Mothering comes in all shapes and sizes, forms and facets. Some of you are super-mommas, step mommas, grand-mommas, spiritual mommas, dads-who-play-mom-and-dad, single mommas, foster mommas, super-aunts, bio-mommas, pet mommas, mommas-by-adoption.
Mother’s Day can be a mixed bag—of pain and pride, joy and tragedy, hope and heartbreak.
Perhaps you lost your momma or never knew your mom or had a strained relationship with your mom.
Perhaps you buried your baby or never saw the positive pregnancy test or walked through a failed adoption.
Perhaps you never got the chance to be a momma—life didn’t turn out like you expected.
Perhaps you are still aching to be a momma but wait with baited breath. You dread baby showers and the “So when are you having kids?” question.
Hannah knew that ache well. She prayed fervently for a baby.
But God was silent.
Silence is a reoccurring theme in 1 Samuel 1. God is silent. Hannah’s prayers are spoken silently. Even the Rival’s taunts are not disclosed. But despite the deafening silence, God’s plan is being unraveled. As the curtain peels on the opening story of 1 Samuel, we glimpse a tangled marital web of jealousy, rivalry, and favoritism, but we also see a constant companion of worship and prayer.
Yet worship is not a safe experience for Hannah. Year after year, the Rival pokes at her. The reader might assume the Rival is her sister wife who isn’t their husband’s favorite and has offspring to lord over Hannah.
However, what if it is another silent enemy who whispers lies inside her head? A Rival that we know well. We can imagine the Rival spoke untruths of Hannah’s worth, value, and purpose. That just like the slithering serpent in Genesis 3, the rival twists the truths of God. Perhaps the Rival taunts Hannah’s faith and worship:
What good are your prayers if they aren’t answered?
Why would God’s listen to you?
Even when Hannah believes her hope has dried up, that she has nothing left to offer except her salty tears and withering womb, she worships God through sacrifice and prayers.
In God’s infinite goodness, Hannah’s prayers don’t go unheard or unanswered. Hannah trusts in the God of Abraham—a God who heard the cries of Abraham and Sarah and provided a son. Hannah trusts in the God of Moses—a God who heard the cries of his people in slavery and came down to rescue.
Just as God is silent, we also notice that Hannah’s prayers are spoken silently—an unusual occurrence in Jewish culture. I love the Priest Eli’s response: How much longer are you going to be drunk? (1:14). Sometimes when we continue to offer up prayers that go unanswered, we can feel crazy, too. The drink analogy continues in Hannah’s response when she says that she hasn’t been drinking in anything, but rather pouring out her heart to God.
In her prayers, she tosses out an anchor of hope into the future—promising her future son to the Lord’s service. Hannah believes so fervently in God’s ability to hear her cries and open her womb, that she even makes a promise that hinges on God’s response.
We may never receive the answers we expect, but we can trust that God hears our cries and in God’s infinite wisdom is working all things for the good of those who love God.
O God of unanswered prayers, move in me to pray petitions I am afraid to pray. Infuse me with courage to speak the unutterable desires of my heart. That in doing so, I may plant seeds of defiant hope in the fertile ground of your unending love. Remind me that nothing I say falls on deaf ears, but on a God who hears. The God who heard the cries of Hannah’s heart hears too the cries of my heart. Amen.