TODAY’S READING: 1 Samuel 1–3
The book of 1 Samuel is the transition from the wild, wooly period of the judges to the monarchy. First Samuel “begins not with a king, but with the imposing figure of Samuel. Samuel is priest and prophet and judge, indeed everything except king.” Samuel was this extraordinary combination of roles, critical in helping a rascally, divided people transform into a regional power. But the Samuel books are not really about Samuel. In fact, they open with the remarkable figure of Hannah, his mother.
Hannah was remarkable and exemplary for several reasons. First, she understood God’s sovereignty. Hannah was barren because “the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Sam. 1:5). Mocked by a rival wife (in an age when honor was primarily derived for women through childbearing), Hannah was at peace (though agonized) with the sovereignty of God. The single most important quality that assures missionary grit is when we believe God is sovereignly good in all that He allows and all that He ordains. We may never know which it is (allowed or ordained), but those who believe all things have to pass through the hands of He who loves us are unshakable.
Second, Hannah understood how to pray: So it was, year by year (v. 7), weeping in anguish (v. 10), continuing to pray before the Lord (v. 12), pouring out her soul (v. 15), going in peace (v. 17), ever trusting because she knew “for this child [she] prayed, and the Lord [had] granted [her] petition which [she] asked of Him” (v. 27). Hannah models for us the travailing prayer that God would love to see repeated in global missionary praying. Hannah’s heart was for a physical child, and oh, that the mothers in Israel today (who could also be fathers, sons, daughters, young and old) would have that same intercessory anguish for children! Oh, that missionaries and missionary prayer meetings would year by year, in weeping and anguish, ever believing, continually pour out from the soul and bombard heaven for our inheritance—sons and daughters from unreached peoples.
Third, and to me most wonderful of all, Hannah understood that all of life was about the glory of God in all the earth among all the nations. Think of her, an uneducated, poor wife from a little village in Palestine. A second wife, a nobody, illiterate and simple, humble and quiet, until she opens her mouth to pray. Then this little mother in Israel is transformed into a lioness of God, and cosmic confessions course from her spirit: “No one is holy like the Lord… Let no arrogance come from your mouth… The bows of the mighty men are broken… The Lord kills and makes alive… The pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He has set the world upon them… From heaven He will thunder…[and] judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed” (see 2:1–10). From the heart of this humble, illiterate mother came expressions of a glorious God who will be exalted in all the earth.
Contrast her with the sons of Eli who, as priests, should be all about the glory of God to the ends of the earth and a holy people being a light to all nations. Instead, they are squabbling over the best cuts of meat and losing sight of what God wants to do globally (vv. 12–17). While Hannah surges into high praise with global missional implications, Hophni and Phineas slink and shrink into parochial greed. And so it is today—prominent ministers squabbling over pensions and prestige, making themselves fat with the best offerings of the people (v. 29), while simple mothers raising the prophets, priests, judges, and missionaries of tomorrow bring the saints and angels of heaven roaring to their feet as their private prayers rend the heaven and bring the glory down. It is those prayers from hidden Hannahs all over this earth and all through time that have birthed the “here I am” of their Samuels. Truly, God does hear when these mothers of Israel pray.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 293.