1 Samuel 1:11 “And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
It isn’t uncommon for somebody in life to try and make a deal with God. It usually follows a basic formula where the person looks at a place in their life where they have need, and in exchange for helping out, they offer God another place in their life where they have abundance. “God, if you help me get this promotion at work, I will spend more time ministering to the neighbours.” “God, if you help me get the resources I need to fix my house, I will spend more time volunteering at the food bank or the church.” In those situations, you need money, you have time, so you ask God to help with the former in exchange for the ladder.
This is a natural mindset for us to have. After all, this concept of trade is a part of almost every other aspect in our lives. We do it in business transactions all the time, and even in relationships.
But Hannah’s attitude goes a step beyond that normal thinking, and reaches a place that truly dwells on the divine. The formula for her requests is not so much a ‘trade’ as it is, “God, please grant me this, and I will give it back to you.” In that thought you could rephrase the other ones to be, “God, help me get this promotion, and I will use the extra influence and resources it grants me to serve you.” “God, help me get the resources I need to fix my house, and I will open my home up to those who need it.”
Hannah recognizes that everything comes from God, and everything is already His. We see this in her powerful prayer that begins 1 Samuel 2 where she lifts the Lord up in praise for answering her prayer.
This is meant to be contrast with the story that follows, which shows the opposite attitude in Eli’s sons. The story tells us of these men that take things like sacrifices and servants given to the Lord, and use them for their own indulgences. They what belongs explicitly to God and use it for their own desires.
And in the book of first Samuel, we see the child that Hannah has become one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. He receives visions from God, retrieves the Ark back from an enemy nation, anoints the first king of Israel, and is prophet and counsel to the kings.
Meanwhile, Eli’s line is cut off.
In this story, it is not so much the bargain that Hannah tries to strike with God that moves His hand in her life, but the attitude behind the prayer. God wants us to be humble and rejoice in the blessings of our lives by give them back to God.
When we pray, do we reflect this attitude? Do we have, behind the words of our prayers, those powerful lines that Jesus teaches is in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done?” Or do we seek things from God simply for ourselves and long for our kingdom to come, and our will to be done?
Whom does God use? Those who seek Him with humility and offer everything He has given them back to Him.