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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hannah's Prayer: An example for us all

It is certain that this was not the first time Hannah had prayed or poured out her heart before God. For surely her godly character and gracious conduct was evidence of her undivided devotion and love for God. But, it was her "Bitterness of soul" and her great "sorrow" that set her heart to pray like she never prayed before. Oh, the mysteries of God's working through our heartaches and sorrows to set us to pray in a manner which we never knew before!

"Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD." (Psalm 130:1)

As the Lord dwells with those of a "contrite and humble spirit to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrites ones" (Isa.57:15), surely, it is when our prayers arise from such a spirit that God is most glorified. "Out of the depths," our prayers are tuned to approach God in humble submission, faith and hope. Here the Spirit of God teaches us to pray "as we ought," and it is here that He makes "intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26). Out of the depths of her great sorrow and in the midst of her bitterness of soul Hannah lifts up her prayer to God. Where such depths would engulf and silence many, it is out of such depths that the believer learns the mystery and blessedness of true prayer.

> Jonah, who refused to pray with the others when their ship was being torn by a storm, would learn to "cry out from the belly of a fish and God heard him in his affliction.

> When the sentence of death came over Hezekiah by the prophet Isaiah, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed unto the Lord, and when God heard his prayer and seen his tears He granted him 15 more years.

> It was when Jeremiah was in the pit that the Lord declared unto him, "Call upon me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jer. 33:3)."

It is out of such depths that the true believer is taught how to pray "as he ought." When God has removed all human and earthly comforts and teaches us by His infinite wisdom, love and grace to humbly seek only His face. Oh! How slow and sluggish our hearts are to learn this divine and blessed truth! And how deeply humbling it is to know that it often takes many "depths" before we truly come to effectually learn and exercise this divine virtue! Therefore, it is God Himself who must sovereignly, and with infinite wisdom and grace, lead us into those divine appointed depths, that we might come to personally know and exercise this divine truth in faith, hope and perseverance.

I. Let us then seek to follow Hannah's humble example of Humble, faithful prayer.

A. Notice first of all, like all true prayer, there must be  "humble submission to God's Sovereign will."

"If thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid." Chap 1:11

Though her desires are strong and her petition sent on wings of great bitterness and sorrow, she begins her prayer by humbly acknowledging God's Sovereignty in the light of her strong desires and wishes. She confesses her affliction, yet, humbly submits her petition to God's Sovereign Will and divine providence. This is the true spirit which must accompany all our prayers and petitions before God. "Knowing we have the petitions we desired of him"(1 John 5:15), and that we are to "cast all our cares upon him for he careth for us" (1 Peter 5:7), yet adorning such petitions in a spirit of humble submission to God's Sovereign will and divine providence.

 "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:" (1 John 5:14)

All true prayer, even our deepest desires, needs and wishes, regardless of their urgency, can only find true peace and hope in submissive prayer. The promise has no boundaries or limitations, "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (Matt.21). Yet, every true, believing prayer is a petition of submission to God's infinite wisdom and grace. Nowhere do we see a better example of such humble, submissive prayer than in Christ Himself....

"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt.26:39). "If it be possible," was not Christ questioning His Father's will or purpose for his drinking the cup; But, an example unto every true believer of the spirit of submissiveness required in all our petitions before God. All things are possible for God, yet Christ would submit to His Father's perfect and sovereign will in His drinking of the appointed cup. Does our present "cup" appear to be too full or too dreadful to drink? The present cross "to heavy to bear"? If God has divinely appointed and ordained it, then let us follow Christ's example of submissive prayer and let our petitions, though they arise from great bitterness and sorrow of heart, be also adorned with such a submissive spirit. For it is our desire and willingness to submit to God's perfect will that often moves God to "grant our petitions."

II. Out of such humility and submissiveness arises that spiritual courage and faith that glorifies God the most.

"And remember me and not forget thy handmaid, BUT WILL GIVE..." (1 Sam. 1:11)

Out of true humility and submission arises a courage and faith the world knows nothing of. The throne we are called upon to approach unto"boldly" is called "the throne of GRACE," and it is to "OBTAIN MERCY, AND FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED" (Heb. 4:16). Out of such humility and submissiveness arises a faith and boldness which gives God the greatest glory! Jacob "had power OVER the Angel and prevailed," because he "WEPT AND MADE SUPPLICATION UNTO HIM" (Hos.12:3).

"LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:" (Psalms 10:17) 

"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." (Isaiah 57:15)

If spiritual revival is promised to those of a contrite heart and humble spirit, then surely, those petitions which arise from such contrite and humble spirits are a sweet savor unto our Lord! The believer should never be afraid or ashamed to approach His God with any and/or all petitions. We "cast our cares upon Him for we know He careth for us" (1Pet.5:7); We "pour out our hearts before Him, because He is our refuge" (Psa. 62:8); In Christ Jesus we possess the boldness and petitions we need to approach God. And it is in the spirit of true humility and submissiveness to His Sovereign power and providence for our lives that this boldness draws its confidence and hope. With the perfect work of Christ and His Person, together with the Spirit's helping our infirmities, the believer learns to prayer "as he ought."

Hannah learned how to pray in the depth of her bitterness and sorrow, proving the divine truth that our afflictions work for us. May learn to pray more submissively and humbly before God, resting in His Sovereign and perfect Will for our lives. Knowing that all things work together for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose (Rom.8:28).

Out of Hannah's great bitterness and sorrow arose a humble, submissive petition that greatly glorified God.