Becoming honest in prayer


1 Samuel 1:9-20

I was pouring my heart out to the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:15)

“Don’t make a scene!” You might whisper this when you are in a quiet, public setting and a companion starts displaying too much emotion. That is what the priest Eli said to Hannah, thinking she was drunk. In reality, Hannah was praying silently, but with such passion that she was making a scene; she was pouring out her heart to God.

The image of “pouring” is full of meaning: you can imagine Hannah so carefully holding in her inmost thoughts and desires, as in a cup. Every time her rival, Peninniah, ridiculed her for being childless, another painful portion filled her. Finally, in desperation before the Lord, she tips the cup, and everything she was holding in begins pouring out.

This kind of prayer may not mesh with the beautifully worded prayers that we may be familiar with in Scripture or in the prayers of the Church. But in fact, the biblical notion of prayer is not always quiet or contemplative. David “poured out his soul” (Psalm 42:5). In the Gospels, many people “made a scene” trying to get to Jesus – breaking through a roof, climbing a tree, weeping on his feet, even shouting (Mark 2:4; Luke 9:14; Luke 7:38; Matthew 9:27).

There is something very honest about these examples of prayer. When a person is suffering like Hannah, has tried every natural remedy, and is out of options, there is no room for pretence or posturing, no patience left for peaceful waiting. We can imagine that Hannah may have prayed, “God, don’t you care about me?” Perhaps we have muttered those words ourselves.

In your prayer today, or any day, don’t be afraid to “make a scene.” You can be honest about what is on your heart, whether that is suffering or hopes and desires. Follow Hannah’s example and lay them all before him: what hurts, what you were hoping for, what you are afraid of. Pour out your heart to him, and you may notice something. You are creating space to allow God to pour in whatever he wants to give you. It’s as though God is saying, “At last! Now let me pour out my heart to you.”

“Lord, you know what is in my heart; I pour it out to you: ___________________________”

Reflection from ‘Word Among Us’ – India edition
Image by Robert Woeger from Pixabay

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