It’s about 1100 BC, give or take a few decades.
In Greece, it is a time between civilizations. In China, the Shang dynasty is ending, the first of the Chinese civilizations. Rome doesn’t exist yet, as a civilization that we know. And in Israel, there is a woman named Hannah who wants a son.
Her story has emotions we can resonate with.
She’s one of two wives. The other wife gets pregnant, she doesn’t..And in a culture that values sons for their work value, and wives for delivering sons, Hannah’s childlessness is a mark of shame.The other wife does nothing to make her feel better, “taunting her just to provoke her.”
Her husband doesn’t join in. She’s actually the favorite wife. Elkanah shows her extra blessing.
But she feels unheard by God. She is praying. God’s not listening.
Every year, the whole family went to Shiloh to worship God. The tabernacle was there. There was an enclosure, a courtyard, about 50 yards by 25 yards with fabric curtains as walls. Inside that space was the altar, about 8 feet square, and the tabernacle itself, about 15 yards by 5 yards. Inside that space was the Ark of the Covenant, a golden lampstand, and a table.
One year, when the family is at the feast, her pain overflows. She walks by herself to the entrance of the courtyard. A place to pray. A place to pour out pain.
She prays with the deep painful tears of one who feels abandoned by God in the part of her life that seems to house her personal and spiritual identity.
The priest, Eli, notices her. And encourages her to stop drinking.
Culturally, prayer happened out loud, just as reading did. If there was no sound, then the action wasn’t happening. And Hannah’s pain was so deep there was no capacity to make the sounds. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t praying. Or that God couldn’t hear.
When Hannah shares her heart, Eli offers her a blessing: “Go in peace, may God give you what you ask.”
I ask the same for you, today.
From 1 Samuel 1