Most people who discuss the story of Hannah and her prayer for a child consider it a great victory for the power of prayer in the life of a righteous person; these people should reread the text:
1 Samuel1:6 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
Hannah regularly accompanies her husband to Shiloh to keep the feasts. Each time they visit God's house, her husband's other wife reminds her that God wants her barren. This opposer causes Hannah to develop a mar4751 or a destructive rage. She then took it upon herself to make an agreement with God without her husband's consent, lest he cancel her oath:
1 Samuel 1:11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. 12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth. 13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
She promises any man-child born from her womb to a life of service at the Temple. This means her and Elkanah could only see her first born son three times a year at the pilgrimage feasts. Eli, reading her lips, finds her statements insane. He assumes the wine for Sukkot has made her swear something falsely and tries to run her off. She retorts:
1 Samuel 1:15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
Now she lets Eli know that the anger (ka 'ac 3708 ) and indignance (qashesh 7186 ) she feels towards God has justification. She has come repeatedly to the feasts and asked for children. God never gives her what she wants, now she thinks God considers her a daughter of another god or a person without worth in his eyes. At this point, she just wants to give birth to a boy and she doesn't even care if she gets to raise him and keep him.
Hannah always prayed for her own desires as a barren wife, and she has always prayed out of envy and covetousness against her husband's other wife. However by offering this deal to surrender the child to serve God all his life, she acknowledges God makes miracles for his own glory; not the glory of a dissatisfied and angry wife.
Eli confirms her oath. Then the High Priest sends her on her way.
Shortly after arriving home Hannah becomes pregnant. She gives birth to the boy Samuel and tells her husband about the secret deal she made. According to Hebrew law, for the next 24 hours he could overthrow the agree she made with God; however, her husband told her to do whatever she thought good. In other words, he confirmed she must give up this child because to keep an oath is by definition a righteous act. She kept the boy until she weened him and then came to keep her agreement and surrendered him to Eli the High Priest. She then, for the first time in her life as far as the text shows, profusely praised God:
1Sa 2:1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. 2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. 3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. 5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. 6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. 7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. 8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them. 9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. 10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
Her monologue showed the birth of Samuel had cemented a key fact in her mind: God makes the right decisions and we must accept them even when we want things our way if we expect to have good things in this life.
Later when she returned to the Temple with her husband she received a good word from God:
1Sa 2:20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went unto their own home. 21 And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.
God honored Hannah for keeping her word and for finally giving real respect and praise to the heavenly Father. He opened her womb and filled her life with children she could keep. Her life would now be filled with love everyday until the day she died.
The Story of Hannah shows the power of prayer in the life of a righteous person, but not until the later half of her story. At the beginning it shows how demanding things from God, even when we assume its what we are suppose to get, can have horrible ramifications; for instance, the heartbreak of limiting seeing your only child to once or twice a year. As we've seen in the other “Problem with Prayer” articles, we must make sure what we ask for corresponds to God's will for us (parallels the instructions of the Torah) and the examples of those people who spoke to God on behalf of all those who refused to speak to him (Moses on mount Sinai). Then we will see what James instructed saying:
Jas 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
He told the believers they would have to admit the Torah transgressions they had intentionally or unintentionally committed, then exchange their wishes for God's wishes, and then they could be healed of the toiling in sin. New believers would have to energetically seek to bind themselves together in covenant with God, then they could see the true victory over their own fleshly desires. For true prayer is to bind yourself to God's ways and to confess your ways as incorrect.
- Written by Raymond W. Myers
- Category: The Meaning of Prayer
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The caption from Exodus above contains neither Hebrew word related to pray. "Pray" stands as a respectful request added in by the English translators. Moses, more properly, demanded God blot him out with Israel if a death sentence fell on them. Like a proto-Christ he confirmed to God that he would forfeit his life for all of Israel rather than see them destroyed.
Professor Stronge explains palal h6419 in this manner:
to intervene, interpose, pray
(Piel) to mediate, judge
Things here get a bit circular as meaning of "pray" takes definition from the same word "pray". Therefore, we look to the other related words: "to mediate, judge, interpose, to intervene."
Examples of palal in the texts follow below:
1Sa 2:25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge H6419 him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat H6419 for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.
With the lens of intercession, we see a man in authority over other people making requests from God concerning those people:
Gen 20:17 Abraham, the friend of God, makes requests to have the damages against him forgiven by God. Abimelech, who God called a dead man, had no standing to request anything from the Most High; however, God showed he his willingness to threaten to slay Abimelech for sins against God's prophet. Without a prophet / friend of God nearby, no intercession can take place.
Num 11:2 The people demanded Moses stand between Israel and God (Deu 5:4-5). The people refused to take responsibility for themselves and, against his will and God's, turned Moses into a quasi-king. Since they made him chief, only he had standing to address God directly. When Israel breaks covenant only Moses can ask for forgiveness.
Deu 9:20 Even Aaron, who God would later choose as High Priest (intecessor for Israel), had no hope against God's justice without Moses to pray. Remember this happened in accordance with Aaron's own choice as one of the people who feared God and his fire on the mountain. Unfortunately for people who do not accept direct communication with God, God still holds them accountable if they have entered into a covenant with him. Thus their transgressions, without an intercessor, can find no forgiveness and they must endure the punishment.
1Samuel 2:25 Here Samuel has given his sons the office of judges, but finds them to be completely corrupt in their handling of this office. Instead of standing in the gap between God and Israel and leading the people with right rulings, they accept bribes and favor the powerful. He chastises them and tells them they must submit to the will of God, but they ignore him because they know if they do they will be liable for the punishment. Instead they let Samuel continue as intercessor.
1Samuel 12:23 Here Samuel gives us an object lesson about his role as judge over Israel. He points out that God requires him to pray for Israel, but that true prayer is to teach the right rulings of God (aka The Torah). Samuel the Prophet has turned his will over to God completely, and the will of God is that the people learn the Torah.
From the examples above, we see that whoever attempts to palal must carry a heavy burden and stand alone for all of Israel. The assembled people turned away from their duty to communicate directly with God and instead left the task to others. With this Hebrew understanding of the one who prays let us reread these famous passages from the New Testament:
1Ti 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2:2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 2:10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 2:14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
Timothy and Peter share some opinions about the growing return to Torah, the in-gathering prophesied by Ezekial shown through the people from different places and backgrounds who have decided to follow Jesus, and the duty of the people of Israel as God meant for them from the beginning: kings and priests. Timothy refers to those who live within the Law of God as kings and people in authority. Living in this manner provides a life acceptable to the living God and recognizes the only mediator humanity has with God: the living Torah Yeshua (Word clothed in flesh Jesus).
Peter reiterates that Israel should stand as a royal priesthood. He points out that for so long they had not existed as God's people because they put everyone from Moses to the chronicled kings between themselves and God. At one time they lived in the land as his people, at least in name, but they divided themselves into two nations which eventually God spread throughout the Diaspora. However, at the crucifixion, the veil tore signaling no more division between God and his people. Where before someone had to intercede for them so they could receive mercy (Exodus 32:31) now the individual in-gathered seed of Abraham could seek God directly. Peter reminded them to stay away from sin, which is by definition transgression of the Torah1. He reminds the believers to do Torah ordained works before the gentiles just as if at visitation day (Yom Kippur). He admonishes them to follow the laws of man which parallel the Torah. For where man's law duplicates the Torah, evil men will suffer judgment and righteous men receive reward.
Both men call the ancient priesthood of Melchizedek into order as intercessors for all the earth, as kingly servants to teach the Torah to the earth, and as the friend's of God.
Now to define the word tefillah h8605. The Strong's says simply, “intercession, prayer, a hymn, or sacred song.” Modern Jews wrap prayer items called tefillin around their hands and heads throughout the day and pronounce specific ritual prayers. They practice this in a halakha observance of one of the laws stated by Moses:
Deu 6:1 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: 6:2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
Deu 6:8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
Deu 11:18 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
Essentially tefillah and palal boil down to this simple concept iterated by Moses, “keep all his statues and his commandments... bind them for a sign upon thine hand (the thing you do work with) and they shall be frontlets between thine eyes (cerebral cortex where you think in a deep way). Prayer is to ponder his commandments and do his works.
With this final understanding we can fulfill the order of Paul to the Tehssalonians, “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess 5:17)
- Written by Raymond W. Myers
- Category: The Meaning of Prayer
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In the Brit Hadasha / New Testament prayer proseuche g4335 and pray proseuchomai g4336 both appear. Let us begin our exploration of these words with the places where Jesus / Yeshua used them in the gospel of Matthew.
Mat 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Mat 21:13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Mat 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
Professor Strong, in his concordance, tells us proseuche derives from proseuchomai . It can mean: a prayer addressed to God or a place where people gathered for prayer (whether the synagogue or an open air place where no synagogue existed). We see from the first example that battling demons requires this proseuche. We see that the Temple of God existed for this word. We see from the third example, God grants requests made in this manner. Immediately we must ask ourselves, what then is to proseuchomai?
Professor Strong's concordance tells us the compound word proseuchomai g4336 contains inside it two other words: pro meaning toward and euchomai meaning God's imparted wishes. Thus to pray requires an exchange of wishes of a person for the wishes of another: in this case God. Perhaps better said, we surrender our will in exchange for God's will.
Consider the idea of surrendering human will for the will of God while reading the above quotes from Yeshua / Jesus.
Mat 17:21 tells us that the man who was possessed of many demons did not exchange his own will for the will of the Father, nor did this man keep the fast of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the time when even modern Jews focus on teshuva or a returning to God's will.
Mat 21:13 tells us the meaning of the temple of God, which is a place for people to return to the will of God. Here they kept the feasts and rituals designed to free a person, their family, and their nation from sin.
Mat 21:22 tells us that whatever we ask for, that is in the will of God, we will receive. We must exchange our own desires for what he desires.
With this new understanding of prayer, we can see a deep and cutting strike made against the Pharisees when Yeshua chastises them in Matthew saying:
Mat 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
The Torah requires the caring for of widows and orphans [Exodus 22:21]. By ignoring this necessity, these men demonstrated a refusal to exhange their will for God's will. Even though the Pharisees stood out in the streets at the 3rd, 6th, and 9th hour Shucklen and reciting the Amida to their father, they defied the Law of Moses and lived according to their own will. Thus Jesus / Yeshua also subtly reminded them of a "damnation" to come:
- Written by Raymond W. Myers
- Category: The Meaning of Prayer
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