The graceful power of our conversations

In the process of studying about God’s heart, and the meaning of “heart” in the Bible, this morning I came across the passage in First Samuel 1:9-18 about Hannah going into the temple to pray for a child. She was so intense in her prayers, crying bitterly and moving her lips without sound, that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk. He was rather forceful in his criticism of her, telling her how inappropriate it was for her to be drunk in the temple. She of course let him know that she was not drunk. She said, “I was pouring out my heart to the Lord….I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow” (NLT). And immediately the priest’s attitude turned 180 degrees and in essence he gave her a blessing, “Go in peace!” He then entered her world of concern and spoke these comforting words to her: “May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” And apparently just as quickly as Eli had changed his approach, Hannah’s attitude and feelings changed from despair and discouragement to at least some level of peace and hope. She regained her appetite and “was no longer sad.” She left the temple apparently trusting God for the answer to her prayer (which, of course, happened when she birthed Samuel soon after). 

Usually when we think about this passage we focus on Hannah and how she felt, how she poured out her heart, how she prayed intensely for what she wanted, and the fact that God answered her. But this morning I was drawn to the priest and his interaction with Hannah. Once he understood her heart and the intensity of her request to God and her apparent trust in God’s ability to answer her prayers, Eli’s attitude and behavior changed. He saw her differently and in response he spoke encouraging words to her. His change of heart led him to speak words that changed how Hannah felt and acted. It was God’s love and power that answered Hannah’s prayers, but Eli had a part in Hannah’s story as he encouraged her faith and eased her distress.

My take-away – As followers of Christ we are priests to each other. Through the Holy Spirit we can enter the world of others and speak words of encouragement to them. As Ephesians 4:29 says, we may become channels of God’s grace to each other by what we say to our sisters and brothers. I want to be that way. I want to have the sensitivity and the love and the wisdom to say what will bring God’s grace and love to other people. May it be so, Lord, for all of us!

For more on the potential power of our conversations, see

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