Lesson 4

January 20 - 26

Prayers of Triumph: Hannah and Mary

Sabbath Afternoon   January 20

WHEN GOD WANTS TO PRODUCE A GREAT LEADER, He often starts with a mother whom He molds through deep trials. Susanna Wesley (1669-1742) was such a mother. The wife of a pastor, Susanna was brilliant, strong-minded, and deeply religious. In 21 years, she bore 19 children, 9 of whom died in infancy. Susanna home-schooled her children, teaching them the alphabet as soon as they turned five and using Genesis 1 for reading material. In addition to daily worships, she arranged weekly interviews with each child for personal counsel on their spiritual condition. Once, an angry church member set fire to their home. Six-year-old John almost died. As a result, Susanna felt a special burden for this child. She wrote in her diary, "I do intend to be more particularly careful with the soul of this child . . . that I may instil into his mind the principles of true religion and virtue."—Ruth Gordon Short, Affectionately Yours, John Wesley (Nashville: Southern Publishing Assoc., 1960), p. 37. It was from such dynamic nurture that John and Charles Wesley arose to lead the Methodist movement John with his lifelong preaching ministry and organizational skills and Charles with over 6,000 hymns that have enriched the Christian world.

Susanna was walking in the steps of her spiritual ancestors, Hannah and Mary, whose prayers of triumph will inspire us this week.


I.     Briars in the Nest (1 Sam. 1:1-18).

II.    Trouble in the Sanctuary (1 Sam. 1:3-20; 2:12-17).

III.  Gratitude! (1 Sam. 1:21-2:11).

IV.  Victory! (1 Sam. 2:1-10).

V.   Mary's Triumph (Luke 1:26-56).

MEMORY TEXT: "He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor" (1 Samuel 2:8, NIV).   

Sunday  January 21

BRIARS IN THE NEST (1 Sam. 1:1-18).

When God wanted to bless His people with a great prophet, He chose a most interesting family for the prophet-to-be.  Elkanah, the father, though descended from the evil Korah of Moses' day (1 Chron. 6:33-38; Num. 16), was a godly Levite and a loving husband (1 Sam. 1:3, 8).  His wife Hannah also was a devout person.  Why, then, were their lives so miserable?  1 Sam. 1:1-8.  List the reasons below.

1 Sam. 1:1, 2 _____________________________________________________________________

1 Sam. [1:]4, 5  ___________________________________________________________________

1 Sam. [1:]6, 7  ________________________________________________________________  

In those days, women achieved self-worth by bearing sons, just as today some women obtain satisfaction from a career. During Hannah's day, people believed that to be barren was a dreadful affliction from God.

It is natural for a wife to demand sole custody of her husband's affections. No woman is content with second place. Second wives like Hagar, Leah, and Peninnah felt threatened by the obvious attraction of their husbands for the preferred wife. Jealous and bitter, Peninnah tried to lift herself up by putting Hannah down. She continued this abusive treatment year after year until Hannah was driven to despair. Furthermore, Peninnah felt superior because of the children she had borne.

"Hannah had good reason to feel discouraged and bitter. She was unable to bear children; she shared her husband with a woman who ridiculed her (1:7); her loving husband could not solve her problem (1:8); and even the high priest misunderstood her motives (1:14). But instead of retaliating or giving up hope, Hannah prayed. She brought her problem honestly before God.

"Each of us may face times of barrenness when nothing 'comes to birth' in our work, service, or relationships. It is difficult to pray in faith when we feel so ineffective. But, as Hannah discovered, prayer opens the way for God to work. . . ."—Life Application Study Bible (NIV), p. 434.

What advice can you give to those whose lives, for whatever reason, seems "barren"?  Explain to them how prayer can help.  

Monday  January 22

TROUBLE IN THE SANCTUARY (1 Sam. 1:3-20; 2:12-17)

Israelite men were required to attend religious feasts at the sanctuary three times a year (Deut. 16:16). Elkanah and his family expressed their devotion to God by making these pilgrimages (1 Sam. 1:3). Two forces were at work in the sanctuary during this time. Opposing the Lord was a corrupt priesthood, guilty of extortion, gluttony, and molestation of female worshipers. By their scandalous behavior, Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas disgraced the worship of God (1 Sam. 2:12-17, 22). In contrast, there were those like Hannah who prayed to God with every fiber of her being.

What characteristics or qualities marked her conversation with God?

1 Sam. 1:11  ______________________________________________________________________

1 Sam. [1:]12  _____________________________________________________________________

1 Sam. [1:]13  _____________________________________________________________________

1 Sam. [1:]15  __________________________________________________________________  

Eli, experienced in detecting drunkenness in his sons, was quick to suspect Hannah. Elkanah had just reproved her for not eating and drinking, and now Eli scolded her for eating and drinking too much! Under the sting of such a rebuke Hannah responded calmly without revealing her sorrows (vss. 15, 16). Eli was quick to give her his blessing; and, in faith that God would hear her prayer, Hannah shed her sorrows and took part in the feast (vss. 17-19). Read God's answer in verses 19 and 20.

Sometimes God chooses a barren woman to nurture a special child a woman like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, or Elizabeth. The agony of craving for a child over a long period of time often creates an intense commitment to that child's welfare when it finally arrives. Yet, only a few' women would consent to give such a child back to the Lord as Hannah did. Her sacrifice of her son and Abraham's near sacrifice of his son reflect, in a measure, the sacrifice of God in giving us His Son.

Fortunately, most of those who love the Lord aren't faced with a situation in which they must give up one of their children. Yet, what does Hannah's act say to us about half-hearted commitment to the Lord? 

Tuesday  January 23

GRATITUDE (1 Sam. 1:21-2:11).

What does Hannah's care for Samuel reveal about her faithfulness regarding the vow she made to God?

1 Sam. 1:11  ____________________________________________________________________

[1 Sam. 1:23]  ________________________________________________________________  

Hannah decided not to attend the feasts hen Samuel was small in order that she might begin educating him from infancy. "As she watched his expanding powers and listened to his childish prattle, her affections entwined about him more closely. He was her only son, the special gift of Heaven; but she had received him as a treasure consecrated to God, and she would not withhold from the Giver His own."—Patriarchs and Prophets. pp. 570, 571.

When Hannah finally did return to Shiloh, she brought Samuel with her. After a sacrifice had been made, she brought her son to Eli and said." 'As surely as you live my lord, [am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord' " (1 Sam. 1:26-28). Hannah clearly believed that the God who had given her this child in answer to prayer was able to keep him. Thanks to her nurturing, the little boy already knew how to worship God (vs. 28).

Read Hannah's prayer of praise. 1 Sam. 2:1-10.  What is its theme?  What was she grateful for?  Which verse indicates her attitude toward Peninnah?  

"As a result of her full surrender to the Lord [Hannah] is happy for the privilege of giving back to her Creator that which He has given her. In doing so she experiences the highest form of joy, for has she not learned to appreciate His loving-kindness in a new way? .

"Hannah's experience may have proved to be the greatest blessing that could come into Peninnah's life. God was as anxious to save Peninnah as He was to save Hannah. How could He accomplish this more effectively than by showing the exaltation of a soul that trusted Him and did not retaliate evil for evil?"—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol.2, p. 461.

How do the prayers of others affect you? Also, stop to think about how your prayers might affect others. What does this tell us about the responsibility we have to pray wisely? 

Wednesday  January 24

VICTORY! (1 Sam. 2:1-10).

Why was Hannah so exultant?  What was her source of joy?  1 Sam. 1:1-3 [1 Sam. 2:1-3].  

Peninnah and her children (Hannah's "enemies") had no doubt told her that she was under God's curse, but the birth of Samuel was evidence that God had vindicated her. Hannah saw in this one child the promise of many more (vss. 1, 5; compare vs. 21). She exults in this future blessing of bearing more children when she says. "My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn [strength] is lifted high" (vs. 1). In an agricultural society, horns were symbols of strength; a horn lifted up was powerful (Dan. 8:3). In our human frailty, we often feel weak and insecure. Like Hannah, we need to ground our self-worth on God, our Rock.

In a series of figures (1 Sam. 2:1-10), Hannah notes the reversal of the fortunes of God's people and His enemies.

Figures God's Enemies God's People


The bows of warriors are broken.

The stumblers are armed with strength.


The full are hungry.

The hungry are full.


The mother of many yearns

The barren has seven children.


The Lord brings death.

The Lord makes alive.


The Lord sends poverty.

The Lord sends wealth.

Hannah certainly had her prayers answered in a miraculous way.  Not everyone has had such an experience.  How do we console those, or even ourselves, when prayer isn't answered as hoped?  

Thursday  January 25

MARY'S TRIUMPH (Luke 1:26-56).

When God designed that Samuel should be His prophet to bring Israel back to God, He first chose a mother to nurture him. When God sent His Son to be the Savior of the world, He again chose a special woman to be His mother.

Ever since God had promised that a "seed" of the woman would crush the serpent's head (Gen. 3:15), many women in Israel hoped to be the mother of the promised Messiah. At the birth of Cain, Eve exclaimed," 'I have gotten a man, the Lord' "(Gen. 4:1, literal translation). She, however, was mistaken. Thousands of years passed, and the hope grew dim. Then an angel came to the town of Nazareth (which may be translated from the root word under Nazareth to mean: "watchtower"; "sprout"; "root"; or "branch"), where Jesus, the Branch from Jesse's roots, would grow up (Isa. 11:1; Matt. 2:23). In that town, the Lord found a young woman to be the mother of the Messiah.

Mary and Hannah both felt exalted by the gift of a son. God performed a miracle for each of them-one conceiving despite barrenness, the other conceiving despite virginity. Both women overflowed with gratitude to God for doing great things for them.

Mary possessed a fine mind and a deep knowledge of Scripture. Her spontaneous prayer of rejoicing is full of references to the Hebrew Scriptures. Her knowledge of these scriptures helped to equip her for her role as the foremost teacher in Jesus' life.

Read Mary's prayer of praise in Luke 1:46-55. Which verses of her prayer refer to the following Old Testament scripture?

Ps. 34:2, 3 _____________________________ Ps. 138:6 ________________________________

Ps. 71:19 ______________________________ Ps. 103:17 _______________________________

Ps. 98:1 _______________________________ Ps. 98:3 ____________________________  

Luke 1:52. "The reference here is particularly to oppressors. Perhaps Mary had in mind the cruel tyrant Herod, who murdered not only thousands of the Jews but even his closest relatives. . . . Contemporary Jewish literature also reveals the fact that the common people often suffered intensely from economic oppression."—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 687:52, "Mighty."

In her prayer, Mary said, "The Mighty One has done great things for meholy is his name" (Luke 1:49, NIV). Though maybe none of us can say that anything so great has been done for us, what great things has God done in your life?  

Friday January 26

FURTHER STUDY:  Review both Hannah's prayer (1 Sam. 2:1-10) and Mary's prayer (Luke 1:46-55). How do they compare with one another?

Read "The Child Samuel," in Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 569-574.  

Mary and Hannah learned the necessity of and experienced the benefits of praising God. Their experiences teach us how to season our prayers with praise. Ellen White wrote, "To praise God in fullness and sincerity of heart is as much a duty as is prayer. We are to show to the world and to all the heavenly intelligences that we appreciate the wonderful love of God for fallen humanity and that we are expecting larger and yet larger blessings from His infinite fullness. Far more than we do. we need to speak of the precious chapters in our experience. After a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, our joy in the Lord and our efficiency in His service would be greatly increased by recounting His goodness and His wonderful works in behalf of His children."—Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 299, 300.

1. Review the principles of prayer discussed in lesson 1.  How do the prayers that we studied this week follow these principles?  What other principles motivated these prayers?  
2. What characteristic of God particularly inspired Hannah to praise God in her prayer?  What inspired Mary?  
3. What happened to Hannah's mood after she prayed in the temple?  1 Sam. 1:18.  What does this tell us about the benefits of prayer?  
4. Why is it important not only to take our requests to God in prayer but to praise Him in our prayers, as well?  

SUMMARY:  The pain Hannah endured as a result of her infertility and the taunts of her rival prepared her for a great role in Israel's history. Mary's lowliness prepared her for the highest responsibility ever entrusted to a human being—rearing the Son of God. The experiences of both women produced mighty prayers that still teach and inspire God's people. Our experiences also can draw us closer to God and to one another through prayer.  

The Truth in a Dream

Ismael Serrano

COLOMBIA--Every time Ena Tordecilla came out of a disco, her conscience bothered her. She knew that her mother was praying that the light of God would shine in her life again, as it had during her childhood.

Ena testifies, "Without Christ, I tried to fill the emptiness in my life with activity going to parties and discos. But one day I came to myself and realized that nothing and no one could fill the God-shaped hole in my heart. Like the prodigal son, I decided to go home to God. I found a church and began attending. Then my thoughts turned to my family. My husband had died without Christ, but I was determined that my children would have the opportunity to know God.

"Thirst for the gospel filled the corners of my soul, and I spent much of my time in prayer and Bible study. As I studied the Bible, I found the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation and wanted to know more about them. But the church that I attended did not seem interested in unraveling these prophecies. I began to search for a way to understand these on my own. Then I had a dream.

"I dreamed that I was visiting a woman in a beautiful city when two young people came to her home. They talked with us and told me many things, then they asked to pray with me, and I agreed.

"I awoke from my dream with a new understanding of the Sabbath. I had never known that the Sabbath began at sundown on Friday.

"I continued to attend the Protestant church while I searched for a church that kept the Sabbath. I did not tell anyone about my dream until the Lord told me in another dream. 'Share what you have been shown with others.'

"I told the pastor, my mother, and several friends what I had learned about the Bible prophecies and the Sabbath. On the day I was baptized into the Adventist Church, several members of my family and three friends from the Protestant church were baptized with me.

"It is my joy to share with others the truths that God has so graciously shown to me. I challenge every Adventist believer to share this great light with the multitudes who wait for God's truth."

Ismael Serrano is a pastor working in Apartadó, Colombia, South America. Ena Tordecilla continues to share her faith in the same city.

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