Lesson 4

Prayers of Triumph: Hannah and Mary

(1 Samuel 1 & 2)
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Introduction: So far this quarter we have explored the prayers of Jesus, Moses and Job. Are there any women in the Bible whose experience can teach us about prayer? This week the title of our lesson turns our attention to two of the most blessed mothers in the Bible. Because of the amount of material involved, we are only going to be able to cover Hannah in this study. Let's jump in and see what can we learn from this saint!

  1. Hannah's Heartbreak

    1. Let's read 1 Samuel 1:1-2. Do you see a problem here? What is it? (One wife could not have any children.)

      1. Wives, do you see a problem with Elkanah having two wives? What do you see? (The problem with two or more is rivalry. Here we have one wife who is apparently not able to have children.)

      2. What was the common view in the Bible about not being able to bear children? (Read Genesis 20:17-18. Not being able to have children was considered to be a judgment from God. Genesis 30:22-23 calls it a "disgrace.")

    2. Read 1 Samuel 1:3-5. What is Elkanah's attitude towards Hannah? (He both loves her and feels sorry for her because she does not have any children.)

      1. What do you think Peninnah's attitude is towards Elkanah giving Hannah a double portion?

        1. Does Hannah deserve favored treatment?

        2. Could you work up some righteous anger about this if you were Peninnah? (If anyone deserved a double portion, it would be the wife who bore all the children! I'm sure Peninnah was steamed about this.)

          1. How does this issue of God's judgment on those women who cannot have children play in here? (Peninnah probably thought this was a moral issue too! She was morally superior to Hannah.)

        3. Do you like people to show you sympathy instead of respect?

      2. Did you notice that Peninnah seems to have many children? How does that play in the relationship between the two wives?

      3. Do you think Hannah was more attractive than Peninnah? (Odds are a woman who has had many children will not be as trim as one who has not had any children.)

        1. If this speculation of mine is true, what else gets thrown on the fire of rivalry between the two women?

    3. Let's summarize. What factors we have in play in this family problem? (Beauty, love, God's judgment against Hannah, rivalry, jealousy, God's blessing in children. This is a pretty potent brew!

    4. Read 1 Samuel 1:6. Put yourself in Hannah's place. What kind of mental attitude would you have?

    5. We have discussed the mental attitude of Peninnah towards Hannah. Do you think you would you be like Peninnah if you were in her place?

    6. Read 1 Samuel 1:7-8. Notice two more important clues about family dynamics here. The yearly worship seems to trigger Peninnah's harassment of Hannah. Notice also Elkanah asking whether he is worth more to Hannah than ten sons. How important a factor is Elkanah in the ongoing harassment? (Elkanah is well-meaning, but not very wise. Since the yearly worship seems to trigger the harassment, this points to the "double portion" given to Hannah as a major problem. The fact that Elkanah says that Hannah possesses him (as opposed to Peninnah), reveals a strongly biased attitude.)

      1. How can we trade "well-meaning" for wise in our family relationships?

      2. Any mental health professionals here? What is the impact of long-term (v.7: "year after year") harassment? (Continual harassment creates mental damage.)

        1. Verse 7 tells us that Hannah wept and would not eat. Have you ever been that upset? How upset is a person who reaches that point?

      3. Is this a dysfunctional family?

  2. The Promise

    1. Read 1 Samuel 1:9-11. This is no doubt a "valley" in Hannah's life. Her suffering is at its height. Suddenly, she is filled with resolve, she stands up, and goes to the place of worship to pray. What is her promise to God?

      1. What does it mean that "no razor" will ever be used on his head? (This is the "Nazarite vow." See Numbers 6:1-5. It means that the person is separated out and especially dedicated or consecrated to God. John the Baptist and Sampson are high profile men who were "Nazarites." Hannah is making a special pledge for her coming son.)

      2. Notice she is asking not just for a child, but for a son. Why?

      1. Why would she want a son to give away? What would motivate her to make that prayer?

        1. What do you think about her son being raised in this dysfunctional family? How would Peninnah's children treat him? (Hannah could have many reasons for her offer to give the boy back. Perhaps this is a lesson in sharing our blessings. Perhaps it was "bribe" to God. Perhaps this speaks to the "judgment" issue. She is under "judgment" because she cannot have children. She tries to show she is a good person by dedicating her son to the Lord. Perhaps it is simply the shame of her situation that troubles her the most, and having a boy, even if you give him back, will take away the shame. Perhaps she is concerned about him being raised in this household.)

    1. Read 1 Samuel 1:12-14. You are in the pit of despair, praying to God, and the High Priest calls you a drunk! Why would Eli assume she was drinking as opposed to fervently praying?

      1. Does this suggest something about the women who came to the temple to pray? (Eli's sons were evil. They used to sleep with the women who helped in the place of worship. ( 1 Samuel 2:22) Therefore, Eli is used to thinking the worst.)

    2. Read 1 Samuel 1:15-18. What impact does her prayer and Eli's blessing have on her mental state?

  1. The Answer

    1. Read 1 Samuel 1:20-23. Why do you think Hannah stayed home from these worship trips until after Samuel was weaned? (I think it was hard for her to go. She was probably tempted to renege on her promise.)

    2. Read 1 Samuel 1:24. Hannah does not renege on her promise to God. How long do you think she waited? (Wycliffe Bible Commentary cites II Maccabees 7:8 for the information that Hebrew women would wean their children after three years.)

  2. The Prayer

    1. Read 1 Samuel 2:1. How has Hannah's attitude changed? Is her mental health restored?

      1. Is it "OK" to pray to God for the healing of our minds, instead of just our bodies? Is it "OK" to pray for help in family relationships?

    2. Read 1 Samuel 2:2. What element do we find in Hannah's prayer that was in Jesus' model prayer? (Compare Matthew 6:9-10. This is the praise element of prayer. Not thanking God for what He has done for us, but praising God for who He is.)

    3. Read 1 Samuel 2:3-8. How would you describe the God that Hannah talks about in these verses? (She sees God as the "Great Equalizer." A God who helps those who are struggling and who brings down the arrogant.)

    4. Read 1 Samuel 2:9-10. How do we prevail according to this prayer? How do we succeed in life? (By faithfulness to God.)

  3. Contemplation

    1. We started out saying that Hannah was a great mother. What do you think made her great?

      1. Why do you think God chose her to be the mother of Samuel?

      2. Was it the mental distress she suffered?

      3. Was it being part of a dysfunctional family? (I have noticed in life that children of "well-to do" families are often worthless. While children of poor families are driven to succeed. Hannah saw God as rescuing her from her terrible situation. I feel confident this supercharged her with love, gratitude and devotion to God. What better mother could a future leader and prophet of Israel have than that?)

  4. Next Week: Prayers of Penitence: David.

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