We all have it. Those lingering things we beg God for. Sometimes they quietly ache in the back of our mind when we pray and other times, we have the whole congregation begging God on our behalf. We’ve done the right things. We haven’t committed any of the big sins like murder or adultery. Don’t we deserve the blessing of God? Shouldn’t we be given what our good behavior has earned us?
Hannah knew our plight. She had begged God for years for a child while watching her husband conceive with another woman. Month after month, year after year, baby after baby, she waited and wondered and wept. She was a good woman and it seemed like a simple request. So year after year, she got on her knees in prayer.
“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.’” – 1 Samuel 1:10-11, ESV
Hannah fell before her Lord and knew exactly what where she stood. She didn’t deserve a baby. None of us deserve our blessings, that’s why they are blessings. We have all fallen short and stand before God desperately lost. Over and over again, we fall short. Assuming the best in ourselves and seeing bad parents, those who mismanage their abundance of money, and those who wife who doesn’t treat her husband as wonderfully as we would.
Nothing that comes our way is based on our merit. As my husband reminds me regularly, Ecclesiastes tells us that it rains on the good and the bad. God blesses all of us more than we deserve, not because we deserve it, but because in His mercy, He lavishes us with much more than we deserve.
But it ultimately all His.
When Hannah prayed, she realized that nothing God would give her would be her own to hold. Whatever He gave her was not her just payment, but a free gift for her to hold with open hands.
When we are praying, when we are living, we need to remember that what we’ve been given is a gift from God. It is not to hoard, but to bless others. When we pray, our focus should not be on selfish desires but on blessing the greater Church. Be it a child, a spouse, a raise, or healing, the glory of God and the growth of His Kingdom should be at the forefront of our mind.
God has opened my eyes to the generosity of His Church in many ways. When I was in Hawaii, friends loaned me their cars and their homes. No matter what, I have always known that I would be cared for by the Church. Because the people surrounding me always viewed their blessings as Hannah did, with open hands.
They knew that their cars, homes, money, and time was not their own.
Excessive generosity was displayed by Hannah in the life of her child. When the Lord blessed her, she fulfilled her promise. After beginning her son, Samuel’s, life in the ways of the Lord, she took him to the Temple to be raised by the priests. The Lord blessed her and with open hands, she held her son, offering him back to God.
She prayed boldly and offered boldly. And her little prayer in Samuel is an example for us all to look to when we are begging God to hear our prayers.
But no matter what God answers, we need to open our lives up for the growth of His kingdom and the healthy of His Church, rain or shine. For some, that looks like sharing our stories with the Church and reminding others that faithfulness to God isn’t dependent on everything going our way. For others, that might look like sharing faithfully the gifts God has sent our way.
When we are on our knees, when we are asking God why, we need to remember why He does bless us. We need to take inventory of our lives and to question how we are stewarding the blessings we have already been given. And we need to remember what God has called us to do with the blessings He sends our way.
For more thoughts on prayer, check out this post.