not.
While attending a feast Hannah goes into the tabernacle alone to pray. On page 163 Jerram says, "Many times Scripture lets us know that it is perfectly acceptable for us to tell God what we are feeling. God desires that we be honst with him, even when our hearts are full of bitterness. He is not perturbed or critcal even when we tell him of our deepest disappointments and of our hidden sorrows and anguish. He already knows what we think, and he knows the hidden hurts within our souls."
I so wish I had someone to tell me this with M10 was M4 and in the hospital with a collapsed lung about to undergo a pretty risky procedure and subsequent 8 day stay in the PICU. When I ventured to tell a close friend that I was pretty angry with God that week, I was shut down pretty fast with a "God gives and God takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord" speech. What could have been a healing conversation turned into me being scared to share my hurt and heart with anybody.
Later on in this chapter, Jerram reflects on Hannah's song and he says, "We need to think about our sorrows and our joys and about God's answers to our prayers in this same way. We should use our personal experience to write our own public prayers, songs, or testimonies, so that they become prayers, songs, and testimonies that can communicate to others what God has done for us. Many of the Psalms are like this. It is this public declaration of private experience that enables us to relate so readily to the Psalms and to use them so freely for our own prayers."
I wonder if some form of blog writing can even be this way? Certainly not all, but some?
The last major thing I was struck by from this chapter was the willingness with which Hannah kept her promise. The one thing she longed for was a child. And he was the very thing she willingly gave away. "In this way Hannah pictures to us God's giving his Son to us, his beloved Son."
To read thoughts from the rest of the book, click below: