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WALK TO JERUSALEM
PRAYING AT SHILOH
Hannah's home was broken. For years she had been happy in her marriage to the priest Elkanah. But even though peace filled their home, there was also a shadow that was never lifted. For Hannah could not bear children.
In a culture where a woman’s value was linked directly to motherhood, did Hannah feel less of a woman? Did she think something was wrong with her? Was God punishing her for something she’d done? We don’t really know what Hannah thought about her condition, but she definitely experienced great anguish over it.
And to make matters worse, Elkanah decided he must take matters into his own hands. He married a second wife, Penninah, and this marriage was blessed by many children, both sons and daughters. Year after year, Hannah was forced to stand by and watch these children grow up while she had no child of her own. She also had to endure Penninah’s harassment, who rubbed Hannah’s nose into her own success as a mother and ultimately Hannah’s failure as a woman.
But even though all of Hannah’s hopes seemed crushed, she met her trial with uncomplaining meekness. She held it all inside because not even Elkanah could understand her pain. “Why do you weep?” he cried. “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8).
Hannah knew there was only one person she could confide in. So when the family travelled to Shiloh to celebrate the annual feast, Hannah slipped away to the tabernacle. From the depths of her heart, she pled with God to take away her reproach. If only she could have a son to raise for God!
Hannah poured out her heart, even vowing that if the Lord would give her a baby, she would dedicate this child to the His service. She prayed fervently and with such intensity that she could not even speak. For “she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord, and wept in anguish” (1 Samuel 1:10). “She communed with God in silence, uttering no sound” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 570). The grief that had been bottled up finally spilled out like water.
Hannah’s prayer was much like Jacob’s as he wrestled with Christ on the banks of the Jabok River. And like Jacob, she would not let go until her prayer was heard. When our hearts are heavy with any kind of pain, we can pour out our hearts like Hannah. No tear will fall to the ground unnoticed. No struggle will be ignored. But even if we cannot utter a single word, Jesus will hear us.
“If we come to God, feeling helpless and dependent, as we really are, and in humble, trusting faith make known our wants to Him whose knowledge is infinite, who sees everything in creation, and who governs everything by His will and word, He can and will attend to our cry, and will let light shine in our hearts. Through sincere prayer we are brought into connection with the mind of the Infinite. We may have no remarkable evidence at the time that the face of our Redeemer is bending over us in compassion and love, but this is even so. We may not feel His visible touch, but His hand is upon us in love and pitying tenderness” (Steps to Christ, p. 96).
Prayer brings us closer to God than anything else we do as disciples of Christ. In his book, With Jesus in His Sanctuary, Leslie Hardinge wrote:
“The priests of Israel considered this ministry [praying at the Altar of Incense] the choicest ever performed because they came closest to the Shekinah” (pg. 174). On the other side of the veil that separated the Holy and the Most Holy Place was the Ark with the 2 golden angels. In between these cherubim, God’s presence was revealed as the Shekinah glory. It was the very spot, Christ chose as His dwelling among His people. In fact, “dwelling” was the Hebrew word to describe what English Bible students refer to God’s glory in the Most Holy Place.
No one but the High Priest could be in the same room with the Shekinah. But Jesus invites us today to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). And it is our privilege to dwell with Jesus in this holy place anytime of the day, anywhere we go. We do not need to travel to Shiloh to find Jesus and an intimate connection with Him. We only need to pray.
“Trust in Him at all times, you people. Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8).
FOR DEEPER BLESSINGS:
* Read 1 Samuel 1
* Read Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 569-570