Have you ever experienced a heavy heart? A weight that seem to be pressing down on the core of your being that was intense and burdensome?
Have you ever tried to haul the weight of your heart during that time to the Lord in prayer? I have found that those are really hard times to pray in.
There is a truly incredible woman, whose story centers around praying with a heavy heart. Her name is Hannah. Hannah is the mother of Samuel. If you have never read her story in the Bible, or if it has been a while, I would highly recommend taking the time to do so. Hannah is found in 1 Samuel chapters 1 & 2.
Hannah is one of the women that I so deeply connect with in the pages of scripture. I think I am so drawn to her for the passion she has for prayer, for her love & wonder of God, and for the way she handles her pain & brokenness.
A Bit of Back Story
I think it may be helpful to share a bit of back story on Hannah before I proceed. This is a quick overview.
Hannah is married to Elkanah. He loves her very much, but his attentions are divided because Elkanah has a second wife, Peninnah. At the beginning of 1 Samuel, Hannah has no children, while Peninnah did have children. Hannah’s bareness went on for “year after year”.
Elkanah needed to go to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice. The whole family went with him. Elkanah gave a portion of meat from the sacrifices he made to Peninnah and their children. Elkanah tried to show Hannah is love and support by giving Hannah a double portion of meat when he made his sacrifices.
Unfortunately, Peninnah was not compassionate and graceful towards Hannah. It refers to the two as rivals and says that Peninnah provoked Hannah until she wept and would not eat.
I can not even begin to imagine how heavy Hannah’s heart was at this point. Overcast and deeply burdened Hannah prays. It says in 1 Samuel 1:10 (NIV), “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.”
Hannah pours out her soul to the Lord, she was moving her lips, but no sound was coming out. But her heart was gushing, a flood of brokenness spilling onto the Lord in full force.
So visceral was her praying that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk. Eli tells Hannah to put away her wine. To which Hannah has to respond that she was not drunk, but deeply anguished in her prayers. Eli changes stride and blesses Hannah to go in peace asking that God may grant Hannah what she had requested in prayer.
The Weight on her Heart
Just pause right here in the story with me for a moment. Let’s recap sweet Hannah’s circumstances right now. Hannah is married, but unable to bear children. She has to share her husband with a woman who has many children, who ridicules Hannah. Her loving husband can not solve this problem for her. To top it off the Priest thinks she is drunk, adding being horribly misunderstood to an already difficult list of challenges.
The ache of these circumstances must have been profound, adding intense weight upon her heart. What is it about your circumstances that is weighing heavily upon your heart?
Are you facing an emptiness while those around you seem to be enjoying a full harvest?
Do you have an irritating rival that is making your already challenging days more difficult?
Are you walking down a road of disappointment littered with unfulfilled dreams, crushed hopes, and a fog of frustration?
Have you been misunderstood by those around you, stamped with false labels about who you are or what you are doing?
Are you struggling with God’s timing, wavering in your faith and doubtful an answer will come?
There is no doubt that there was great pain in Hannah’s predicament. Hannah re-purposed her pain into prayer. When the weight was too heavy, she heaved her herself into honest prayer exposing the raw emotions of her heart.
Our heavy-hearted prayers are often our most vulnerable prayers. It is in these moments of anguish that we reach the end of ourselves. When the fullness of our abilities have been expended, we find the end of our control.
At the end we may feel like all we will face is an expanse of emptiness, a darkness of death. But the glorious light of God’s goodness, abundant life, deep deliverance, and our sweet savior, Jesus, will offer a new beginning in place of an end. While our control may cease, God’s majesty is eternal and without end.
Without an Answer
Let’s go back to Hannah. Hannah prays for a child, specifically a son, and makes a promise to give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.
Hannah’s prayer did not end with an angelic message from the Lord proclaiming a birth of a son to come to her in the future. She gets done praying and goes right back into her circumstances – back to her shared husband, her rival and their children. It says in 1 Samuel 1:18 (NIV) Hannah “went her way and ate something, her face was no longer downcast.”
The scriptures go on to say that early the morning after Hannah’s passionate prayer they arose, worshiped before the Lord, and went home. Hannah returns home with empty arms, but her face was no longer downcast.
Hannah may have returned home with empty arms, but her time of heavy-hearted prayer was profound. To me Hannah has a rich treasure, an unfathomable faith. This woman left her most desperate desires, her deepest dreams, in the hands of the Lord. She put her trust in the Lord utterly and completely.
What a faith, what spiritual devotion, it must take to leave empty handed, without answer. Faith confident that the Lord’s love, goodness and wisdom would prevail, with arms empty or arms full. “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2 (NIV).
What about us? Do we have that kind of faith? Faith to leave our heaviest, most heartfelt prayers in the hands of the Lord, rising empty handed to return to our current circumstances?
That is the kind of faith that I would like to have, an unfathomable faith, one that can not be explained by words and logic. Am I there yet? Absolutely not. I am much more of a tinkerer who takes my troubles into my owns hands twisting and turning them in attempt to bring resolution by “trying harder”.
I want to be familiar with the deep things of God, confident of His love, in awe of His wonder, persistent & passionate in my prayers, and permanently anchored to Him. Even this is a heavy-hearted request that I leave in the hands of God.
“So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel saying ‘Because I asked the Lord for him'” 1 Samuel 1:20 (NIV). Hannah has a son, Samuel. Then Hannah prays a most beautiful prayer of rejoicing gratitude for the Lord and she dedicates Samuel to serve the Lord.
Just after weaning him, Hannah takes Samuel to Eli the priest so Samuel could grow in the presence of the Lord, living a life of service. God then gives Hannah three more sons and two daughters.
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of time spent with empty hands, is the grandness of the gratitude given when those empty hands are filled.
There is a part of me that really wants to ask You to make me like Hannah, but I am not Hannah. So I ask that You would build up and strengthen my faith. Help us all to have an unfathomable faith, that can bring our heavy hearts to You in honest and vulnerable prayer.
Help us to be confident in Your love and goodness that we can get up from our time of prayer, downcast no more, and return to our circumstances. May we have an unwavering trust in Your timing being more devoted to You than to the answers that we seek.
May we praise you with immense gratitude for the blessings You bestow upon us. May we rejoice and worship You bringing grandiose glory to Your name.
In the name of Jesus, who hears and understands the prayers of every heavy heart, amen.