By Nathan Washburn
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Greenbrier
Prayer conquers stress. We have no lack of stress, and therefore no lack of need for prayer.
Hannah was a woman who knew this (I Samuel 1). She had a good, God-given desire (to have children), and yet was troubled in spirit (1:15) and filled with anxiety (1:16) because her desire went so long unfulfilled. Moreover, it was the Lord who had closed her womb (I Samuel 1:5), so the questions and inner turmoil seemed to increase.
Turn to the Lord. When we find ourselves in great distress, like Hannah, we have three options as to what to do with our heaviness. We can take it to others and seek their wisdom and help in soothing our spirit as we attempt to feel better. We can bottle it up and try to hold it together on the outside while inside we feel like we’re going to either burst or die slowly. Or we can turn to the only source of peace and comfort — the Lord Himself. He welcomes us when we’re irritated (I Samuel 1:6), distressed (v. 10), afflicted (v. 11), troubled in spirit (v. 15), anxious and vexed (v. 16), and weary and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28), and He promises to give us rest.
Talk to the Lord. When we turn to the Lord, however, we must not stop short. We must not think that peace is found in the mere shift of our hearts toward Him. We must actually commune with Him. We must actually pray and talk to Him. This means we cast our cares on Him because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7). It means we let our requests be made known to Him in everything by prayer and supplication (Phillipians 4:6). Hannah did turn to the Lord, but she did so in order to voice the distresses she had (I Samuel 1:15-16) and the desires she hoped for (v. 11). Through her tears, she poured out her soul before the Lord (v. 15).
Trust the Lord. When we’ve poured out our souls before the Lord, which is a good and spiritually high endeavor, as we rise from our knees, we must trust the Lord. He has all power. He is totally good. And He has all knowledge of our situation and every situation that has ever been situated. We can trust Him, and when we do, we will have a profound sense of peace (Philippians 4:7) that sets the tone of our hearts. This trust and subsequent peace allows us to be able to get up, grab something to eat, and move forward (I Samuel 1:18).
Thank the Lord. God may answer according to what we ask. And he may not answer according to what we ask. Regardless, when peace reigns in our hearts for having trusted God through prayer, thanksgiving quickly follows. We thank Him for His peace. We thank Him for His sovereignty in caring for our needs (and wants). We thank Him for His knowledge, wisdom, goodness, and power to answer according to His will and what will maximize His glory. In God’s grace, He did give Hannah her request — a son. Having received this precious gift from the Lord (I Samuel 1:27), she then erupted into a prayer of thanksgiving — exulting in the Lord (I Samuel 2:1), praising his holiness (v. 2), and attributing to Him all power and mercy (vv. 6-8).
We are not left alone in our times of distress. We have an escape hatch called prayer that serves to help preserve our joy and peace when we’re overwhelmed — but we must utilize it.