For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
(1 Samuel 1:27 KJV)
“To be a success, you must surround yourself with successful people.” I’m sure you’ve heard of some version of that saying before. You shouldn’t use other people just to gain a leg-up, but I have to say, this quote definitely has truth. While people don’t necessarily dictate your future, the people in your life shape your habits and how you see the world, which influences your decisions. So, the wrong people can shape your mindset and hinder your growth.
Sometimes, you can only see as far as others around you can.
In 1 Samuel 1, we meet Hannah, one of the two wives of Elkanah. She is affected by others who provoke her because cannot bear any children (v. 2). Hannah is a woman who is blessed and has a loving husband, but she suffers plenty. Her enemies disturb her peace on purpose to make her worry.
“And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat” (v. 4-7).
Though Hannah has such favor with Elkanah, her sorrow is completely understandable. Imagine enduring such hatred by others, shamed for the one thing you can’t have but your heart longs for. Hannah’s deep pain is one that nobody else could comprehend–not even her husband. “Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (v. 8)
I imagine Hannah seeing other women being blessed with children and wondering what is wrong with her. She probably feels misunderstood, out of place, and forgotten by God. Ever feel that way?
Here’s the thing: Hannah doesn’t stay silent in her pain.
Hannah’s Request Before God
“And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head” (v. 11).
Hannah cries out to God in sincerity. Although those around her provoked her, she separates herself from them and goes to the temple to pray–even in her distress. While asking God to provide a son, she makes a promise to Him that she will devote herself to Him.
By coming before the Lord, even though she is alone, Hannah comes across someone who will join her in believing God would provide. Eli, the priest, sees that she is in so much distress, he wonders if she is drunk with wine (v. 13-14). After Hannah explains she has been praying before God, Eli reaffirms her faith:
“Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad” (17-18).
The Lord’s Answer
“And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord” (19-20).
I love that before God answers Hannah’s prayer, we see that her heart is right as she worships Him. I believe the Lord honors her because He knows she seeks Him first. Later, Hannah dedicates her son to the Lord, just as she said she would. Hannah knows that her child is not just for herself–he belongs to God. Samuel is an answer to prayer, which she acknowledges through his name, which means, “asked of God.” She also presents Samuel before God (v. 24). Then, she brings Samuel to Eli as evidence of God’s faithfulness:
“And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there” (v. 26-28).
Your faithfulness can affect someone else’s future. Just as Hannah is faithful in prayer, Samuel grows up to be a faithful, prayer warrior like his mother. Also, we should strive to be trustworthy and support our brothers and sisters in Christ. Eli’s willingness to come in agreement with Hannah is an excellent example of blessing someone else by believing with them.
Do you need to separate yourself from others and get alone with God? Don’t let other people’s lack of faith hinder your faith in Him. Any negativity people might have claimed over you has no value, so don’t let their words have power over you. If you can, gather around other believers who will believe and pray with you in faith. If you’re not getting the support you want from others around you, remember that God is your provider. He has the final say on your life.
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26 (ESV)