There is a difference between faithful prayer and fervent prayer. We have become good as persevering in our intercession for our families, communities and nation, but have we truly been fervent? What does it mean to be fervent? Is it just an emotional appeal to heaven – an outburst of passion – or something deeper? The story of Hannah in the Old Testament provides some insights into what heaven may be looking for in this hour when many are wondering if their prayers are being heard.
Hannah’s story is told in I Samuel 1. It is recorded that she was one of two wives of Elkanah. Her rival, Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Yet, it wasn’t because of any sin on her part. It was the Lord Himself who closed her womb. However, Hannah was a woman who believed in prayer. Hannah believed that God was good and that she deserved to be heard. She had a conviction that she should bear a child and determined to petition heaven for it.
She had opposition, however. First, her rival “…provoked her grievously to irritate her.” (vs.6) The Accuser was already at work. Imagine the shame and humiliation caused by these taunts that sought to render her worthless and disqualified for a spiritual inheritance.
Then, there was her beloved husband, Elkanah. Though Scripture indicates he loved her dearly, his own level of unbelief would not support her pursuit of a child. “…why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (vs.8). The voice in her head was saying, “Why can’t you just be content with what you already have? Why do you want MORE!!???” This, too, chipped away at Hannah’s faith in trying to get her to back down from her heart cries for her reward.
Even with both of these voices trying to hinder her progress, Hannah went to the Temple. In that place of the Lord’s presence, she had the strength to make a vow to the Lord. She simply said that if the Lord looked on her affliction and answered her petition for a son, she would willingly give him back to the Lord along with all rights in raising him as her own (vs.11). Was this easy for her? Definitely not! She was deeply distressed and wept bitterly (vs.10). She was troubled in spirit and was pouring out her soul to the Lord (vs.14). All these terms are translated as bitter, angry, discontented, heavy pain (“distressed”), grievous, obstinate, roughly sore, stiff-necked, vehement, stubborn (“troubled in spirit”). This was a woman of great anguish and pain. Her “stiff-necked” faith would not give up on the hopes of God being good and just!
This was no longer just a desire to have a son. Hannah had a vision beyond herself. It was no longer about proving her ability to bear a child. It was about her God being honored and glorified. It was her willingness to be a vessel through whom He would make Himself known to the world. This was a desperate plea for God to SHOW HIMSELF STRONG!
Even Eli, the priest, did not understand. He accuses her of being drunk when he sees her agonized prayer. Her response confirms her inner struggles: “Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation” (vs. 16). The word “vexation” here means indignation and provocation. She is tired of the accusations and sets the record straight. She knows who she is and who her God is. She will not be deterred. She had the audacity to believe that she was loved enough – important enough – to ask this. She did not let the accusations of her “rival” derail her. She didn’t let the reproof of her husband stop her! She did not let her physical limitation determine her destiny. She acted on the belief that God was GOOD – and He LOVED her. It was this declaration that positioned Hannah to receive her promise. Her humility and fervency in prayer caught heaven’s attention.
Eli finally relented and granted her request (vs. 17). Her High Priest heard her plea and responded! Breakthrough had come because her face was no longer sad (vs.18). Note that it wasn’t her loud cries that caught his attention (Eli could only see her mouth move)! It was the posture of her heart that broke through. Within the year, she bore a son.
I had to ask the Lord – Why?! Why did He put Hannah in this situation in the first place? He was the one who closed her womb. What was His purpose?
Think about it. What – or more importantly, who – was conceived in this ordeal? It was Samuel – the prophet. It was from the womb of extreme anguish, passionate determination and unwavering hope that Hannah brought forth a world changer. Even as a child, Samuel was sensitive to the presence of the Lord like no one else in his day, laying before the Ark waiting and watching (I Samuel 3:3). Hannah’s fervency of prayer birthed a prophetic voice that would forever alter Israel’s history. More importantly, I believe God revealed HIS heart through her – a heart that is PERSISTENT, RELENTLESS and UNWAVERING.
God wants to see His promises birthed! God knew what it would take to deliver a promise – a miracle – so powerful that things would never be the same. Samuel was the one who anointed King David and mentored him. It was Samuel who ministered from the word of God deeply within him guiding and directing events that would ultimately shape the course of history. From his very conception, his faith in God was unwavering and unearthly. It was out of Hannah’s earnest pleas and obedient intercession that God’s purposes came forth.
THIS is what fervent intercession can produce. It is not manufactured or manipulated. Fervency of prayer comes from a humbled soul that has allowed heaven to come in and consume our hearts. I believe that in the days ahead God is going to call us to intercede for others with a fervency we have not yet experienced. It will be heart-felt and full of pain. Yet, it will give birth to an amazing harvest of souls and world changers.
Are you willing to pray this kind of prayer – not just being faithful, but allowing a heaven-sent anguish to motivate your intercession? Are you willing to let God incubate His promise in you so strongly that nothing and no one will deter you from seeing your prayer answered? The future of His kingdom may depend on it.
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7-8, NIV)