5 September 2012

1 Samuel 2:1-10

"Hannah prayed and said, 'My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.'" (v. 1)


In my fevered imagination I see old, rich, powerful men frustrated that the people are demanding that Hannah's prayer be part of their Scriptures, for it challenges their power and wealth. In my imagination it is rather like the men in Luke 20:1-8 who want to take action against Jesus but can't because the people are convinced he is a prophet.

It seems to me that in a patriarchal society it takes a lot to get the prayer of a woman into the Scriptures. It does not happen often and when it does it is because the prayer is so powerful and beautiful that it can't be ignored. For me, even the possibility that this prayer is a later insertion, that is placed on Hannah's lips, does not diminish it's power and symbolism.

Like many others I grew up with the Good News Bible which sadly failed to do justice to the poetry in Scripture, so it is only in more recent years, when I have used other translations, that the poetry has really spoken to me.

When a translation does poetry well the impact is so much greater. And the imagery in this prayer is full of contrasts that hit hard, that stop me in my tracks and make me think "Oh wow! God is really like that".

Sadly, some people still miss the impact of this prayer today, seeing it just as a prayer that is for women about barrenness against childbirth. To see it that way it to miss the ways in which the prayer celebrates God overturning the successful in favour of the failures; God bringing down the rich and powerful in favour of the poor and weak. When we open our eyes and see Hannah exulting in God turning everything upside down and remember her offering her son (the one thing she wanted above all others) to God, then we see that this prayer challenges us all today.

To Ponder

  • Do we dare exult in God turning the world upside down? What might that mean for those of us in wealthy countries, in global terms living in luxury?
  • What does this poem mean for those of us with authority in the Church or in the community? Do we try to hold onto power and authority or are we supporting, enabling, including the contributions and indeed leadership of others?
  • Do we dare to join Hannah in offering to God that which is most important to us? What might that mean for you today? Can you face it?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.