She knelt at the altar and sobbed. No words, only groans of despair murmured in the quietness. She felt her chest ache in tandem with her heart.
The abuse had been incessant. “You think you’re his favorite, but look at you – childless and cursed by God Himself.” Every holiday was the same. More taunts, more humiliation. Even her husband became deaf to her cries. Despair became a dark vacuum, sucking her into its depths. She ran to the church and collapsed on the floor of its empty altar.
Time paused in God’s presence as Hannah felt peace overtake her chaos. Words formed around her cries. Words with a new clarity and force found a voice. That voice was Hannah’s.
“Lord, if You hear my cry for a son, I’ll give him back to you. He’ll be yours for his entire life,” she said.
A silent watcher entered through the narthex. His angry voice interrupted her solitude.
“Take your drunk self out of this sanctuary. Have you no shame?” he asked.
Hannah looked up. Red blotches covered her pale skin and her nose ran as she stopped the sway of her body in prayer. She watched the priest’s eyes squint against the light of the stained glass window. Folds of his robe stretched against his belly. His frown mingled with rolls of fat around the tight collar.
“No, sir. I’m not drunk. I’m just sad and came here to pray.”
He looked at her and shrugged. Walking back down the center aisle, he looked over his shoulder and answered.
“May the Lord be with you and answer your prayer.”
Hannah wiped her tears and combed her hair with her fingers. She tested her legs, then rose. Gathering soggy tissue wads scattered on the floor, she squared her shoulders and walked out into the sunlight. Humming, “Our God Reigns,” she smiled and broke into a jog. God had heard. The baby was on his way.
Hannah’s story took place hundreds of years ago, when miracles were rare and God’s presence even rarer. Ministers were corrupt, guzzling wine as they swindled the people’s offerings. Miracles were only a vague hope. Hannah’s spiritual authority couldn’t tell the difference between drunk and despairing. The sympathy of her adoring husband ran thin. A second wife birthed baby after baby as she taunted Hannah’s barrenness. But Hannah’s cry brought heaven’s response and a “God-child” was born. Her prayer was like a laser beam as her entire being entered into a single, focused desire directed to the living God.
Does that kind of prayer still work? The scary, intense, no-holds-barred kind? I think so. Our problem is that we tend to pray a buckshot version, words scattered in God’s direction, hoping one will get His attention. Blaming is one kind of buckshot. It scatters hard pieces that hit anyone close at hand, saying “It’s not fair. It’s your fault…” An inverted cry moans, “It’s my fault. If only I had…” This cry turns a gun on itself. Our bodies suffer and sickness shouts, “Stop! Your cry is killing me!” Indulgence or addiction, other sidetracked cries, anesthetize instead of bring an answer.
Our desires are important to Him. The Holy Spirit brooded over the waters at the beginning of creation, waiting for the word of God to be spoken. He hovers over our lives today, waiting for us to speak, even now. Hannah’s desire met God’s desire and Samuel was born. This Samuel became a prophet who restored God’s presence to His people. Pay attention to the cry of your heart. A God-child waits to be born.