Michael Youssef - Life-Changing Prayers - Part 5
There is a principle that runs throughout the Scripture, that runs contrary to everything in our culture. That means it runs contrary to everything you learn in schools. It runs contrary to everything you see on television, in the media in general. It runs contrary to how some businesses are run. It runs contrary to the books that you read, bookstores. It runs contrary to even the way some churches operate. The world says that if you wanna get ahead, it doesn't matter who and how many people you trample upon to get up to where you set your goals to reach. The Bible said if you want to be first, become the least. The world said if you wanna become rich, grab for everything you can. And the Bible said if you wanna be rich, give away everything you can.
But perhaps there is no greater area in which this principle operates, and the principle I'm talking about is that principle of paradox. That in the area of brokenness, the world says, "Don't ever let them see you sweat," right? The Bible said that, "A broken and contrite heart, God will not despise," that there is a blessing in brokenness. And in fact, you see this principle, it's right in the Scripture in symbolic terms and you see it in real terms throughout the Bible.
You see it when Jacob became broken in Peniel. He was clothed with power. It was when the Rock of Horeb was broken by Moses's rod that water gushed out and satisfied their thirst. It was when Gideon's chosen 300 warriors broke their jars, symbol of breaking of their lives before God, that light shone and their enemies were defeated and disbanded. It was when Mary broke her expensive alabaster box and anointed the feet of Jesus that aroma filled the room and he was anointed. When Jesus broke the five loaves and he distributed them and become multiplied and fed more than 5,000 people.
When our Lord himself was broken and his holy body was broken on the cross, was broken by thorns, and was broken by nails, and was broken by a spear. Only then redemption came forth and you and I are saved today because of his broken body. There are blessings of brokenness that the world will never, never, never, never in a million years understand. Now, in this message and in the next, we will examine the prayer of brokenness by this woman, Hannah. Hannah's prayer was a prayer of brokenness that God answered in magnificent ways. God blessed her in a wonderful way.
Let me tell you about Hannah just briefly for those of you who might not be familiar with her. Hannah is a Hebrew word which means gracious or graciousness, literal translation. And you know, in this case, sometimes the name doesn't fit the character, but in this case, the name fits the character and the character fits the name. You know sometimes when you see a tall call and he's called Shorty? That's not the case here. In the case with Hannah, her name fit her character because she was a gracious woman. She was a thoughtful woman. She was a selfless woman. And as sometimes the case, not always, but you know, you've heard it, no good deed goes unpunished. In her case, her graciousness met with taunting and with ridicule by her husband's other wife.
Elkanah, the Bible said, is a Levite. The Bible doesn't waste any words. The Bible says he was a Levite. You remember the tribe of the Levites. That's where the priests come from. And Hannah was wife number one. And you say, "How do you know that"? In the Hebrew, the first name, whoever comes first is the first person. So, she was wife number one. And to Elkanah, who was from the line of priests, was a good priest probably to Israel, but he was not good priest in his house. And obviously polygamy is a clear indication of that. Now, I'm not preaching on Elkanah, but I just want to remind you that this is the period in which they lived is the time of the judges. What's so big about that? It's very important because it was the time of the judges that people of God were living a compromising lifestyle.
There were the people of God at that time have departed from moral absolutes, just like our time. They were viewing all of the religions are of equal value. In fact, they worship on Saturday, and the rest of the week they worship Baal. They did what felt good in their own eyes. If it felt good, they did it. It was a time when sin was rampant, even among the priests. And that, again, explains Elkanah's polygamy. Hannah was wife number one. And like all Hebrew women of her time, she had a longing in her heart to have a son. That was just part and parcel of the culture. It was a deep longing in her heart, but she couldn't. So obviously, like Sarah, the wife of Abraham before her, she must have offered her husband to marry another woman in order to perpetuate his name on the earth. You remember when Sarah did this with Hagar and Abraham and we're living in a mess ever since? All right.
So, you ask the question, was she thoughtful? Yes. Was Hannah gracious? Yes. But was she right? No, no. In fact, had she expressed her brokenness to the Lord early on in her life, probably she would have saved herself a whole lot of heartburn. The second wife named Peninnah, we know very little about her actually, except she had a bunch of kids. And yet, the little we know about her is not very good. You know, obviously she was cruel and ungracious, as Hannah was gracious. She had a sharp tongue and she used it generously. She used her tongue like a dagger to pierce Hannah's heart. This taunting of Hannah must have caused her many a sleepless night. This taunting must have caused her to stain her pillows with tears. It must have caused her to regret ever suggesting that a thousand times. She must have agonized beyond description. This taunting must have made her longing for a moment of peace in her own home.
Now, beloved, please listen to me. Whenever we act in the flesh and not in the spirit, whenever we judge things by appearance, not through prayer, whenever we compromise instead of patiently waiting for the Lord, whenever we try to improve on the will of God instead of obeying it, we lose joy, and we lose peace, and we lose contentment. But thank God that he is the God of the second changes, that he is the God of the third, and the fourth, and the many chances. Thank God that he has given her one more chance. So you say what is important here is to learn the following, listen carefully. The brokenness that draws you to God, not away from him, will always be a source, not only of blessing you but a blessing of others.
Listen carefully please. Hannah's brokenness drove her to her knees, not to the bottle. Hannah's deep emotional hurt sent her running to the prayer closet, not toward revenge. Hannah's feeling of rejection and humiliation brought her to the altar of God instead of retaliation. The taunting of Hannah that she received from Peninnah drove her to the prayer chambers. Someone called the Bible the gallery of lasting fame, and I would have to say that in that gallery, this gracious woman, Hannah, occupies very conspicuous place. This woman is truly a wonderful example of grace under fire. So, she's a wonderful example of character that is born out of the furnace of affliction, peace under pressure.
Now I want to tell you a few things about this prayer of Hannah. Of course I'm gonna tell you more in the next message, but I'm just gonna introduce the subject today, barely scratching the surface. And for those of you who are visiting with us, we are coming kind of toward the end of a series of messages and we're learning the effective prayers of the past saints of God from the Scripture.
So, the first thing I want to tell you about Hannah's prayer is, while no doubt a lot of women prayed in the Bible before her, hers is the very first recorded prayer in the Bible, woman's prayer recorded in the Bible. And I was thinking about this this week and I was thinking about how we would be absolutely amazed if we had the records of praying women before Hannah and after her. We would be astonished at the incredible things that God did as a direct answer to women's prayer. I'm standing here today as a result of God directly answering a woman's prayer. The man whom we call Saint Augustine is a direct result of God answering his mother Monica's prayer.
John and Charles Wesley, of all they've accomplished, they accomplished because God heard the prayer of their mother Susanna Wesley, who prayed for each one of her children one hour a day. And heaven will be amazed to discover how many men have been carried on the shoulders of women's prayer. How many a wife carried her husband into heaven on the shoulders of prayer? How many a mother carried her sons to heaven on the shoulders of her prayer? Again, I'm gonna say more about this in the next message. But the second thing I want you to notice here is this. Hannah's prayer was silent. It was a silent prayer. It was unspoken. Her lips were moving, but there were no audible sounds coming. No eloquent expressions, no wordsmith woven in prayer, no powerful and moving words were heard.
The Bible said only her lips were moving, and that is why Eli the priest thought that she was drunk. And he was rebuking her for drunkenness and she was not drunk at all. It's incredible to me how easily we can misjudge people, how easily we can jump into conclusion about people's lives, how easily we impugn wrong motives on people, how easily we apply formulas that are born out of our own self-righteousness. Then there's a third thing I wanna tell you about this woman, Hannah's prayer. She never tried to draw attention to herself when she prayed, something that a lot of people, when they pray, they tend to forget. Because sometimes when people pray publicly, they really are making announcements. And instead of praying to the Lord, they're making announcements.
"Lord, you know, I saw Bob, and Bob told me this, and then we went to saw Joe. And then from there, we went here. And then we saw this happen. And then that happened, Lord". Well, the Lord knows all about it. Just pray for Bob, wherever it is. Hannah's prayer was not trying to manipulate people's emotions. Her prayer was not trying to draw people's sympathy. No, why? Ah, because she knew that there is only one who would answer her prayer, who could answer her prayer. There's only one who could meet her most desperate need. There's only one who could touch her body. There's only one who could open her womb. There's only one who can do the impossible and he hears unspoken prayer. He can sense the agony of the spirit. He can accurately gauge the sense of desperation.
In Hannah's case, prayer was the sole, sincere desire. You know, there's a passage that the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:26 he talks about in that verse that really ministers to me and ministered to me throughout the years. He talks about how sometimes in prayer that we have deep groaning in prayer. He said there are, those groanings are too deep for words. I know some of you understand that I'm talking about. I understand what Paul is talking about because God hears every one of those unuttered prayers. He hears every one of them. Again, I'm gonna talk a little bit more about this. I always give you two, three, or four points, things to kinda keep you thinking, but somehow today, without wanting to confuse you, I want to tell you about five things that I want you to meditate upon in the coming week, okay?
I already told you three things. I mean, you can count 'em eight and it'd be longer. But five things I really want, those of you taking notes, write them down, meditate on them throughout the week. You'll experience the true blessing of God. The first thing I want you to meditate on is this, that in a time of brokenness, go directly to the throne room of God.
Philippians 4:5-6, the Apostle Paul said, "Let your gentleness be known to people and your needs be known to God". Sadly, I have seen throughout my Christian life, many Christians reverse the Apostle Paul's formula. They will tell of their needs to everybody who would listen and then they become timid with God and don't ask great things from God. Hannah, in her brokenness, went to the only one who could bind her broken heart. She went to the only one who can answer her prayer.
When Elkanah her husband tried to help out, he made a mess of things. Now, the Bible doesn't say that, but I'm saying that, okay? Let me show it to you guys, verse 8. Now verse 8 is for men only, all right? Here's what he said to her, "Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons"? Now guys, would you listen to me? I'm gonna give you a freebie on the house. When your wife is down and hurting, the last thing she wants to hear is how good you've been to her. And then women saying amen, ha ha ha. When she is burdened with something, the last thing she wants to hear is male logic. Even if it makes perfect sense to you, it will not help her. Just pray with her. And if she doesn't want to pray, just pray for her.
Second thing is that God used Hannah's brokenness to bless the world. Not just her, but the world. See, often when we're praying for a need, we're only thinking of that specific need. I'm gonna confess to you, when I pray for God to do something so incredible within his economy to bless the world through answering that one prayer. And beloved, I want to testify to you that most of my spiritual growth, you know, we say babies have growth spurts? Spiritually, we have growth spurts, too, and most of my growth spurts came in the times of my brokenness, not when everything was going hunky dory. In fact, today I can minister to people far better from the valleys that I have been to than on the mountaintops.
Third thing I want you to meditate on I will leave you with, there's nothing wrong with making a vow. Now, some people say in the New Testament you must never make a vow and that's fine. Look, just take it. It's my thing. Toss it away. I'm not saying, "Thus says the Lord," okay? I wanna make sure that you understand when I'm saying the Scripture and when I'm giving you an opinion. There's nothing wrong with making a vow to the Lord as long as you can be absolutely, absolutely certain that you will keep your vow when the Lord answers your prayer.
When people are desperate, they make all sorts of vows to the Lord, but when the pressure is off, they never keep them and that cannot be very good. So, be very careful of making vows that you don't keep because those unkept vows have terrible consequences. The Lord cannot be mocked. And while he forgives, he does not forget. And God gave her one son, Samuel, with whom he blessed the world, and she kept her vow and she gave him to the Lord.
Fourth thing I want to leave you with as you meditate throughout the week, and it's mostly to parents. Parents, listen to me. It is not enough to just say that children are a gift of the Lord. It's a wonderful, accurate, biblical statement, but it is not enough. You must practice that belief and put it in action. You say, "How"? By preparing your children to serve the Lord wherever they are. And I'm not just talking about full-time ministry, I'm talking about serving the Lord wherever they are. If you tell your children that they are a gift from the Lord, then you must teach them how to offer themselves to the service of the Lord.
Five and finally, when God answers the prayer of your brokenness, don't forget to give him thanks alone. Not God and the doctor, not God and this, and God and that. Thank God for medicine, thank God for the doctor, but give praise to God alone. Give praise to God often. Give God praise always. Hannah not only praised God the first several years of Samuel's life, but for the rest of her life. She never ceased to praise the Lord. See, human nature the way it is, we easily forget. We thank God the first few weeks, the first few months, and then we forget. Go to the throne room. Expect great blessings. Keep your vows. Dedicate God's gifts for God's service. Don't ever forget to keep on thanking the Lord.