Hannah’s Prayer of Deep Distress

Read: 1 Samuel 1

I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation. (vv. 15-16)

The story of Hannah is one of grief turned to joy. The biblical narrator emphasizes the long duration of Hannah’s sorrow and pain at her childlessness. “Year by year,” we read, Hannah’s husband Elkanah went up to Shiloh to worship the Lord, sacrificing an animal and bringing a portion back to his family. And “year by year” Hannah wept and would not eat any of the gift her husband brought to her. Hannah’s infertility was a continuing, persistent anguish for her. Year after year she prayed to God, and year after year nothing happened. Prayers of distress and sorrow sometimes last a long time.

Hannah’s anguish eventually came to an end. Her prayers were answered. She gave birth not only to Samuel, but also to three more sons and two daughters. In God’s wise timing, Hannah’s wait was over. Our prayers of sorrow and pain are also, at times, lengthy, and we say with the psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” (Ps. 13:1) —Leanne VanDyk

Prayer: God of faithfulness, in our darkest times give us the persistence of Hannah, who prayed through her pain, year by year. Help us to look to you both in our need and in our joy. Amen.

About the Author

Leanne Van Dyk is a Reformed theologian and theological educator. She has focused much of her work on atonement theology and the development of theological education. She is the tenth president of Columbia Theological Seminary.