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Hannah and the Word of Faith

Hannah teaches us what's right and wrong with the Gospel of Prosperity

The Word of Faith movement. The Prosperity Gospel. Talk about some polarizing terms. The doctrines and perceptions of the Word of Faith belief system (abbreviated as WOF for the rest of this article) have caused many Christians to take positions firmly for or against, and much ink has been used to discuss this topic.

It should come as no surprise that God's word sheds light on this subject. After all, the argument about WOF really comes down to what we can expect in the way of answered prayer. The story of Hannah, contained in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, cuts through the nonsense and gives us some solid principles about prayer, expectations, and faith.

Verses 1-7:

In the opening verses, the story is set up for us. Hannah's husband, Elkanah, has another wife named Peninnah, who had children, but Hannah had none. Elkanah loved the Lord, as did Hannah. Peninnah's taunting of Hannah would indicate that perhaps she was not as godly as the other two. Maybe that is why Elkinah loved Hannah more; because they had in common a love of the Lord God.

Verse 8

"And Elkanah her husband said to her, Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"

At first glance, this could appear to be an arrogant statement, but let's take a second look. For a brief moment in the story, this man represents what God wants to say to us when we complain about circumstances. His love is enough for us.

Elkanah had two wives, but Hannah was clearly the one he loved. Why? Perhaps because he saw something in her that he didn't see in Penninah. God loves you because He made you in His image, and if you have accepted Jesus, He sees Jesus in you. Not your faults, your sin, or your shortcomings. He sees none of the things that Satan wants to remind you of about yourself. And once you have a real grip on God's love for you, you aren't as likely to want to complain about circumstances, to want more than He has given you. (The Topic of God's love is a vital one to being all that God wants us to be. Click here to go to Middletree's section on that topic.)

But for now, back to the subject of wanting to see our circumstances changed. Notice that in the paragraph above, I said "likely." The next few verses in 1 Samuel 1 show us that Hannah still wanted to have a child, and there is nothing wrong with that. Wanting something and praying for it are not necessarily the same as envy or discontent. Often, it's not even close.

This point needs to be emphasized in light of some of what has been written about the WOF doctrine. The Prosperity Gospel told us to ask for anything, name it and claim it. Then, there was a backlash which said that to ask for anything showed self-centeredness, materialism, even greed. The critics of WOF contended that we should be praying for things that will glorify God, not things just to make ourselves happy.

In fact, there are elements of truth in both of these positions. Hannah wanted to raise a child, and while this would fulfill some personal wants for her, she still loved the Lord, and wanted to glorify Him.

Verse 10

"And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to Jehovah, and wept sorely."

She prayed to God. She knew who was the only One who could comfort her. Now is a good time for some self-evaluation: When you have troubles, do you complain, or seek the Lord?

Verse 11

"And she vowed a vow and said, O, Lord of Hosts, if You will indeed look upon the affliction of Your handmaid and remember me, and not forget Your handmaid, but will give to Your handmaid a man-child, then I will give him to Jehovah all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. "

What an amazing promise! She was willing to go through the sickness and discomfort of morning sickness, pregnancy, the pain of childbirth, and then recovery from that, and still not reap the reward of raising her son. She would give him back to God.

This is a picture of selflessness, and there is a lesson for all of us. God gives us blessings so that we can glorify Him. The thing that some WOF proponents don't get is that if God blesses you financially, it's not for prosperity's sake, but so that we can take our blessings and bless others, so that He can be glorified! In this case, Hannah promised to give her gift back to the Giver. But in your life and mine, God may bless us monetarily so that we can be a blessing to others. Is this ever mentioned on TBN?

Finally, Hannah chooses to let her son's name reflect answered prayer. In verse 20, Hannah names her son Samuel, "because I have asked of Jehovah." This is an indication that asking God for something is not indicative of selfishness, materialism, jealousy, or any other similar sin. But at the same time, the bible never says we are entitled to anything. Yes, we have some things coming because of our acceptance of Jesus as Savior, but those are eternal rewards. In this life, God does not owe us money, houses, good health, or any other temporary thing of this world. A proper understanding of this truth will lead to a proper perspective, which is an eternal perspective.

The best perspective is that exhibited by Hannah: If you want something, pray to God; ask for it. But have the mindset that you want to use your blessing to glorify God.

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