Praying Families and Powerful Nations (1Samuel 1)


Many in our nation believe we need a leader; a leader like never before and unlike those of our present political voices. Politics are empty, we now need a powerful leader who can navigate us out of the mess we are in and point us toward a better and brighter future.

We can agree with Yogi Berra when he says, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” The current season of our nation is anger and confusion. People are angry and confused at the sense of loss and lethargy in the state of our nation.

We are a divided nation. Every issue, whether major or minor, has become politicized and polarized. One cannot have genuine dialogue without heated debate and division occurring. We have lost a sense of decency and respect for others who may believe or behave differently. Regardless of one’s opinions we should still have certain common ground for the values of our nation, but unfortunately this is no longer the case. Democrats, Republicans, and even Independents no longer view themselves as citizens of the same country but now as combatants to conquer. We have exchanged “we” with “me”, so that our united states are growing more divided by each political cycle. In all, we have failed to view our neighbor as ourselves and lack love for one another as Jesus Christ showed us.

We are a debtor nation. Entitlement, extravagance, and excess are the hallmarks of the American economy. We enjoy convenience and comfort, while we have little value for contentment. The detriment of these hallmarks have been realized in our nation’s public and personal debt. Our nation’s debt is over 19 trillion dollars (that’s 19 with 12-O’s). And while that sounds undesirable and unacceptable, American’s have tolerated government spending because their own habits are just as bad. The average person’s credit card debt is over $16K, with various other debts of education ($48k), entertainment ($16K), and home expenses all averaging well over $90K in debt.[1] We are overspending to oblivion. In all, we have failed to find our identity and provision for all that is good in Jesus Christ.

We are a depraved nation. Tolerance has trumped truth and morality has become mainstream. The understanding that absolutes exist has grown arguable. The statement, “There are no absolutes” is in fact an absolutist statement. However, it is said that public policy and laws should not be based upon religious absolutes or personal faith. Yet, the reality is that every policy and law is based on some standard of measurement for right and wrong; by definition every culture has specific values. Therefore, the source of a nation’s values must be unchanging or it will be blown around by the ever-changing winds of public opinion. Depravity in America may be debated in various behaviors. However, most all agree on the immorality of substance abuse, homicide and suicide rates, sexual violence and pornography statistics, which are all on the rise. If we allow a biblical worldview, then we must also mention the systemic injustices toward the poor and minorities, the support of alternative sexual lifestyles, and not to mention the devaluing of life. We call evil, “good” and we call good, “evil” (Isaiah 5:20; Ps 52:3); we treat the life of the unborn as a business product and we treat the life of the elderly as a burden; we have undermined the family as the foundation for society, and we are educating future generations with low expectations for character, conviction, or competency. In all, we have failed any standard of value and virtue and reveal our great need for the grace shown to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are a declining nation. The prophets of doom have always been in abundance. God’s judgment is firm and final but He has not revealed any timetables. Those who make predictions are prone to their own judgment. In other words, those who say the end is near are included in that end. While it has grown the norm to voice the decline of America, one should not do so lightly. My intent is not to say, “The end is near” but only that “Danger is ahead.”

Those who affirm the Bible and analyze the world in its light must ask the question: “What would it take for God to judge America as He did OT nations?” There’s also another question, perhaps even to the skeptic, “What would God’s judgment look like in America?”

Many in America believe we need a leader who will change all this by any means possible.

At this moment some of you may expect me to reference certain candidates for the Presidency of the U.S. Rest assured that while I have opinions on the topic, I choose not to get entangled in that battle. During this series when the text references certain topics about individuals or a nation’s leadership, I will most certainly make application to our times. In fact, I have a notation in my preaching calendar on June 26 to provide some principles for voting with a biblical worldview.

Ultimately, for people of faith, we must remember that God’s people’s search for a king should start and end with Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God will not arrive from Air Force One or because of who lives in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. We belong to an eternal kingdom and not earthly home. We are headed toward “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10) and a “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb 12:28).

Much of what can be said of America was said of Israel. Israel thought they needed a leader – a king who would blend military and political power. Israel’s search for a king was essentially three-fold:

–        Security and Protection
–        Stability and Prosperity
–        Significance and Prominence

Likewise, each one of us are searching for a king – a god/savior – who will provide us security, stability, and significance. And many pursue these to the neglect of Jesus.

–        What are your gods/saviors/idols?
o   Who do you turn to make you feel secure?
o   Where do you go to find peace and stability in your storms?
o   What provides you significance to yourself and in the eyes of others?

–        Where there’s smoke, you’ll see fire… your actions, activities and priorities will verify your god.

o   Reflect on week time spent cultivating relationship with God.
o   Reflect on the value and precedence of persons and activities

These same reasons for seeking a king are seen in opening characters of Elkanah & Hannah’s desire for a son.

–        Security to maintain family heritage
–        Stability to maintain family future prospects
–        Significance to maintain family lineage1Samuel logo

1Samuel & 2Samuel were originally considered as one book in the Hebrew canon. Together the books trace Israel’s history spanning approximately 130 years (c. 1100-970). The setting of the books follows the period of “Judges” for Israel, where there were repeated cycles of evil and idolatry in the land. The end of Judges says, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). 1Samuel opens in similar setting of the book of Judges.

è What would it take for the nation to turn around?

God uses praying families to build powerful nations. 1Samuel 1:1-20

When we rely on a person we get what people can do
Education – schools
Experience – world
Politics – government
Prayer – God 

“There was a certain man of the hill country” – Elkanah – who had two wives and one was barren. It appears as though God is continuing judgment upon a place and a people.

Elkanah was a hasty and haughty husband.

The text suggests that Hannah was his first wife with the second Peninnah. It is most likely that Hannah was not bearing children so Elkanah rushes to obtain another wife who would produce him an heir. He sought security, stability, and significance in a son rather than in God; he was hasty and haughty.

Further, when Elkanah speaks to his wife it is with foolishly rushed and prideful wording: “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? AM I NOT WORTH MORE TO YOU than ten sons?” (1:8)

Interestingly the text does not provide a response back from Hannah, because many of us probably can assume what happened next J. You see, what Elkanah meant to say was “Hannah, YOU ARE WORTH MORE TO ME than ten sons.” But that is not what he said. Men – we’ve all been there! Just say you’re sorry and back away slowly!

What can we learn from Elkanah and Hannah?

Praying families allow their imperfections to turn them to God (1:1-10)

o   Elkanah should not have had two wives (Bible is descriptive not prescriptive of polygamy).

  • Yet, Elkanah went up year by year from his city to worship and sacrifice to the Lord (1:5).

o   Hannah could have grown bitter toward Peninnah but instead she prayed. Hannah is a refreshing spirit of faith in the “Lord of Hosts”. This name for God showed her trust in God’s incomparable power and infinite resources. In fact, no less than 7x does the author either directly or indirectly refer to Hannah’s praying and pouring her heart out to the Lord.

è We need less Christians hand-wringing and more Christians hand-raising in prayer to the Lord.
è We need less Christians grumbling and increased gratefulness.
è We need less Christians acting in haste & haughtiness but more so in humility, recognizing the fear of the Lord.
o   Yes, we can admit we are imperfect but God’s grace has both forgiving power and formative power to change and cultivate in you godly character.


Hannah was desperate and distressed woman.
As a barren woman she had no hope of security, stability, or significance. Her infertility was a silent sorrow that no one else around her could empathize. Peninnah was Hannah’s rival [troubler] who provoked her grievously and irritated [thunder/roar; Hannah felt like a storm inside] her greatly (1:6). Every meal became a reminder that Peninnah had numerous mouths to feed while she ate alone. Her desperation and distress was so overwhelming that she wept and lost her appetite. She was “deeply distressed [bitter of soul; emotional, psychological and even physical pain]” (1:10). It was as if she had no reason to live.

Yet, Hannah prays and vows to the Lord that if He gave her a son that she would commit him to the Lord’s service. This was significant because Hannah would not be able to raise her son as her own but was giving him up in full devotion to be raised by priests in the temple. Can you imagine wanting something so badly AND having faith so strongly to trust God that once He gave it to you, to return it back to Him?

What can we learn from Elkanah and Hannah?

Praying families allow their inadequacies & insecurities to turn them to God (1:11-18)

–        Hannah felt inadequate and insecure in a culture where having children meant everything for future provision. And in spite of all the voices telling her she had no value (Elkanah – “you infertile and inadequate as a wife, but hey I still love you” / or Peninnah – “yo Hannah, I’m busy with all my kids, so can you do all the cooking, cleaning up, and extra chores?”) – she entrusted her value by pouring herself out to the Lord.

o   God will use our tears to teach us to trust. “My tears have been my food day and night… Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God?” (Psalm 42:3, 5)
o   Maturity occurs most in adversity. Maturity is long-term yet we live in a microwave society (text/email/chat, google search, amazon shopping, on-demand tv. Adversity in this world is God’s way of slowing down life for our thoughts & affections to be raised toward Him.

–        Hannah is a picture of maximum faith, while her husband Elkanah is a picture of only moderate faith. Elkanah is nowhere to be seen while Hannah is praying in the temple. Further, even the priest Eli has modest faith in speculating Hannah was drunk instead of praying (1:15).

o   Single women, find a man who pursues God more than He pursues you.

o   Men seek competition, well do not let your wife outpace you spiritually. Make a commitment to get in the Word both personally and in portion with your wife.

o   Previously a woman of God in Deborah had impact in Israel as a judge with political power and prophetic voice. Now Hannah will have impact in Israel as a mother, with the power of faith and prayer.

  • You want to ‘make America great’?

ü  Grow Godly Generations.

ü  Invest in children – CM/YM is nation building.

Praying families allow their inspirations to turn them to God (1:19-28)

–        After Hannah finished praying she left the temple and later went home in faith God would provide her a son. She and Elkanah acted in faith and God blessed for them to conceive Samuel.

è There are times when we must move on from praying and start participating in what God called you to do. 

–        1:21-28

o   Hannah’s naming the child Samuel (asked or heard of God) reflects her celebration to God (1:20)
o   Hannah’s weaning of the child reflects her commitment to God to steward God’s gift (1:22)
o   Hannah’s returning of the child reflects her contentment in God’s purposes for her son (1:24)

  • Hannah gave “three bulls, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine” to sacrifice in worship to the Lord.[2] Religious law stated that a sacrificial offering only required one bull, three-tenths of an ephah of flour, and only a half a hin of wine (Numbers 15:8-10). Or perhaps the amounts of sacrifice Hannah gave was beyond generous to show her heart of contentment, commitment, and celebration to the Lord.
  • à Understanding grace results in generosity.



–       God’s salvation was in the midst of Israel’s waywardness to change the course of its history through the least likeliest place – a rural hillside and a barren woman. Your salvation/spiritual growth may come in the least likely moment and place you expect in the way Jesus works in your life to grow in the gospel.

–       God uses praying families to build powerful nations. If not already, will you pray today for our nation?


[2] Textual debate over three year old bull vs three bulls. cf. R. Ratner, “Three Bulls or One?: A Reappraisal of 1 Samuel 1, 24, ” Bib 68 (1987): 98–102.


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