Wednesday, October 28th 1 Samuel 1:12-18

As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer. 1 Samuel 1:12-18

Again this morning we run into another cultural divide. While we think of personal prayer to be a “quiet” activity, preferring to pray silently when we are praying alone, “in those days” prayer was a loud vocal exercise. You still see this today at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem as people rock back and forth, singing and shouting their prayers.

But Hannah was praying silently.

It drove Eli nuts. As “priest emeritus” at his duty station that morning, Eli was appalled to see Hannah…praying silently. It irked him that her lips were moving but no sound was coming out. “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.”

Then we hear Hannah explaining herself to Eli. He hears her explanation, then tells her, ““Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” We would like to think that his heart had softened toward her, that the strongest accent of his statement was on the assurance that God would grant her petition. But maybe it was really about “go” – as in, “Go on now, you might be hurting but your prayer style is still getting on my nerves.”

There are two other connections in this story to our reality today. One is that hurting people still turn to God. We ought never forget this but too often we do. When a new person suddenly shows up in worship on a Sunday morning, or stops by the church during the week and asks to pray in the sanctuary, you can bet your bottom dollar that something is going on in their life. Something is hurting or something has them upset. Something is driving them to reconnect with God. When I was a parish pastor, there was nothing on my schedule during the week or no “church members” so important that I wouldn’t make the time to greet those silent ones passing through the midst of the community.

The other connection for me is the many times that church people “dismiss” the strange people that pass through. Whether it was the homeless people who would occasionally show up for worship in the downtown church and make some kind of a scene, or the obvious “they’re not from here” types that would show up in the suburbs, far too often they would get the “Eli” treatment. Far from a warm welcome or gracious hospitality, such people would be left feeling like the new 6th grader in school with no one to sit with at lunch.

Eli came around to Hannah. We do well to do the same with those who come into our midst, seeking God, but running into us on the way.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, people turn to you when they are hurting and often run into your people on the way. We pray that you might always keep our eyes open to the ones in our midst who are seeking you. Give us listening ears, time to care, and an attitude of gracious hospitality. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

2 Responses to “Wednesday, October 28th 1 Samuel 1:12-18”

  1. sally foster Says:

    this is a prayer worth memorizing

  2. Marlys Says:

    As our Friendship Ministry was discussing these issues, your column came through for us once again, Thank You!!!

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