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1 Samuel

1:9-20

 

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 away your wine 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."  (ESV)

Attitude For Prayer

Ignatius of Antioch, Pastor and Martyr

17 October 2013

I remember reading about a mother who was horrified to find out that her daughter wore flip-flops to the White House when her college field hockey team to be greeted by the President of the United States. She found out about her daughter's fashion faux pas when she saw the group photograph with the President. What could her daughter possibly be thinking by greeting the President dressed this way? The mother knew that a certain decorum was necessary when invited to the White House to visit the President. We respect the President because of the office that he holds; informal dress is not appropriate because of that respect.

 

How much more is that the case when we are invited into the presence of our God when we lift up our petitions of need to Him in prayer? I am not recommending that you get dressed up in a tuxedo to pray (although who would blame you?), but rather that a respectful attitude is the way we ought to approach God. That respect is shown in your quiet heart and rightly shaped body. When I was a child proper posture was imposed by elementary school teachers on all students. You weren't able to pay proper attention if you did not sit up straight in your desk. There is a truth to this. If you look like you are ready to learn, you are more likely to learn. This fact has led to the reintroduction of school uniforms. When in uniform you look like you are a student. This is why the church trains its children to take the uniform of prayer when we call upon our Father in prayer. Folded hands, bowed head, and bent knees are the signs of faith and humility that lead us to pray like we are in the presence of God, because we are in the presence of God. Better yet, God has condescended to be wherever we need Him to be; wherever prayer is demanded by our need; at a hospital bed, in jail cell, at the approach of death, over our morning coffee, and others. We don't have to be in His house to petition Him. He makes house calls upon those who need the Physician of the soul.

 

I stopped a small child who was running through the sanctuary after church service and asked him, "Whose house is this?" He was unable to answer me. But when I told him that it was God's house and for that reason we should not run around in it, his eyes got as big as saucers. He ran around no longer. We ought to be especially respectful when we pray in God's house and come there to receive His sacramental gifts. Our attitude should be respectful waiting on the grace of God, like Hannah in the Old Testament and the tax collector in the New (Lk 18:10), who smote his breast and would not lift his eyes to heaven. Here is the right attitude for prayer.

 

Cyprian of Carthage

 

"When we pray our speech and petition should be disciplined; observing quietness and modesty. Remember that we are standing in God's sight. We must please the divine eyes both with the habit of body and with the measure of voice. For as it is characteristic of a shameless man to be noisy with his cries, so, on the other hand, it is fitting to the modest man to pray with moderate petitions. Moreover, in His teaching the Lord has taught us to pray in secret, in hidden and remote places, in our very bed rooms, which is best suited to faith, that we may know that God is everywhere present, and hears and sees all, and in the fullness of His majesty penetrates even into hidden and secret places, as it is written, 'Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth?' (Jer 23:23-24).  And again: 'The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good' (Pro 15:3). And when we meet together with the brethren in one place and celebrate the divine sacraments with God's priest, we ought to be mindful of modesty and discipline. We should not to throw around our prayers indiscriminately, with unsubdued voices, nor cast to God with tumultuous wordiness a petition that ought to be commended to God by modesty. For God is the hearer, not of the voice, but of the heart. He does not need to be noisily reminded, since He sees men's thoughts, as the Lord proves to us when He says, 'Why do you think evil in your hearts?' (Mt 9:4). And in another place: 'All the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart' (Rev 2:23).

 

"In the first book of Samuel, Hannah, who was a type of the Church, maintains and observes this, in that she prayed to God not with noisy requests, but silently and modestly, within the very recesses of her heart. She spoke with hidden prayer, but with manifest faith. She spoke not with her voice, but with her heart, because she knew that God hears this. She obtained what she sought, because she asked it with faith. Holy Scripture asserts this, when it says, 'Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard' (1Sa 1:13) and God heard her. We read also in the Psalms, 'Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent' (Ps 4:4)."

Cyprian of Carthage, On the Lord's Prayer, 4-5
 
Prayer

Almighty ever-living God, who adorns the holy body of your Church with the confessions of holy martyrs, grant, we pray, that, just as the suffering of Ignatius of Antioch, which we celebrate today, brought Your church glory, so may we also offer ourselves unto the needs of the confession of Your holy church; through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

For Diane Garner, who is gravely ill, that the holy angels would surround her

 

For the family and friends of Leonard Jones, whom the Lord took to himself yesterday, that they would mourn as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come

 

For those who are afraid of the mission of the church, that they would be comforted by the promise of Christ that He would always be with those whom He sends out proclaim His good message

Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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Memorial Lutheran Church | 5800 Westheimer Rd. | Houston | TX | 77057