Overcoming Hateration with Persistent Prayer
1 Samuel 1:1-20
If it had been somebody else, it might have been a fight. I mean, if it had been some of these kids today, the fight would have broke out and the crowd around would have been saying “It’s a fight, it’s a fight, between Elkanah’s woman and Elkanah’s wife.” Well, technically, they were both his wives, but he claimed to love Hannah for real, and he got it on with Peninah for play.
So here’s what happened. There was this man. His name was Elkanah. He had two wives. Hannah and Peninah. Peninah had plenty babies. Hannah had none. Now Elkanah was a church-going man. And every so often, as was required, he’d leave home and go worship the Lord. And it was his custom that, as he prepared the sacrifice to the Lord, to leave some left over for the family. Since he had two wives, which was the custom in that day, he’d make sure there was plenty enough for both of them. But the text points out that he was not quite equal in his affection. To Peninah, the one who was NOT barren, he gave an ample portion – plenty enough for her and her kids. But to Hannah, he’d give a double portion. Twice as much! And the bible says the reason he did it was “because he loved her.”
You have to wonder, with a statement like that, what that meant about Peninah. I mean she was his wife too, and didn’t he “love” her too? (We’ll come to that later, but suffice it to say, Hannah “moved” him in a way that Peninah did not.)
But here’s the problem. She had GN and BN. The GN was her husband Elkanah loved her with a special kind of love. And that was great. But the BN was, according to what the Bible said: “The Lord closed her womb.”
Have you ever had everything you wanted except the one thing you really wanted? She got the man, but could not conceive a baby to make the man a father. ... She got the love, but could not reproduce any fruit from the love. ... She got the husband, but could not make the family. She had it all, except the one thing that would make it all come together.
I mean, come on, have you ever been there?
Work real hard and finally get the promotion, but wind up losing the marriage.
Or maybe yours is just the opposite, you did all the right things, studied hard, got the degrees, got the career, the nice house, fancy car, but ain’t got nobody to share it with.
Labor all those years to reach retirement, and then hear the unfortunate news of the bad diagnosis.
Save enough to finally get the big mcmansion, but soon learn that your house does not a home make.
That’s why every now and then it’s a good idea to take an inventory of your life to look at what you have and what God’s plans for you are == and if what you have and what you’re seeking don’t match God’s plans, then you need to get to praying.
In life, you’re gonna come across some bullies who hate on you just because. Because you’re skinny, because you’re fat, because you’re tall or because you’re short. Because you’re smart or because you cute or because you’re whatever. And the thing to note is that they aren’t hating on you for what you aren’t, they’re hating on you because you’ve got something they want. Peninah had all the working equipment to make the babies, but try as she might, she did not have the man. Boom! There it is! And so she hated on Hannah. Not for what Hannah was not, but because Hannah had something she could never have. That’s the secret of the bully. They see in the other something they secretly covet for themselves and since they cannot have it, they try tearing it out of the person who does have it.
And we find ourselves barren and stuck in midst of frustrating, agonizing, despairing hateration, there is a way out.
Notice what she did to overcome the hateration:
#1: Crazy prayer. Hanna allowed her adversity to propel her toward prayer. Crazy prayer is when you don’t care who looks, who sees, who judges, or who critiques. It’s prayer that does not given in to the adversary but that uses the adversary to push you toward your destiny. Check this out: it was Peninah’s persistent provoking that made Hannah get up and go to the temple and pray one more time. But this time, she prayed a crazy prayer like a drunk woman. She prayed so hard and so furiously that Eli the priest saw her lips moving but heard nothing coming out. He saw how her whole body had given into prayer the way a drunk person gives into the drink. He scolded her and told her not to come around there drunk like that no more. But Hannah replied: “I’m not drunk, I’m troubled. I’m not a worthless woman, I’m here because I have worth. And I thought if I could just pour my heart out to the Lord, if I could just plead my case one more time, ... I’m tired of being anxious and tired of being vexed. I can’t live like this no more and so I came to the temple for some relief. I came because I knew if anybody could help me, God could.”
Well church, maybe there’s somebody in here this morning who is tired of all the drama, tired of the bullies, and tired of watching others get what you thought you had to have, and just plain tired of the hateration and the irritation and the vexation others try to send your way?
Well, I just came by to tell you you came to the right place. Jesus said: “My house shall be called the House of Prayer.” But today, we can make it the house of crazy prayer! I’m just crazy enough to praytto the Lord one more time. Just crazy enough to trust in the Lord with all my heart. Just crazy enough to believe that the God I serve is able. The Lord is in his holy temple and he hears the cries of his people.
A crazy prayer says any way you bless me Lord, I’ll be satisfied. A crazy prayer says I’ll trust you even in the midst of not tracing you. A crazy prayer says I’ll wait on you until my change comes You are MY God and above you there is no other.
Notice too, not only did she use Peninah’s provocations to propel her into Crazy Prayers...
#2: CONTRARY PRAYERS: If you’re going to overcome hateration, then you are going to need some CONTRARY prayers. Prayers that say contrary to how your life appears right now, you’re going to need to stay focused on your mission and not allow others’ agenda trip you up.
Hanna’s days must have been clouded over with misery.
On the one hand she had old pregnant Peninah, her husband’s other wife, whose very bullying presence, along with that of ALL her children just rubbed salt into the wound of her pain. The text tells us that Peninah irritated her all day long. Walking around there always rubbing her fat pregnant belly in Hannah’s face. Holding her back in her hands and talking about all the ways that baby was moving inside her. Breastfeeding the other babies from both sides at the same time at the dinner table. Peninah played her best trump card, knowing her ability to conceive was also a sign of strong womanhood and a mark of her husband’s virility. (By now somebody should be saying how Elkanah have all those babies by her and not love her. That’s a sermon for another day.)
The text says year after year she provoked her and bullied her over and over. I’ll say it again, if she had been somebody else, the fight would have broke out, because another kind of woman would have clocked Peninah in the head. But thanks be to God, that’s not who she is.
But worse than that, not even Elkanah – the man who claimed to love her – was able to understand her pain. He just kept trying to feed her more food and when she refused to eat, he did what any man might do. He asked, “What’s the matter baby? I know you want some chil’ren and I know Peninah is hating on you, but don’t let that get to you. I mean it can’t be all that bad. After all, you still got me. I’m your baby. And aren’t I worth more to you than 10 sons?” Maybe that was her wake up call. Up to that point, she had refused to eat. But some debilitating shackle must have shook loose inside her when he said that because she got herself up, ate some food and drank some juice and went out to the temple to pray.
I just came by to tell somebody this morning – when foolishness is all around, and crazy folks seem to fill your days, and absurdities seem to come to you on every hand, AND HATERS wanna rule your life – and when you’ve prayed all you can pray and cried out to God all you can cry out to the point you lost your appetite, here’s what you do. Eat some food, drink some juice and get up and go to church and pray some CONTRARY prayers.
Contrary to popular belief, I ain’t going out like this. Contrary to what my situation may look like, I know that greater is coming. Contrary to what you may have heard, rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.
Hannah teaches us that we cannot be too fainthearted in our prayers, giving up too soon, because just about the time where we feel like our prayers need to end is when God is saying this is where you ought to begin. Just about the time we feel like we want to let go is where we need to hold on the strongest, keep pushing the hardest, keep seeking all the more earnestly, and persevere beyond our own capacity. God loves a persistent pray-er, a pray-er that won’t give up and won’t let go until the prayer is answered.
If Elijah had stopped praying the first time he prayed, the heavens would have never opened and not a drop of rain would have fallen.
If Jacob had quit praying at bedtime, he never would have wrestled all night with the angel and would not have been prepared to meet Esau that next day.
If the Syrophoenician woman had allowed her faith to be stunted and silenced by humiliation and rebuttal, she would have never returned home to an exorcised, healed, delivered, and set free daughter.
Don’t get mad because you don’t get instant gratification. Sometimes it’s not rejection. It’s that God is still working the plan and part of the plan is to see if we can pray and keep on praying and keep on praying. Sometimes the plan is to see if we can (always) pray – and faint not – trusting that surely even if the situation does not change, something inside US will change and we’ll be different.
Crazy prayers/ Contrary prayers
#3. CORE PRAYERS: You can overcome the hateration, when you realize that your fight is not EXTERNAL, it’s INTERNAL. It’s not relief from the bully that you need, and it’s not even the sperm from Elkanah that you so desire. What you need is deliverance from the curse of overlooking what you do have because you’re so busy trying to get what you don’t have. What you need can’t come from Elkanah, and it surely can’t come just because Peninah decides to give you a break, it comes from realizing that God has already been good, already done enough, already answered prayer, already provided for you, and if God never does another thing, God has already done enough. It’s an internal adjustment that will bring about an external change.
I love the way Gabourey Sidobe handled her haters during the Golden Globes. You know who she is, right? She’s the actress who played Precious in the movie. She’s overweight but beautiful in her own right. She said in one interview: “I don’t do haters. I don’t believe in them.” When she received some awful tweets from folks who felt compelled to tell her how much they did not like her Golden Globe gown she shut down every one of her haters with this tweet: “To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK” When you know who you are in your core, and what you have to offer, you don’t have to fall into your hater’s trap. Go on and do you and be you and let the haters alone.
#A: It was her core prayers that allowed Hanna to pray with a persistent faith to the God who she knew would want better for her. Sometimes it’s hard for us to know what to pray and for how long to pray it because we haven’t taken the time to get to know the God we are praying to. But Hannah could persist in prayer because she understood some things about God and that God’s will was better for her.
But second, she persisted in prayer, not just for what she wanted, but because she knew that the life she was living was beneath what God wanted for her. The text says, she went year after year and prayed. The only way you can keep going back year after year when you’ve been turned down year after year is because you believe God has a change in mind for you.
After she prayed her crazy contrary prayer at the temple, Eli said “Go on home, Girl, you have found favor (there’s that word again) with God. The text says when she left him, her countenance changed. (A Core prayer will change your countenance.) Something on the inside was working now that brought about a change in her life.
And notice, her countenance did not change AFTER God opened up her womb, and after she got pregnant, her countenance changed after she had a one-on-one with the Lord, like she had never had before. It changed in verse 18 – she was sad no longer -- and yet she did not become pregnant until verse 20.
She was a living testimony that weeping may endure for a night.
She knew that God could turn her ashes into beauty
She knew that every battle is not hers, but that if she turned it over to the Lord.
And she knew that she did not have to wait to shout, because right there in verse 19, she the text said she worshiped the Lord. (O bless his holy name!) Somebody in here today is a shout away from your change, just one prerequisite praise away from your blessing, just one in-advance celebration away from God doing what God wants to do but you’ve got your praise on hold UNTIL, and God is saying don’t wait UNTIL, THIS is the day that the Lord has made. NOW is the appointed time of God’s favor. THIS is the day of salvation. What you waiting on? Take the hold button off your praise and give God a shout right now.
God’s got God’s eye on you.
Because here’s the thing. I’ve always wondered why the text was so explicit in pointing out that it was God who closed Hannah’s womb. It does not say why. It does not say when. It only says that it was God who did it. And when I read that, it always left me feeling some kind of way about God. Not only that God did it, but that God did it and then made her come in face to face contact every single day with the very person who would rub her face in the fact that she could not have children. That just doesn’t seem right. But here’s what I learned.
God had God’s eye on Hannah and on Elkanah. The text opens by letting us know it was Elkanah’s custom to go up every year to worship. And that had to please God. A faithful man, offering sacrifices to the Lord. (God never called any of us to be rich or successful or famous or popular – none of that excites the heart of God, because God does not need the money or the promotion – but what does grab God’s attention is when we are found faithful, when we are where we are supposed to be doing what we’re supposed to do. I believe God had an assignment that needed to be carried out. Eli the priest was getting old. He had two no-good sons. Somebody was going to need to take over the temple one day. The Bible says the eyes of the Lord roam to and fro throughout the earth to show God’s self strong on behalf of those who are committed to Him. Maybe, just maybe, Elkanah caught God’s attention. And he passed the test. But the Hannah test was even greater. The closing of her womb was her test to determine whether God can be trusted even when things don’t go our way.
That’s it. I’m done. But here’s your quiz for the day. The old preacher used to ask: Can you trust God even when you you don’t get your way? Can you trust God when you can’t trace God? Can you still believe God even when the diagnosis is bad and the prognosis is grim? Can you still follow God though the dark clouds have rolled in and covered your sunshine? Can you still have confidence in God when your boo has up and gone and taken your dreams with them? C’mon church. Can you trust the Lord even when your son ends up in the big house instead of Morehouse and your daughter is too busy chasing men to go even want to go to Spellman? Can you hold on to your faith even after everything you hoped would have happened has gone poof and everything you hoped wouldn’t happen has become a reality?
The Lord eventually opened hannah’s womb and they named the baby Samuel, which means: “For this child I prayed.” She dedicated the boy back to the Lord and he was raised in the temple and became Eli’s successor. You don’t know how God is using this thing, but you have to trust that even though it’s not going your way, God is using it for some good. All things... in time, in due season, at the appointed time, work together for good FOR THOSE WHO LOVE THE LORD...
That’s the question on the altar this morning. All the haters aside. All the disappointment aside, can you trust the Lord ... even now. That’s the question that confronted Jesus in the garden, and it’s the question that confronted a Jesus with nails in his hands and nails in his feet and a crown of thorns on his head. My God, my God...
But it’s to all of that that Jesus declared and we declare today...
You can’t make me doubt him.... I know to much about him.
Can’t nobody do me like Jesus.