“Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8)
The story in today’s first reading is the type that we can easily relate with as Africans. Elkannah practiced polygamy. He had two wives. Hannah was the first wife, but she was childless. Elkannah must have bowed to pressure from the family to take another wife to have children. Peninnah had children, but was envious of Hannah because Elkannah obviously loved her more. Peninnah provoked Hannah greatly. Hannah’s response to Peninnah’s provocation was tears. It got so bad that she would not even eat. Elkannah tried all he could to console her but to no avail. Hannah did not know that like Sarah, her barrenness was for a purpose.
Dear friends, sometimes, God allows bad things to happen to us in order to draw us closer to Himself. No matter what you may be going through, do not allow your response be all about tears. Pray! Something good will come out of your pain eventually. The arrest of John the Baptist was something bad, but it became a sign for Jesus to begin his work of evangelization. As painful as John’s arrest was, it was God’s will that this should happen to pave way for Jesus to come into the scene fully. Like Hannah, John had done nothing wrong to deserve such pain but God had great plans. Jesus went about preaching a message that is still relevant today: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Are you Peninnah? Do you ridicule others just because they are childless? Repent! Are you Herod, do you try to silent people for saying the truth? Repent! As a baptised Christian, are you living in the light? Repent!
Finally, one important lesson we learn from Jesus is that despite being God from the very beginning of His ministry, He did not try to do it alone. He quickly sought out the assistance of others. Never try to do it alone. Avoid pride by learning to ask for help.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, into your hands, I surrender all my tears, pains and headaches. As you called the apostles to help you, I devote myself freely to your service. Amen.
Bible Study: 1st Samuel 1:1-8, Psalm 115 and Mark 1:14-20).
Prayer: A Covenant Agreement with God
“And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching! With authority, he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27)
Today we continue the story of Hannah, the first wife of Elkanah. Year after year, Hannah would cry her heart out because of the constant provocation she received from her rival Peninnah. One day, she decided her tears weren’t working and she needed to do something more. She decided to carry her burdens to God in prayer. The prayer of Hannah wasn’t just any type of prayer, it is one that contains a lot of lessons for us.
First, Hannah’s prayer was a covenant agreement with God. As we read: “She vowed a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy maidservant, and remember me, and not forget thy maidservant, but wilt give to thy maidservant 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 1:11).
Hannah was willing to give something to God in exchange for what she was asking for. Her prayer was her vow. By making a vow to God, Hannah entered into a covenant with God. This is a very important lesson for us. When we pray, we should not simply concern ourselves with what we are to gain from God, we should also be willing to give back something to God. Even in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus clearly told us that we should not expect forgiveness of our sins when we refuse to forgive others.
On the other hand, a lot of us make vows to God only for us to turn around and fail to do our part. On the day of my ordination, for instance, I made vows to God to receive the anointing of the sacred office. The question today is: “Am I still faithful to these vows?” When you were in trouble, you prayed and promised God certain things you would do if he granted your prayers, do you even remember what you promised God? How faithful have you been?
Secondly, Hannah’s prayer was not loud. We read: “Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard; therefore, Eli took her to be a drunken woman.” (1 Samuel 1:13). This teaches us that shouting at the top of our voices is not a necessary pre-condition of getting God’s attention. There is absolutely nothing wrong with praying aloud, but God hears us even when others cannot hear our voices.
Some of us use prayer to insult our neighbours, we pray so that others will hear us. We even say things like, “anyone who is not happy with this prayer right now, I command fire to burn him/her now. Holy Ghost Fireeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!” Jesus told us: “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6).
Thirdly, Hannah did not doubt that God would answer her prayer. When Eli the priest saw Hannah, he taught she was drunk, but Hannah explained herself. Eli simply assured her that God will surely answer her. Eli was not speaking in his person but on God’s behalf given his office as a Priest. Eli exercised the authority we see Jesus exercise in today’s Gospel passage. Hannah believed Eli. We read: “Then the woman went her way and ate, and her countenance was no longer sad.” (1 Samuel 1:18)
How often do we look down our priests and forget that the office they hold is greater than them? How many of us stop crying after we have prayed to God about something? Why do we doubt God? Why do we allow fear dominate our hearts? Simply put, we look down on God.
It is very sad to say that today’s Christians are more afraid of the devil and evil spirits than they are of God. We don’t fear God but we fear the devil. Even our preachers do not help matters by ascribing every single situation to the devil. Today’s Christians are always under attack, they never seem to be delivered because the devil they fight is not out there but right inside their heads.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus was in the temple teaching, but His presence alone became a threat to a demon-possessed man. Jesus only needed to utter a single sentence and the demon came out. Jesus not only taught with authority, He also commanded the devil with authority. Authority is the fruit of identity. The kind of authority you exercise is a direct effect of the kind of identity you possess.
It is not about how strong the devil is, the real question is: “Who are you?” In other words: What kind of Christian are you? Are you a threat to the devil or just an ally, a willing toy? That a man with a demon could enter the Synagogue should open our eyes to the fact that it is not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” in the church that is okay. Some of us are just satanic agents, demons in disguise, set to destroy souls.
The only shield we have as Christians is Prayer. Jesus commanded demons not just because He is God, He was a man of prayer. A prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my faith and increase my confidence in you. Amen. Bible Study: 1 Samuel 1:9-20, Psalm in 1st Samuel 2:1-7 & Mark 1:21-28).