Power in Prayer and Benediction

Rejoicing Women - Fourth in a Series

There are mysteries hard to fathom in the story of Hannah, whose prayer of rejoicing is viewed as prophecy by Rabbis and Christian commentators alike, both who see the Messiah in view in 1 Samuel 2:10.

Why does God delay childbirth when he has a significant plan in store? Why did he honor Hannah's vow, not within earshot of her husband who could have overruled it — a vow that resulted in separating a child from his parents at too early an age? Would God ever accept a child as a barter?

These questions are mostly apart from our topic of Rejoicing Women except as they relate to her vow. If her words of rejoicing were prophetic, what of her words in prayer as she cried silently to God for a man child? She promised he would be a Nazarite, devoted to the Lord.

Yes, her agonized prayer was prophetic, for only God could achieve such a steady heart as Samuel had. No amount of upbringing, prayer or desire could ever create a Samuel; God authored Hannah's vow.

As her story opens in 1 Samuel 1, we find that her husband, Elkanah, a Levite by ancestry, had two wives, Peninnah, with many children, and barren Hannah. Annually they traveled to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord, where the ark was. It is early noted that Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, the priest, were there (1 Sam 1:3). Their behavior made it necessary to raise Samuel to serve in their place, for they were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord. (1 Sam 2:12)

Elkanah gave a double portion of meat for sacrifice to Hannah, so she could better entreat God for forgiveness and help. It angered Peninnah who would provoke her to tears. (1 Sam 1:7)

One year, Hannah was distressed beyond endurance, and made her prophetic vow, O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon 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. (1 Sam 1:11)

Her strenuous posture in prayer caused Eli to exhort her to stop drinking wine. She then explained, Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief. Eli then said, Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him. (1 Sam 1:16, 17)

God had closed Hannah's womb until his priest could be involved in benediction on her behalf, and not long after, she gave birth to Samuel. After weaning him she returned to fulfill her vow, stating to Eli, As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD. (1 Sam 1:26-28)

Eli worshipped in response, and Hannah rejoiced in prayer, My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. (1 Sam 1:2)

Hannah's song, which we will consider in the next post, celebrates the Lord as a deliverer.

Are you in need of a deliverance? Is there a problem in your life that has existed a long time, and you cannot find a way to resolve it? Have you given up on praying? Are you confused in your heart with your lack of certainty in matters that do require assurance?

In Hannah's song, may you gain new strength to seek once more for the help you need.

to be continued

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

Ninth in The Lord's Prayer Series, "The best prayer to pray in times of stress"

We are promising God that as He forgives us, so shall we forgive others. We will not expect his mercy and fail to model it; we will extend mercy to those who hate and offend us, in most cases.*

The parable of the annoyingly persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) comes to mind. There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man... (vs 1)

The widow continually went before a judge saying, Avenge me of my adversary. (vs 3) The judge ignored her for a while, but then thought to himself: Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. (vss 4, 5)

And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (vss 6-8)

There is a vast difference between the judge who did not fear God nor care for man and our LORD who IS God and LOVES man. The widow was right to be persistent, but here the analogy seems to end. Our LORD knows the help we need. He is not forgetful or indifferent. If our prayers say to him that we feel he has a stony heart, that we are disappointed in his sense of timing, that we feel he should see our plight just as we see it, that we have judged He is remiss, then we are insulting him.

Prayer is not badgering. Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when he comes?

Anger and bitterness against those who have transgressed against us engenders stress. Pleading with God to PLEASE help us forgive, for we CANNOT, also builds stress. When unable to forgive after much prayer, then pray for more of the Holy Spirit. As we are filled we will gain victory over resentment. We will have strength and ease to forgive 70 times seven offenses.

*They who would rightly pray to God for pardon must pardon those who wrong them. Joseph (Gen. 50:14-21) and Stephen (Acts 7:60) are conspicuous examples. We need to pray much for God to remove all bitterness and malice from our hearts against those who wrong us. But to forgive our debtors does not exclude our rebuking them, and, where public interests are involved, having them prosecuted. It would be my duty to hand over a burglar to a policeman, or to go to law against one who was able but who refused to pay me (Rom. 13:1-8). If a fellow citizen is guilty of a crime and I do not report it, then I become an accessory to that crime. I thus betray a lack of love for him and for society (Lev. 19:17, 18). - A. W. Pink

Give us this day our daily bread

Eighth in The Lord's Prayer Series, "The best prayer to pray in times of stress"

Let's envision a scenario where we may need food and have none. It will be a comfort then to recall the Lord's encouragement to pray for daily bread. Yes "…it is permissible and lawful to supplicate God for temporal mercies." (-A. W. Pink).

In this request we will remember the widow of Zarephath to whom the prophet Elijah was sent during a famine to seal his survival with hers. We will look at this story for a few insights in addition to the Lord’s Prayer petition that we are studying in this post. Man does not live by bread alone…!

Israel was in a drought. The Lord had commanded Elijah, to proclaim: As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word. (1Ki 17:1) Then he removed himself to an area with a brook and was fed by ravens, but the brook dried up. This part of Scripture has comforted me over the years. Yes, God does provide brooks in our lives, and yes, at times they dry up and we must move on.

Then, God told him: Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you. (1Ki 17:9)

The widow lived in Phoenicia, an area just north of Israel also affected by the drought. When Elijah arrived, he asked her for water. She went to get it.

When Elijah asked her for bread, her reply was: "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die." (1Ki 17:12)

This woman who was outside the nation which God had elected to enlighten the world, had been enlightened by Israel despite their current plight. She understood that their omniscient God knew she had only a handful of meal and a little oil. Understanding that God knows us personally is the wonderful underpinning of a simple faith, even when we feel very discouraged.

Elijah then said to her, "Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’" (1Ki 17:13-14)

The LORD watches over widows and has pity on fatherless children. (Jer 49:11)

She did what he asked her to do. We must hear and do. If you only hear God's word and do not put it into practice, you are deceived. (James 1:22-24)

They had bread for many days, but a different challenge came: ...the son of the woman… became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. (1Ki 17:17)

This is a reminder that our daily bread is not more precious than the people we love, but the event occurred to introduce the widow to the God of Israel.

When her son died she cried, "What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!" (1Ki 17:18) Her tiny faith collapsed.

Then Elijah revived the boy and she said, "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth." (1Ki 17:24)

This story provides an Old Testament glimpse into God’s power to resurrect the dead, along with the verity that He is able to provide our daily bread. As we share our daily bread with others, God is at work to save the lost and strengthen the fainthearted.