Pouring Out the Bitter Soul:
The Power of Prayer
I Samuel 1:11-19
In reaching Hannah’s desperation point in our review of her life, the point of the last portion of this study was that Hannah knew where to turn when her soul was deep in bitterness. Verse 10 of chapter 1 says that she prayed to the Lord and wept sore. When the seat of her emotions and passions had been overtaken by bitterness, she began to pray. Let’s look at her prayer.
Her immediate request was “Lord, look on my afflictions and remember me.” Hold on, we are about to make a remarkable discovery here. You’re saying, “What’s so important about that?” This English word “remember” is “zakar” in the Hebrew. It means: To make a memorial. Hannah was asking God to make a memorial of her. She knew He hadn’t forgotten her; she just wanted Him to take it to the next level. She was asking God to perform a miracle so that all the people would know that only He could do such an amazing thing.
While Hannah is having her prayer time at the tabernacle, the priest, Eli, takes a glance at her. The Bible tells us that Hannah was praying with her lips moving, but her voice was not heard. In her state of deep emotion, Eli perceives that she is drunk. Wow! When I think about this whole scenario, there are three things we can learn from this.
1. First impressions are not always as they appear. I worked for an attorney who had been in practice for fifty years at the time. His astute judgment of people was impeccable and I learned much from this wise one. However, once in a great while, he was wrong about his prediction of a case. God alone is our Judge and even His priest, Eli, called Hannah improperly. It seems to be a common trend in our day to judge one before an opportunity to know someone has been given. We serve a God of grace and mercy and He calls us to extend that grace and mercy to others.
2. Often our spiritual condition can be easily gauged by our response to criticism. I can hear myself so easily if I were in Hannah’s shoes. “Look, Dude. I’ve been verbally abused by my husband’s other wife for years. I mean years! She has battered me to the point of tears and starvation. My husband, as much as he loves me, is pretty sick of putting up with my issues right now and you have the audacity to come in here and think I’m drunk? Mind your own business and get a life!” But Hannah’s reaction was not of that nature in the least. She disagreed kindly, calling Eli with respect, however the key phrase I absolutely love in this verse is: ”I have poured out my soul before the Lord.” We’ll come back to that; don’t worry.
3. True prayer warriors may seem zealous, fanatical, or radical to the world or even to fellow Christians at first glance. When was the last time you saw someone at church, praying with a fellow Christian in the foyer? How many people are attending prayer meetings these days? What kind of desperation point do we need in order to turn to God in prayer?
Hannah’s explanation to Eli was that she was not drunk; she had “poured out her soul before the Lord.” She was not satisfied to continue to live with this grief. What does this phrase truly mean? There are other passages that refer to this act of “pouring out one’s soul.” David mentions it in Psalm 42:1-4, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.“ After heeding his own advice, David encourages others to do the same in Psalm 62: 5-8, “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved. How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence. They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” And in Lamentations 2:19, Jeremiah describes this same type of action, “Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.”
Unlike oil, when water is poured from a pitcher or glass, every drop can be poured out. So what are we getting at here? When we pray from our soul, “the seat of our emotions and passions,” we should be relinquishing every worry, care, problem and concern. We’ll get back to Hannah, but the question of the day is: When was the last time you poured out your soul before the Lord?