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The apostle Paul writing to the Thessalonians exhorted them to "Pray without
ceasing" (I Thess. 5: 17). We should not misunderstand him and think, as some do, that it
is necessary to shut oneself up in prayer and meditation all day long. What he meant was
that we should be constantly lifting our hearts to Him in thanks or praise, or in any matter
that arises during the course of the day.
It is also essential for us to remember concerning prayer that the Spirit helps our
infirmity (that is, our weakness, or inability), for we do not know what we should pray
for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us (see Rom. 8: 26). The
next verse goes on to say "And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of
the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God".
How reassuring it is to know that our prayers are monitored by the Holy Spirit, so that
they become acceptable to our heavenly Father, and used by Him in the furtherance of
His own will.
In Hannah's case, the old priest was wrong. His eyes deceived him, for she was
praying, as we are exhorted to do, with her whole heart. Her entire being mouthed the
words of her petition, but her feelings were so intense that no sound was audible. The
words were choked by her emotion and her earnest desire.
Hannah's prayer was for a son. Her husband Elkanah, a good and kindly man, had
taken another wife because of her inability to have children. The second wife, Peninnah,
had borne him sons and daughters and as a result continually showed her scorn and
contempt for Hannah, particularly at the time when they went up to the house of the Lord
year by year, and Hannah's prayers had once again received no answer:
"And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had
shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the
Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat" (I Sam. 1: 6, 7).
In reply to the accusation of Eli that she was drunk with wine, Hannah responds
"No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor
strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Count not thine handmaid for
a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken
hitherto" (1: 15, 16).
Eli's reply to this must have been very reassuring. She must have felt that the blessing
of the Lord's high priest would give her at last the answer to her prayers, for we read in
verses 17 and 18:
"Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy
petition that thou hast asked of Him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy
sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad."
The character of Eli is a deeply interesting one. Weak and over-indulgent as a father,
a lover of ease rather than action perhaps. Yet we catch a glimpse of a noble streak in