Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by Rev. John Farmer

Visit the Irvington Baptist Church website

Prayerful hearts dispel our misery

The visitation of life’s troubles often takes us to our knees. How and why we come to a time of prayer usually differs one instance from another. A need for deliverance may press. Overwhelming, over-arching moments may preoccupy us beyond what we believe we can bear. During these and other stressful moments our hearts may be too full to pray. The emotions of our hearts may in fact stop our mouths. We need to tune our hearts to God’s. He hears us in our abundant need and answers us from his heart of love, mercy and grace.

While women must have prayed aloud in church for years earlier, Hannah (I Samuel 1:9-18) seems to be the first recorded instance of feminine prayer recorded in the Old Testament. Listen to her prayer:

“After supper, at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord.

“She wept bitterly. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and she made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a Nazirite (Jew of Old Testament times, consecrated to God by vows) until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants and no razor shall touch his head.’ As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.

“Only her lips moved, Hannah was praying silently; but her voice was mute; therefore, Eli thought she was drunk.

“Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.’

“But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; 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 I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.’

“Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.’ And she said, ‘Let your servant find favor in your sight.’ Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband and her countenance was sad no longer’.”

Hannah was the least fortunate wife of Elkanah (God has purchased).

The result of her burdened prayer was the gift of their son Samuel.

“Thousands of people pray only when they are under great stress, or in danger, overcome by uncertainty,” said Billy Graham.

The British theologian Herbert Lockyer looked at this heavy-hearted prayer and drew some conclusions:

The best place for help in all our time of need is the Throne of Grace. (An oxymoron: to the ancient world, thrones were forbidding places of sovereign authority and judgment.)

The more complex our trouble, the deeper we wrestle for truth, should elevate how serious our prayers.

We’ve lost a powerful tool in contemporary society. It really is OK to make vows unto God. They are contracts under which we agree to some promise of God, even if he doesn’t mature our covenant. We are to keep the faith, to keep praying.

The gift of children is holy. Parenthood, at its best, is the sacred result of the love shared between persons. Since it results in new life on this earth we ought to pray to God to make us good parents. Like Hannah it wouldn’t hurt to do so beforehand. Goodness knows, our children will later teach us to pray.

Promises made to God should be kept. When we are too full to pray aloud, our hearts dispel our misery. If we bargain with God over an issue of prayer, we have a bounden duty to uphold our covenant. We must keep our promises to God.

We shouldn’t get up from our knees, when the God of truth and light grants our prayer petitions, without thanking him and praising his name.

Now, do you realize that often our heartfelt prayers are at odds with the prayers of others? God, in his absolute wisdom must balance the weight of what he knows is in all our best interests, while taking into account how, for what and when we pray.

A good description of 2018 Virginia weather would be: wet! Possibly 2019 might also be heading that way…

According to Brian Roeder, owner of Barrel Oak Winery, Delapane, “This is not going to be a great year for Virginia wine.” Roeder added, “Those who already know how to make good wines will be able to make good wines. It’s just that great wines may not be in the forecast this year.” Yet, it wouldn’t hurt for them to pray.

God heard Hannah, God heard all the farmers. He has heard the vintners. He knows what’s best for all of us in the long run.

Pray, even if silently, if only your lips move. Tune your overflowing heart to God’s.