Pray like Hannah when you're hopeless
Have you ever felt desperate? Empty? Hopeless? Perhaps you can relate to Hannah. She longed for a child and was barren. She felt hopeless and rejected. She couldn’t eat or sleep and wept constantly. Her husband was frustrated with her (1 Sam. 1:8), Penninah provoked her (1 Sam. 1:6), the priest criticized her (1 Sam. 1:14), and she felt misunderstood, unheard, and forgotten. Why was this happening to her?
But in the midst of her hopelessness, Hannah goes before the Lord and gives us a powerful example of what to do when we are feeling hopeless.
1. Pour out your soul to God
Although tempting to do otherwise, allow your hardship and desperation to drive you closer to God. Hannah was “deeply distressed” and “wept bitterly” before God (1 Sam. 1:10). She was filled with anxiety and distress so she “poured out her soul before the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:15). When we feel filled to the brim with discouragement, we have an avenue by which we can pour out what troubles us. As distress fills our spirit, we pour out that distress before God. We “cast our cares on him because he cares for us” (1 Peter 5). We respond to anxiety by “prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, making our requests known to God” (Phil. 4). Although it is hard when we go through such times, it is the comfort found in the presence of God that we need.
2. Acknowledge God’s power
Hannah is the first person in scripture to refer to God as the “Lord of hosts” (1 Sam. 1:9) and this is how she addresses God in her prayers. This term (literally “Yahweh of armies”) refers to God’s sovereign power. He is a powerful God who can do something about our situation. Like Hannah, we must begin by acknowledging the sovereign power of God over all things. We know he can hear us and answer our prayers. We go to him because we know he is powerful.
3. Plead for God’s mercy
God is powerful but he is also merciful. Hannah continues in her initial prayer for a son by asking the Lord of hosts to look “on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant” (1 Sam. 1:11). This is similar language to that of Israel in Egypt when they cried for God to remember them and see their affliction (e.g. Ex. 2:23-25). Ultimately, we know that we deserve nothing good from God; however, we also know that he is a merciful God that loves to show grace to those who are in need. When we are in desperation, we should plead for God to be merciful to us, remembering his character.
4. Surrender to God’s authority
In her initial prayer, Hannah refers to herself three times as God’s servant (1 Sam. 1:11). She knows who she is in relation to the king of the universe. She also knows that if God gives her a son, that son should be given back completely for his service. This was her vow for her child. When she receives the promise of God through Eli, she trusts in God’s promise (1 Sam. 1:18). God is the one who is in control and his decisions are always right. When we even plead for God’s mercy, we surrender to his authority and trust that what he does is for our good and his glory. It is in this posture of surrender that hope is found.
5. Praise God for his faithfulness
In chapter 2 of 1 Samuel, we see a beautiful prayer of worship in response to God’s faithfulness. She exults in the lord and rejoices in her salvation. She acknowledges God’s holiness, knowledge, and mercy. She confesses his sovereignty over life, death, exultation, and humiliation. She rests in his sovereign power and perfect will. And we should as well. No matter what we are going through, we can know that God is faithful and praise him for it. When we were still sinners, Christ died for us and showed the faithfulness of God to save those who had rebelled against him. We need never doubt God’s love for us or his faithfulness because he has secured for us salvation and a glorious future in him.
When we feel hopeless, may we follow the example of Hannah. May our hardship drive us to pour out our soul before the Lord. May we acknowledge his power, plead for his mercy, surrender to his authority, and praise him for his faithfulness. It is often through these desperate prayers of raw vulnerability, surrender, and worship that we experience the hope we so desperately need.
“There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.”
Hannah (1 Sam. 2:2)