Dear Cornerstone brothers and sisters,
I pray the you are rejoicing in the grace and mercy of God this week. May we remember the love and care that God has for his church. As we considered last Sunday, “the LORD loves the gates of zion.” Simply put, the LORD loves his people – Christ loves his bride so much that he would die for her. May that thought bring you joy this week.
Two important announcements to remember:
First, Rev. Sam Folta will be with us this Lord’s Day. Rev. Folta, an OPC missionary to China, will talk to us about the church’s work in China during SS; and he will preach during Worship. Also, remember we will have Rev. David Okken, an OPC missionary to Uganda, visiting with us Tuesday night. More details to come.
Second, as I mentioned at the Fellowship lunch, those interested in joining CSOPC’s “Vos Group,” we will begin reading through his book “Biblical Theology” this month. Again, more details to follow. Our first meeting will be in the early part of February. The book can be ordered through Westminster Seminary here: http://www.wtsbooks.com/biblical-theology-geerhardus-vos-9780851514581.
Finally, below is a short devotional reflection on prayer from 1 Samuel 1.
From the Pastor’s Desk
“Pouring Out in Prayer”
1 Samuel 1:15, “I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.”
Prayer is the breath of the soul. Just as breathing signifies physical life, so prayer signifies spiritual life. How was Ananias to know that Saul (soon to be renamed Paul) was a changed man with a renewed heart? Because Saul was now a man of prayer (Acts 9:11). In 1 Samuel 1, we are introduced to a godly woman who prays. Hannah was a woman who loved the Lord and who prayed to the Lord. There are three things we can learn about the discipline of prayer by reflecting on Hannah in this chapter.
First, the context of Hannah’s prayer. Simply put, Hannah’s prayer was born in extreme hardship. Hannah was childless (1:2). In the Ancient Near East, childlessness carried with it a great amount of social stigma and shame. It was often (mistakenly) assumed that the barren mother was inherently inferior, immoral, under the curse of God, etc. Thus, we could say that in the ANE an empty womb carried with it a crushing burden. Moreover, we are told that “the Lord has closed her womb” (vv. 5, 6). The Bible clearly affirms the absolute sovereignty of God (Ps 115:3; Eph 1:11); but the ‘rubber meets the road’ when we read such verses as these. The Lord, according to his perfect, good, and wise will, had closed Hannah’s womb. While the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is ultimately a wonderful and glorious comfort to believers, it can result – for a time – in a certain amount of wondering and questioning (“Why did God cause this to happen?”). Finally, it is apparent that Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, was not a candidate for the ‘Most Understanding and Supportive Husband’ award! As is recorded in v. 8, “And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’” Verse 10 well summarizes the context, “She [Hannah] was deeply distressed…”
Secondly, the content of Hannah’s prayer. First, we need to note that it was Hannah’s distress that drove her to prayer … “She was deeply distressed, and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly” (v. 10). And how can we describe her prayer? It was a prayer calling on the grace and mercy of God (vv. 10-11). It was a prayer of devotion to the plan and purposes of God. It was a prayer filled with Scripture. Hannah prayed, “O Lord if you give me a son, I will give him back to you.” Hannah’s prayer was based on the Nazirite vow of Numbers 6. Hannah said to the Lord, “Lord, you are sovereign … look on me in your mercy and grace … O Lord, give me a child, … and I will dedicate him and consecrate him to full-time ministry for you … and may I find favor in your eyes (v. 18).” Hannah’s prayer was a testament to her understanding of her own helplessness and of God’s sovereign goodness! In verse 15 Hannah states, “I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” What a beautiful definition of prayer – to pour out our soul before the Lord!
Finally, the consequences of Hannah’s prayer. There are two results to note: joy and obedience. Verse 18, “Then the woman (Hannah) went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” Hannah had cast her cares on the Lord, and the joy of the Lord filled her soul (1 Peter 5:7; Neh 8:10). And secondly, Hannah fulfilled her vow – the Lord heard Hannah’s prayer, He gave her a son – and Hannah fulfilled her vow: “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever” (v. 22). Hannah was filled with joy and lived in obedience.
Brothers and sisters, when we find ourselves – like Hannah – in the pit of despair, may we take it to the Lord. May we pour out our hearts before the Lord! And may the joy of the Lord – the Lord who hears and answers prayer – be our strength!
Have a wonderful week and I look forward to seeing you this Lord’s Day,