Hannah, in our first reading, has a problem: she wants a son, and it is not just because she likes babies. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (and others) were that God would bless them with numerous descendants, vast lands, and immense wealth, and after a certain time Jewish popular thought concluded that God must have cursed a woman like Hannah, who was childless, and that it was probably because of her sin.
Hannah prays to God most earnestly, with “tears and supplication” and not with a prayer that someone else had written for her. At the word of Eli she takes heart and lives in hope (“she was no longer downcast”) --- and the Lord hears her.
This is only the first in a series of surprising births of special sons. Hannah bears the great judge Samuel as a result of her prayer, Samson is born by the will of God (Judges 13), Elisha promises a son to a woman because she yearns for one and she has supported him and his work (2 Kings 4:8-17), and John the Baptist arrives in a similar manner (Luke 1) --- and then there is Christ (Luke 1), who doesn’t even need a human father. Is it worth noting that three of the five died violently?
Hannah got her son, and that satisfied her needs, but God had much greater things in mind for Samuel. Do we pray seriously, regularly, with great desire and hope? Do we ask for things beyond our own lives, putting the answer to our prayers firmly in the hands of the love the Father has constantly shown us, the love Christ manifested, and the love that the presence of the Spirit in our lives proves?
Let us pray that when we speak to God we ask not only for what we wish, let us ask that our requests be something that he can work with, giving us maybe a son for ourselves but getting a Samuel for our world as well.
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