Praying Like a Drunk
“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.”(1 Samuel 1:12-13, ESV)
Why don’t more people talk about Hannah? Found in the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, Hannah is one of two wives to Elkanah the Ephrathite, and in just a handful of short verses, she quickly becomes one of the most relatable women in the Bible.
First, you might be thinking, “Hold up, did you say Hannah was one of TWO wives?” Yeah, you read that right, which might not be helpful in my case that Hannah was super relatable, but stick with me. While Hannah’s relationship status might be less than understandable, one thing about her is bound to grab your attention: deep in her heart, Hannah has a burning desire, which is something not even I am exempt from. Today, you might be reading my words pining for a home of your own, a college experience, a new set of wheels, or a soulmate. Maybe your heart’s desire is something you can’t see with the naked eye, like freedom from mental illness, peace, motivation, or inspiration.
Whatever it is that came straight to the forefront of your mind, one thing is for certain; we all know what it’s like to desire something so deeply. For Hannah, the desire to be a mother was intense within her, but as hard as she tried, it was something that seemed to not be in the cards for her.
Next, you can add insult to injury: Hannah had a rival. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, was a mother many times over, which should have made her feel sympathetic to Hannah’s plight. Instead, Peninnah envied the affection Elkanah still gave to Hannah, despite her empty nest, and tormented her. In fact, the Bible says that Peninnah provoked and irritated Hannah for years to the point where Hannah wept and could not eat.
And so like any person with a burning desire and a rival to point out just where her deficiencies were, Hannah came to the end of her rope. The Bible says she rose from where she was staying and went up to the temple where she prayed earnestly and wept bitterly. She cried out in desperation to God, saying if He would remember her by giving her a son, then she would raise him to be a servant of the Lord. She prayed so fervently in her heart that her mouth was moving, but no words could be heard. Actually, Eli the priest saw Hannah pouring out her frantic prayer and went to rebuke her, thinking she was drunk. Hannah explains to Eli that she wasn’t drunk, just praying to the Lord out of her anxiety and her weariness. Eli tells her to go in peace and that God has heard the desire of her heart and will answer her.
Let’s take a pit stop here to take this in: Hannah was praying so hard that she actually appeared to be drunk. You know what that says to me? It says that she was praying recklessly. She was so focused on the Lord that the normal social pressures of everyday life did not apply. She wasn’t worried about what she looked like. She wasn’t worried about the tradition of religion. She was so determined to kick down the doors of heaven that she reached another level entirely. Oh, how I want my prayer life to be like that. I want to be at the feet of Jesus, no matter how crazy I look to everyone else. Just get me there.
The most beautiful part of Hannah’s prayer is not her pledge to dedicate her son to the Lord, or her transparency in admitting that she was at her breaking point. The most beautiful part of her prayer is that she asks the Lord to remember her. When we yearn for something so badly that it flips our stomachs inside out or puts a lump in our throat, it’s so easy to feel forgotten by our loving and generous Father. It’s easy to say, “When, Lord? When is it going to be my turn?” It’s easy to blame Him or let our hearts become hard in the waiting.
Not Hannah. Her full-court press to reach the Lord wasn’t out of bitterness or maliciousness. Instead, she meekly asks the Lord to remember her; to see her crushed spirit and make it a testimony to His goodness. If we could pray like that, what tragedies would we see made beautiful? What heart break would we see healed? What desires would we experience in reality?
Me? I’m still praying for mine. I get it. I understand Hannah’s struggle. I might not be wishing for a baby, but there are things that I’m believing the Lord is going to remember me in. And when I have those moments where it feels like one more day of waiting on the Lord’s perfect timing is going to break me, I just remember Hannah. Because the Lord did remember her. It says it plain as day in 1 Samuel 1:19. The Lord remembered Hannah and gave her a son.
And the Lord is so good, I know he’ll remember me— and you— as well.