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SCRIPTURE REFERENCES » 1 Samuel 1:1-20

Sermon: Prayer: Communion With The Living God: 1 Samuel 1:1–20


Old Testament Reading: 1 Samuel 1:1–20

“There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah… [Verse 2] He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’ After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.’ As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, ‘How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.’ But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. 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 all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.’ Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.’ And she said, ‘Let your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.’” (1 Samuel 1:1–20, ESV)

Introduction

Friends, I’ll admit that the sermon last week was an unusual one. I attempted to build a bridge from our study of the Gospel of John to the topic of prayer. The journey across the logical bridge went something like this: John’s Gospel told us about the work of Christ in his earthly ministry. Jesus accomplished redemption for those given to him by the Father in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. He accomplished redemption for the elect at his first coming, but his work is not over. He is at work in the world today applying the redemption he has earned to sinners by the Holy Spirit and through his church, as the gospel is proclaimed to the world. If the church is to be used by Christ for the furtherance of the kingdom then she ought to devote herself the things that God has called her to. Act 2:42 reveals four things that the church is to be devoted to – the apostles teaching (which is the word of God), the fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers. A church devoted to these ordinary means will be a healthy church, provided that she engage in them truly and authentically. From there I moved to the fourth of the four things mentioned, which is prayer. And I suggested that we need to grow in this respect.

Brothers and sisters, we are called by God to pray. It is our duty to pray. More than being our duty it is also a great privilege and joy. But it is, first of all, our duty. We are commanded to pray. Paul wrote, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” (1 Timothy 2:8, ESV) To the Philippians he gave this command: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, ESV) These are not suggestions, but commands. Prayer is not an option for the Christian. We are to pray even if we don’t feel like praying in obedience to the command of scripture. It is our duty to pray.

It’s hard to imagine a Christian praying forever only out of sense of duty. It may be that we pray with this as our motivation for a while. Sadly, due to our sinfulness, our hearts are sometimes hard and dull to the things of God. But eventually we will be drawn to prayer instead of driven to it; eventually we will be drawn to prayer, not by a sense of duty alone, but by the joyous thought of communing with the living God.

We should pray for this kind of prayer life, shouldn’t we? We should pray that God would give us the desire to pray. We should pray that our prayers be lively and joyous. We should pray that we would experience the presence of God in our prayers. Far from being dead, lifeless, and routine, our prayers ought to be alive – intimate, dynamic, conversational.

There is indeed a sense in which prayer is like work. We are to labor in it. We are to devote ourselves to it. It is our duty. But today I’m urging you to see prayer, not only as work, but but as communication between a child and father

Notice four things offered to us in prayer:

In Prayer We Are Invited To Commune With The Living God

First of all, in prayer we are invited to commune with the living God.

Remember, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray he said, “Pray then like this:

‘Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew 6:5). What an extraordinary thing it is to approach God and to call him Father.

We do not naturally have this right. We are by nature “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). We do not naturally have God as Father, but are children of the devil (John 8:44). We are born into this world alienated from God and hostile in mind towards him (Colossians 1:21). This is our natural relationship to God ever since the fall.

But through Christ we come to God as Father. “He has now reconciled [us] in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present [us] holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” (Colossians 1:22, ESV)

In Christ we have been adopted by God as sons and daughters.

“He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:5–6, ESV)

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15, ESV)

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4–7, ESV)

Friends, Christ came to unite us to the Father. He came that we might have communion with the God who made us. Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, brings those who have faith in him to God and says, “Father, behold your child, and child, behold your Father.” That is the purpose for which Christ came – to reconcile us to the Father, to the praise of his glorious grace. He died and rose again so that we might have fellowship with the Father.

What a shame, then, when God’s children choose only to talk about him, but never with him.

I am not saying that we ought not to talk about God. Certainly we are to study the Word so that we might know more and more about the God who made us. We must learn about God; we must learn about ourselves; and we must learn about how it is that we come to him through faith in Christ. But all of this learning – all of this God talk – is to culminate in the knowledge of God. What a waste to devote oneself to knowing about God, but to never commune with him.

Likewise, what a shame it is when God’s children choose only to serve him, but never to sit with him.

It is good to serve God. But we are also to sit with him. It is indeed the better of the two things, as Mary knew and Martha learned.

To talk about God, but never with him, and to serve God, but never sit before him is indeed a peculiar thing.

What can we compare it to? It is a like studying to play the guitar – reading books on the subject, memorizing cords, learning theory – but never picking up the instrument to play. Or it is like preparing a delicious meal, but never eating the food. The one who studies God, or serves God, but never communes with God in prayer is like this. Though there be a great deal of activity – though much effort be made – the person has stopped short of the goal and has neglected the pleasurable thing, namely communion with the living God, who is our heavenly Father, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friends, it is good to study God. But it is for the purpose of enjoying communion with him. It is good to serve God. But it is better to sit before him and to enjoy his presence. Christ Jesus died to make this possible. Why would we stop short of it?

In the moment we speak of prayer as communion with God we should also remind ourselves of who it is we are approaching. We are approaching our Father who is in heaven. The title “Father” invites us to come. The qualifier “who is in heaven” reminds us to come with a heartfelt sense of reverence.

We see this in Hannah’s prayer, don’t we? She was not ashamed to come to God, but she came with reverence.

In Prayer We Are Invited To Pour Out Our Holy Desires Before God

Notice, secondly, that in prayer we are invited to pour out our holy desires before God.

This is precisely what Hannah did. She was in distress. Her heart was sad. Evidently being Elkanah’s wife was not enough to ease the pain of going childless! She was distressed to the point of not eating. But she did the right thing with her sorrow. She came boldly before the throne of grace and made here requests known to God, saying, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11, ESV)

What a surprising gift is is! Not only are we invited to commune with God, but we are invited to express our desires to him. Have you thought of how precious this gift is?

Wouldn’t it be enough for our communion with God to consist of our listening to him? Wouldn’t it be enough for us to remain passive and he active? “God, you are God! You speak and I will listen.” This would be a most reasonable arrangement given the circumstances. But God invites us to speak to him, pouring out our desires before him.

“Do not be anxious about anything [Paul says], but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, ESV) Who are we that we should make requests to God? Should not God require things of us? Who are we to request things from him? And yet this is what he invites us to do – to pour out our holy desires before him.

Of course God knows our desires already. And of course he has already decreed from all eternity all things that will come to pass. But he has determined to bring about his plans and purposes by involving the heartfelt prayers of his children in the process. God is sovereign, it is true. All things are the result of his decree. But this is also true: “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16, ESV) God really hears the prayers of his people and he works in and through them. He has invited us to pray – to pour out our holy desires before him – and this is more than an exercise in futility. Our prayers really work. God works in and through them, they being an authentic means of grace for the people of God.

It can be hard for our minds to comprehend how the sovereignty of God and the effectiveness of man’s prayer can both be true, but they are. The way to understand it is to see that God has decreed both the end and the means.

For example, God’s decree was that Samuel would be born. The means he used to bring it about were, among other things, the prayers of the barren woman, Hannah, so that God would receive the glory. God’s decree was that in the days of Elijah it would not rain for three years and six months. The means he used to bring it about were the prayers of that righteous man, so that God would receive the glory. God’s decree may be that your loved one will be healed, that you get the job, that you have the baby, that your marriage be restored – we do not know what God’s hidden will is – we will know it only after it happened. But this we know, one of the means that God has determined to use to bring it about are the prayers of his people.

Brothers and sisters, do you want God to work? Then you had better pray. Prayer is a means of grace. It works. God has determined to use it to bring about his eternal purposes. So go to God and pour out your holy desires before him. He hears your prayers, and he will use them according to his will.

Notice that we are invited to pour out our holy desires before God. The people of God should take care to pray according to the will of God. We should ask the Spirit to help us in this. Never should we pray for what is unholy. And never should we pray things to spend them on our passions (James 4:3). Instead we should examine our hearts before we come to God in prayer. We should examine our motives to be sure they are pure. Our prime objective in prayer should be to see God’s name glorified – his kingdom advanced – and not our own.

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9–10, ESV)

When we come to God with our holy desires we should come with a heartfelt sense of our need and in repentance. We are to come to God, not because we are strong, but because we are needy. And we are to come having repented of all jealousy and selfish ambition. With our hearts prepared in this way we are then ready to come to God and to make our requests known to him.

In Prayer We Are Invited To Take Comfort In God

Notice, thirdly, that in prayer we are invited to take comfort in God.

After we have prayed we do not know what God will do with our prayers, but we do know that he has heard us. We do not know immediately if the answer will be “yes” or “no”, but the sure thing is that our request has reached God’s ear.  And this should be more than enough to bring comfort to our troubled souls.

The prideful and faithless person will not be comforted unless he be guaranteed that God will indeed do what he has asked him to do. But the child of God is comforted by the simple fact that God has heard him. God has heard the prayer. He is able to act. He knows what is best. And he will indeed do what is best. These truths bring comfort to the child of God no matter if the answer be “yes” or “no”. So our comfort is not in the thought that God will do as I have said, but that God has heard and will do as he wills.

We are to trust God in prayer. We are to believe in him. We are to have faith in him. This means that we are to trust in his plans and purposes, that they are indeed best.

It is interesting how people have distorted this truth. To pray in faith, they think, is to pray believing that God will indeed do exactly as we say. Where in the scriptures are we called to pray like this? Where are we called to approach God insisting on our own way. That we are to be persistent in prayer is true. That we are to pray knowing that God is able to do what we ask of him is true. That we are to pray knowing that God hears our prayers and has determined to work through our prayers is also true. But to pray assuming that God is bound to do as we say seems to me a most presumptuous thought. Ironically, this is really to trust in ourselves and not in God, assuming that our plans and purposes are best.

No, to pray in faith is to pray knowing that God hears us, is able to to act, will do as he sees best, and to take comfort in this.

It is so important, friends, that we come humbly before the throne of grace. It is important that we set our true desires before God, but in humility, saying, as Christ did, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42, ESV) We should pour out our holy desires before God, not demands.

In Prayer We Are Invited To Hope In God

Notice, fourthly, that in prayer we are invited to hope in God. Prayer should bring us a genuine sense of hope and expectation.

The reasons for this have already been mentioned. God hears the prayers of his children. His love for them is faithful and true. He is knows what is best for them. And he able to do what is best.

But here I wish to say more: that we should walk away from prayer with a sense of hope and expectation that we will receive what we have asked for.

I understand this seems to contradict what I said before, but there is no real contradiction. Before I was emphasizing humility in prayer. We are to make requests, not demands. We are to pray, not my will, but thy will be done. But once we have examined our hearts, and once we have labored to pray according to the will of God, being led by the Spirit to do so, we should arise from prayer with a sense of expectation, and not doubt.

This is what Jesus means when he says, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:21–22, ESV)

James also encourages us to pray with a sense of expectation saying, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5–8, ESV)

You see, it is possible to pray with both humility and expectation. In fact the scriptures demand that we do both.

To put it another way, to pray, “nevertheless not my will but thy will be done” does not destroy faith, but sweetly complies with it.

Some, when they hear the words, “Lord willing” attached to prayer equate it with doubt. The thought is the prayer is using the phrase, “Lord willing” as a cop out of sorts, thinking, “I am praying for this, but I doubt you will do it, so I’ll say, ‘Lord willing’, to explain the lack of response.” Not so. To say, “Lord willing”, or “Nevertheless, not my will but thy will be done”, is the proper way to pray. It has nothing to do with doubt, and everything to do with humility. It is an acknowledgment that God is God, and we are not. It is an act of submission to God’s will. We bring our desires to God, not demands.

But if we pray to God with hearts that are pure and according his will, why would we arise from prayer hopeless. We are to pray believing that God will act. The Father loves to give good gifts to his children. He has invited us to bring our desires to him. He has assured us that prayer is effective. Why would we ever walk away from prayer assuming that God will not act? We should pray with hopeful expectation.

Notice how Hannah arose from prayer with a sense of confident hope. She came to the Lord “deeply distressed” and “weeping bitterly”. When she walked away she “ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (1 Samuel 1:18, ESV)

Conclusion 

Friends, prayer is a kind of coalescence of the Christian life. All that we believe to be true about God – all of our religious devotion – comes together and manifests itself in our prayer life, or lack thereof.

Our prayer life says a lot about our relationship with God. Are your prays frequent or infrequent? Are they dry and wooden, or are they lively? Are you routine in your prayers, or are you nimble? Are your prayers big or small? Are you expressing desires or demands? Are you expectant or un-expectant? These things reveal much concerning your faith and your communion with the living God.

Do you need to grow in this area? Then let us pray that God would bring growth, to the glory of his name.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, 1 Samuel 1:1-20, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: Prayer: Communion With The Living God: 1 Samuel 1:1–20


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