Pouring Out the Bitter Soul:
The Power of Prayer
I Samuel 1:11-19
We left off in Hannah’s story as she had just made her declaration to Eli regarding the state of her soul, “the seat of her emotions and passions.” “I have poured out my soul before the Lord.” She had reached her desperation point and could go on no longer. The KJV uses the phrase “Out of the abundance of my complaint and grief…” This burden had to be taken to the Lord; there was no other answer. In our day and age, what an example Hannah is! There are so many solutions to the problems we face, whether the problem is financial, political, marital, emotional… as the IPOD commercial says, “Yeah, we got an app for that.” I’m about to break the news to you: the ONLY Ultimate app is Jesus. He is the Source of life. For whatever question you may have.
An amazing thought about Eli’s response is that he had no clue as to the details of Hannah’s prayer! She didn’t say “I just finished asking God for a child to return to Him.” She didn’t say, “I begged God to give me what I can’t have on my own.” Yet Eli confirms Hannah’s request without knowing the specifics. He must have been walking with the Lord in order to grant this confirmation of her prayer!
Then what? Hannah is a new woman! This is awesome. Why? Has her situation changed? No. Is she still barren? Yes. Will Penninah still be the ever-present nag in her life? Yes. But what has changed? She has peace in her heart!! Her time alone with the Lord in prayer to Him brings a change in her countenance and a change in her behavior. She stopped pouting and started eating. Sounds like a two year old! No, really. When we believe God and trust Him, our face alone reflects this walk. So Hannah returns to worship, family harmony and home, and the Lord REMEMBERS Hannah. Remember “remember?” God had never forgotten Hannah, but He makes a memorial of her. Did He ever make a memorial of her!
Then is the purpose of prayer to get the things we want?
The purpose of prayer is three fold from my perspective. Let’s look at two passages and establish a Biblical springboard.
Revelation 5:8 says “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.” This verse is providing an insight as to how precious our prayers are to our Lord. This incense of prayers is kept in a designated place. I have a treasure box that is very special to me. It has a picture of my mother on it and since she is in Heaven, inside is a letter written from her to me for my college graduation. This communication is so precious that I keep it in a designated place.
Your sense of smell is proven by science to be your strongest sense of recollection. Without delving into the scientific phenomena that occurs when using our sense of smell, just imagine the last time you smelled chocolate chip cookies. Suddenly you experienced a wave of your childhood days when you returned home from school and Mom had baked. When God gives physical examples regarding spiritual matters, He is providing a way for our finite minds to understand the infinite. These vials of our prayers are compared to incense. It is as if God had a human nose and every breath He took, He was reminded of our dearness to Him. In human terminology, He is “reminiscing” over His plan for our lives and thrilled to be reminded of its imminence! Doesn’t that make you want to shout?
As if that were not enough, in Psalm 141:2, the Bible says, “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” David is saying, “Lord, not only am I asking that You recollect my life and anoint it, but I surrender to Your will.” Paul said it another way, “I die daily.”
1. To be the glue of communication that holds our personal relationship together with God.
If you never spoke to someone with whom you were closely connected, maybe your husband, wife, mother, father, child, whomever… if you never spoke to them, then how close would you really be? In order to maintain a personal relationship with those we love, we must communicate with them. The same is true with God.
2. Prayer is to be the sweet essence of His presence in our lives and it allows us to be made a memorial for His glory. When we are close to God in our prayer, it shows! We then become a breath of fresh air for others to inhale, drawing those around us closer to either accepting Christ or living for Him. When we are experiencing the answers to our prayers, we have then been “made a memorial.” We have the honor of sharing this and giving God the glory!
3. Prayer is to give us an opportunity to allow Him to control the opposition and give relief from the oppression. Hannah was experiencing a severe opposition which she could not control. Her oppression was consistently vicious. What an incredible gift to be able to turn those factors over to God! Without even an answer to her prayer, Hannah experienced peace after pouring out her soul.
How to conclude this lesson? James 5:16, NLV:
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.