Most parents plan names for their children before they’re born. Children are named after relatives or influencers, or names are chosen because of their meaning and sound. Sometimes alternate spellings are planned to ensure that the name is pronounced correctly and the lettering is unique.
I was named after my great-grandmother who died before my birth: Anna (pronounced with a long ‘a’ European-style because my great-grandmother was Polish). I was Anna before Frozen made the name famous.
Throughout my childhood, I was usually told that my name was pretty whenever I was introduced. But I wasn’t the biggest fan of Anna; it was too simple.
Once, during a break-the-ice competition in class, a teacher asked us who could create the most words using just the letters of our names. Want to guess who lost?
After I met God, I discovered that Anna means “God is gracious.” I realized that God has already shown me, and continues to show me, incredible grace. I embraced my name and purposed to demonstrate more grace toward others.
I found out that, because of the silent “h” in Spanish, Hannah and Anna are both pronounced the same way in Spanish-speaking countries. I researched Hannah from the Bible, considering her my namesake.
Hannah’s story impacts me because of how much she shows us about prayer. I’m surprised I haven’t heard a more messages on this passage, focusing on prayer in our relationship with God.
Hannah is one several barren women God brings to our attention in the Bible. Sarah and Rachel both find alternate solutions for their lack of children (Gen. 16: 1-2; Gen. 30: 1-4), and their husbands go along with their plans. However, Hannah never creates a plan; she turns to God for her solution.
Hannah is so vulnerable – she’s crushed by Peninnah and can’t hide it. We’re often taught to conceal our emotions with sayings like, “Never let them see you cry” and “Quit being a baby.”
But Hannah? She’s destroyed by Peninnah’s comments and Elkanah’s lack of support.
Her vulnerability doesn’t stop there; she’s not a wounded animal, hiding away, hardening her heart. She goes to God.
First, Hannah surrenders herself to God in prayer, begging Him for her desires. Eli thinks she’s drunk because of her passionate conversation with God. She freely expresses herself in prayer, being honest and intimate. She weeps.
She lays everything on the line – even what she doesn’t have – and she makes a bold promise to God.
Sometimes we have this idea that to beg God for our desires is selfish. We fail to “be who we are” with God. We forget that God tells us to ask Him for anything because He wants to give us good gifts. He is thrilled when He can shower us with gifts and fulfill the desire of our hearts.
Hannah has no problems with being who she is with God. She doesn’t even introduce her prayer with a few sentences:
“There are lots of other people in worse situations. I’m going to pray for them before I pray for myself. I know that You’re powerful and I’m lowly, so I’m not going to even bother asking. It’s been years and I haven’t had a child, so it must not be Your will for me to have a child.”
God honors Hannah’s request. He gives her a son. And Hannah gives her son right back to God.
The name that she chooses for her son reflects God’s graciousness to her: Samuel, “asked of God” or “requested from God.” She knows that she’s barren. She doesn’t think that she got lucky – she knows that Samuel is God’s miracle.
Second, Hannah doesn’t just surrender herself praying to God for her desires; she surrenders herself to God in sacrificing to Him. Her worship of God is extravagant.
Because a woman’s reputation was often unjustly measured by her ability to have children in those days, Samuel would’ve been considered proof that Hannah was finally “right with God” and “blessed by God.” Motherhood was a married woman’s identity.
By bringing Samuel to serve in the temple, Hannah was sacrificing her identity, her connection to an inheritance Elkanah would leave his sons, even her future security since a woman’s sons were tasked with providing for her after she was widowed.
Hannah gives God more than her child and her identity as a woman, both already great human sacrifices. She brings additional offerings to the temple: a bull, flour, and wine – presumably for a burnt offering, a grain offering, and a drink offering. These things are above and beyond what she would’ve already offered to God for giving her a son in the first place. Hannah’s sacrifice of herself and her son doesn’t stop her from giving materially to God – it only increases her desire to give.
When we truly sacrifice ourselves to God, our excitement to surrender everything else to Him grows.
Finally, Hannah surrenders herself in praise to God. She gives God all the credit for Samuel and for what takes place in her life after Samuel. She brags about who God is and what He’s done.
Her prayer is similar to Mary’s Magnificant. Both woman acknowledge how they feel in God’s presence, give God all the credit for what has happened in their lives, praise God in beautiful terms, talk about their humble condition, and marvel in God’s power, justice, and omnipresent control.
Glancing into Hannah’s prayer life inspires me. My desire is to emulate my namesake’s extravagant, sacrificial spirit of worship to God.
For this post, I chose artwork which I felt captured Hannah’s emotions and devotion to God in worship. The pencil drawing at the top of the post is off of Pinterest, but I believe this site contains the original artwork: