Reasons to Pray
1 Samuel 1; Remsen Bible Fellowship; 09/06/2020
Is your prayer life what you want it to be? Time? Quality?
One of the best ways to deepen your prayer life is through Scripture (listening to the One whom we speak to in prayer)
This can be formative (the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms)
We can also gather reasons to pray (as we will today)
We are beginning a series in 1 Samuel
The plan is for this to carry us (with a few short breaks) into May
That will require taking things at a pretty good pace
Three major lenses: Historical (transition from Judges to Kings), theological (establishment of Davidic line, God’s covenant faithfulness to unfaithful Israel), practical (what do we learn about human beings and God that informs how we live today)
Each sermon will have a slightly different taste, aiming to be informed by the text itself as to which of these three to lean on
What do we know for background?
1 & 2 Samuel were originally one book; divided during translation of LXX
We don’t know the author. Or when it was written. It’s named for Samuel because he is the first major character (to be followed by Saul and David)
As I said, the major theological theme in this book is the establishment of David as King, the anointed one from whom will come the Ultimate Anointed One, Jesus
We want to read the book in its context-which includes grammatical, historical, and literary contexts, but most importantly canonical context. If we miss God’s arrows pointing forward, we’re missing what we should be seeing as Christians
Transition to 1 Samuel 1
Elkanah, an Ephrathite, a devout man (attending worship regularly), a man with two wives
One of his wives, Hannah, is barren. This is a great distress to her
In her distress, she cries out to the Lord, asking for a son, whom she promises to dedicate to the Lord
God hears and grants her request, and the chapter closes with Hannah fulfilling her vow to the Lord
“First the husband is mentioned, but the main character in the chapter is to be the first-named wife, who was bold enough to believe that God would hear and answer her prayer for a son. The chapter records the answer to her prayer and ends with the fulfillment of her vow. Her motives may have been mixed, but her request was in line with the overarching will of God, who was preparing to bring into the world a man who would be his faithful representative and mouthpiece.”
Note the tie to judges, “there was a certain man”, identical intro as to Samson’s father in Judges 13:2 (cf Judges 17:1, 19:1)
Before we focus in on Hannah and her distress and her prayer, we need to address two obvious difficulties in the text:
Is polygamy okay?
Elkanah is religious, so is God okay with polygamy?
There is never a specific prohibition, but what is the positive teaching on marriage? (Genesis 2, Matthew 19, Ephesians 5)
Note how polygamy is potrayed by the Biblical narrators: it never goes well
Tabernacle or temple?
V9 mentions Eli sitting beside the doorpost of the temple: but the temple isn’t built until 1 Kings 6-8; what’s going on?
Probably the house of God refers to the tabernacle, but with the word translated here as temple can mean both temple or even palace, so at Shiloh it seems likely that there was a semi-permanent set of structures built around the Tent of God with doorposts, living quarters, etc
With those matters addressed, I want to focus the rest of our time on the main character of this chapter, Hannah. And when we look at Hannah we see a model of prayer, and from her example we can draw two basic reasons to pray: pray because you’re needy, and pray because God hears.
Pray, because you're needy
Of the two, this may be the bigger hold up for many of us. We don’t want to think we’re needy. But Hannah understands her need
V2, 5-7. Why would barrenness be such a source of sorrow? Worth, value, identity
Because Hannah understands her need, and that God is in control over all things, she turns to him for help, v10-11
Do you bring your deepest requests and desires to God? Or do you count on your own wisdom and capacity to carry you through life?
What lies do you tell yourself regarding your own capacity?
“Indeed our utter incapacity is often the prop he [God] delights to use for his next act. This matter goes beyond the particular situations of biblical barren women. We are facing one of the principles of Yahweh’s modus operandi. When his people are without strength, without resources, without hope, without human gimmicks—then he loves to stretch forth his hand from heaven.”
Or, we might say, God loves to answer the prayers of the needy.
But that requires you admitting your need.
Humble yourself before him. Pray, because you’re needy.
Pray, because God hears
Who didn’t hear Hannah?
Elkanah, v8- Am I not more?
Eli, v12-16- What are you doing, you drunk? (note that this is plausible to him considering how the priests, his own sons, behave)
She goes to the Lord with her petition, I find her prayer in v10-11 fascinating. She preemptively trusts God with her firstborn, her only son. Like Abraham with Isaac, but God hasn’t requested this of her.
“She addresses Yahweh of hosts, cosmic ruler, sovereign of every and all power, and assumes that the broken heart of a relatively obscure woman in the hill country of Ephraim matters to him. (Believers use some of their best logic in prayer.)”
After Eli is corrected, he blesses Hannah, v17
While his blessing almost feels perfunctory, Hannah is still comforted, v18
And not only is she comforted, she is remembered, v19-20
Samuel’s name means, heard of God.
‘God’s remembrance is not a matter of recalling to mind but of paying special attention to or lavishing special care on one (cf. Ps 8:4, where the same Hebrew verb is rendered “are mindful of” in parallelism with “care for”)’
Cf, Genesis 30:22: Then God remembered Rachel...
You should turn to God in prayer because you’re needy. You can gladly turn to God in prayer, because he hears your prayers. And he remembers his children. Are you weak and heavy laden? Cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge: take it to the Lord in prayer.
What we find in the end of this chapter is Hannah fulfilling her vow to the Lord. She waits until the child is weaned, and then brings him before God in Shiloh.
V27-28, out of the overflow of her joy in being heard, she honors her commitment to God.
Have you made commitments to the Lord that you are afraid to follow through on?
Praying for a loved one, sharing the gospel with a neighbor, giving sacrificially to the church or to missions
The example of Hannah shows us that prayer turns to God for our every need, and gladly receives with an open handed freedom: we need not cling desperately to the gifts when the Giver of all good things is the God we serve