Devotional & Reflection

Week 5, Nov 2001

1 Sam 1: The Transforming Power Of Prayer
By Teo Kok Hong, Regional Director & Trainer, Ezra Resources

1 Sam 1:10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.

Everyone undergoes stress and experiences life's heartaches. Sometimes stress is overbearing that we can no longer bear it alone. In times like this we need friends to stand by us. Yet in spite of their good intentions, they will never be able to understand our plight completely. Who then can we turn to share our deepest struggles and longings? In 1 Samuel, we are introduced to Hannah (yet to be mother of Samuel) as a heavy hearted woman. She yearns for a child because she was barren for years. She confided in her closest confidant, her husband Elkanah but was chided with a chauvinistic reply. Her rival, being her husband's other wife, kept irritating her to the point that she became downhearted. But when she turned to the Lord, things changed.

We read that when Hannah could bear it no longer she prayed (v.10 ". . . Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord."). Prayer is an invitation to come home, to be loved, nurtured, and refresh. It is to rest in the bosom of the Father, to listen to His heart as the apostle John rested in the bosom of our Lord. It is a place to have companionship with the Father and to commune with Him our inner most hurts and heartaches. It is a place to pour out our soul to God as He takes time to listen to our heartbeat and emotions. All these communing come from our heart, not necessarily from the lips (v. 13 "Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard" c.f. v. 19 "and the Lord remembered her."). Prayer creates the atmosphere of being and belonging. It is less concern of doing but of resting and listening.

Much of our prayers today, are centered on asking that relates to doing. There is too much to do and consequently we step up our prayer lives by asking. This eventually leads to more doing. No wonder there is an increase of burnout in Christians today. On the contrary prayer refreshes our soul and revives our hearts, that we might be filled with strength to continue the journey of faith.

Along with a renewed strength, our characters are transformed as prayer is transformational (v. 18 "and her face was no longer downcast.") It is allowing the Holy Spirit to have his way in our lives. Much too often our own hurts deafen our ears and numb our wills, but in prayer there is submission to God's own bidding (v. 24 "after he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, . . . and brought him to the house of the Lord."). Prayer allows the Holy Spirit to expose our motives and rid us of our insecurities and selfishness. It is not a passive rest but an active wrestling with God till He blesses us. This requires honesty and trust - something which we as fallen creatures find hard to do. Then an inner peace that transcends all understanding would transform our disposition. A fresh trust that keeps us abiding would be cultivated, knowing that our God of the universe is the One who guides us through the valley of the shadow of death. Hannah was honored among the OT greats and it was her commitment that set Samuel apart for service to the Lord and he eventually became one of Israel's greatest prophet, priest and judge.

1. How would we describe our prayer lives? How balance is it in asking and communing?
2. In times of stress do we seek the Lord in prayer and allow him to transform us?
3. As parents, how can we be like Hannah entrusting our children to God?