This Week’s Focus Passage: 1 Samuel 1:13 ‘She spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice
This Week’s Focus Passage: 1 Samuel 1:13
‘She spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.’
In the very first chapter of the first book of Samuel, and nearly the very first verse, we meet up with a man by the name of El-ka-nah; we are told that this man was an Ephraimite. He was also the husband of two wives [polygamy was, although certainly without Jehovah’s approval, commonly practiced in those days]. The name of one of his two wives was Hannah, while the name of the other was Peninnah. We are then informed of a difference between these two wives; a difference that becomes the crux, in many ways, of this entire account. Because she was without children, Hannah was very despondent, and wept much with regard to this ‘calamity.’ For it was indeed a calamity, in those days and in that Jewish society, for a woman to be childless. “Hannah lived in that difficult period of time and had to deal with the added challenge of being childless in a world where a woman’s worth was determined by reproduction, especially the birth of sons.” It is, additionally sad to read that Peninnah was very haughty about her own fertility, and plagued Hannah about her own being childless. In fact, the text informs us that she mocked her, and in spite of the great love her husband had for Hannah, and the reality that Jehovah had shut up her womb, Hannah wept sore, and would not eat. She was terribly grieved over being childless, even when her husband implored her, saying, Why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
We are reminded of the argument of Jacob to Rachel, when she complained about her own barrenness unto her husband; after witnessing no less than four sons born to Jacob, of her sister Leah, Rachel bemoaned her barrenness all the more:
And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and she said unto Jacob, Give me children or else I die. And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?
Indeed, it was through no fault of Elkanah that Hannah was barren. While the text informs us, the readers of the Word of God, that Jehovah had shut up her womb, we have no way, no certain way to know, whether Hannah had such knowledge of God’s sovereignty in all things, even regarding conception and barrenness. We may firmly believe, however, that Hannah was a believer in prayer, and that Jehovah hearkened unto the prayers of His people, for that was the course of action that she entered upon, as recorded in the next verses of 1 Samuel. We are told, in verse nine,
So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest was sitting upon his seat by the door-post of the temple of Jehovah. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto Jehovah, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Jehovah of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thy handmaid, but wilt give unto thy handmaid a man-child then I will give him unto Jehovah all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
Hannah vowed a vow unto Jehovah, in this promissory and most express language: Jehovah, give me a son, or man-child, and I will give him to you. And not only so, but there shall no razor come upon his head.
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before Jehovah, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken?
Hannah quickly disabused the old priest of any notion that she was drunken. indeed, she responded to his presumption that she was not drunken, as he asserted, but was praying to Jehovah for a son. Eli had said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. Hannah responded, in the following words, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but poured out my soul unto Jehovah [I was praying, albeit, silently]. Do we imagine that we must pronounce, vocally, our words of prayer, or else God cannot hear us? Consider Matthew 9:4 and Matthew 12:25, for a moment. In Matthew 9:4, we read,
And Jesus [Jehovah], knowing their thoughts, said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? Likewise, in Matthew 12:25, And knowing their thoughts he [Jesus] said unto them. Our Lord, Jehovah; our Lord, Jesus, knows our thoughts from afar. Recall when Jesus said to Nathanael, who was coming to Him, Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile, was the Son of God not able to say that because He knew his thoughts from afar, and could thus know that in him was no guile?
And, even as Jesus, knowing the absence of guile in Nathanael, because He knew his thoughts from afar, without Nathanael being in His presence; without his speaking a word to the Savior; so, similarly, old Eli could not hear a word from the lips of Hannah, although they moved with every thought of her heart. Prayer need not be vocalized for Jehovah God to hear it. And do we not have another example in the case of Acts 2:42; a passage referring to the practice of the early church, after Pentecost, where we read, And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. Is this not an illustration of corporate prayer in the early church? They are all continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching; i.e, they are all paying attention to the preaching of the apostles, one with another at the same time. They are all praying at the same time. Does this mean that they are each, individually, opening their mouths and speaking aloud, each at the same time? We do not so believe. We were told, some years ago, of a body of Christ’s people, at the gathering for an evening service, how that the men of the church gathered themselves together in small room to pray before the service began. Incredibly, when the pastor said, ‘let us pray,’ every man began praying aloud, that is, vocally, audibly, simultaneously, that is, yes, at the same time. Now we affirm that our God is well able to make out what each individual believer is saying, but that begs the question that Paul has asked in 1 Corinthians 14:16; yes, in the context of tongues, but still valid, Else if thou bless with the spirit, how shall he that filleth the place of the unlearned say the Amen at thy giving of thanks seeing he knoweth not what thou sayest?
We recall one more illustration, as we consider the ‘famous’ ejaculatory prayer of Nehemiah in his second chapter. When Artaxerxes the king asked Nehemiah why his appearance was so sad, Nehemiah told him about the conditions in Jerusalem; how the city, the place of my father’s sepulchers, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire. Whereupon, the king asked Nehemiah what he would like him to do about it, we read, So I prayed to the God of heaven. This is that famous example of ejaculatory prayer, and no commentator imagines that Nehemiah closed his eyes and vocalized this prayer unto God. It is considered by one and all, to be a silent prayer unto Jehovah. Now, we were informed a number of years ago, of one of our professors at seminary, how his wife had been involved in a ‘fender-bender,’ and she, being asked how it happened said, she felt the need to pray about something, and so, while still driving the car, she closed her eyes to pray. Surprise, she collided with another automobile. Sure, this was silly, yet not really any sillier than twenty men praying aloud together at the same time. How can anyone say the Amen? We trust God, that in our corporate praying, all the men and the women would be praying silently while being led by one man at a time, trusting primarily in the leading of God the Holy Spirit. As in all things, Father, thy will be done.
David Farmer, elder
Fellowship Bible Church
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