When Words Run Out

John McKeel

By all accounts, Hannah was a good woman. She loved her husband – even though he had two wives. Hannah was long-suffering in the face of her sister-wife’s taunts and Hannah was deeply devoted to the Lord so why didn’t God do something to help her? You see, in those days, people took it as a sign of God’s blessings and approval when they had children so when Hannah couldn’t conceive; they took it as a sign of God’s disfavor.

Still Hannah tried to put on a happy face as Elkanah took his wives and children to Shiloh for a religious festival. It was clear to all that he loved Hannah best – after all he gave her a double portion of the feast. Unfortunately, that only angered her rival and led to a new round of taunts from Elkanah’s other wife.

Have you ever been so broken that you run out of words to describe your pain? While everyone else was celebrating, Hannah, totally broken, fell down in tears before the shrine of the Lord. It was an ancient tent – the original dated back to the Exodus and the days of Moses. It had entered the Promised Land carried by priests over the Jordan River but now it was nearly worn-out. While everyone else was celebrating by the fireside down in the valley, Hannah quietly climbed to the hilltop to visit the ancient shrine. She needed to talk to God. She needed to plead with him in private. She poured out her soul beside the gate of the shrine. Hannah fell to the ground and mouthed the words that would no longer sound. She was all alone in her pain save for a solitary figure watching from the shadows. It was Eli. He saw the woman writhing alone. It was such an unusual sight that the prophet jumped to the conclusion this woman was so drunk she had wandered off alone and now shamefully rolled in the dirt before the ancient tabernacle. He said:

14 “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 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. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation,” 1 Samuel 1:14 – 16.

What about you? Are there times when you don’t know how to pray or what to ask for? How do you talk to God? When you think about it, carrying on a conversation with the Almighty seems absurd. Maybe you’ve spent the night in prayer. You’ve prayed so hard, you started repeating yourself. Finally, like Hannah, the words ran out. There is good news! Don’t despair. As Christians, God’s Holy Spirit lives within us and one of the Spirit’s blessings is to carry our prayers to God when words run out:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express,” Romans 8:26.

Our formal month of prayer is about to end but it’s our prayer that you have learned the value of having a conversation with God and made prayer a daily part of your life as a Christian. God answered Hannah’s prayer and the powerful prophet Samuel was born. God’s Holy Spirit is waiting to take the prayers of your heart to our Heavenly Father. How can God help you?

Published by

John McKeel

John is a teacher, author, adventurer, and the minister for GCC – the Groton Church of Christ.

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