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The audible voice of God had not been heard for a great many years, but the land was anything but silent as the judges prevailed over Israel. As tales of old seemed to grow as distant and as faraway as the God they spoke of, altars to the Lord were torn down to make room for idols, and the pillars of fire that guided them in the wilderness were long forgotten upon setting foot in their populous cities.

It was a dark time, and a silent one.

And it's always in those times that we should be the most expectant for how God will move. When the days are silent and Jesus seems a faroff reality, these are the days that we as believers are called to sit on the edge of our seats, dreaming of how He's going to break that silence. And when God is planning on doing something major, He sets His people praying. He sets His people dreaming.

In this time in partiular, God's voice began to speak into the heart of Hannah, who is no coincidence, the focus of the first chapter of the Samuels, whose faithfulness helped lay the groundwork for undoubtedly one of the most action-packed two books of the Hebrew Scriptures. But before Saul chasing David through the desert, before all the wars and Goliath-killing shepherds, it all began with a period of silence, and it all began with the prayers of one woman.

1 Samuel opens by introducing Elkanah and his two wives, Peninnah, who had children, and Hannah, who had none.

"Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 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?'" - 1 Samuel 1:3–8

Elkanah's question to Hannah is fascinating to me. Essentially he's asking her, why are you not content? The obvious answer, at first glance, would be, well, Peninnah is a jerk who never lets me forget I don't have any children, thats why I'm not content. But based off what Hannah does next leads me to believe that this is only rubbing salt in the wound, but there is something deeper here.

"After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, 'O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.' As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, 'How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.' 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. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.' Then Eli answered, 'Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.' And she said, 'Let your servant find favor in your eyes.' Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad." - 1 Samuel 1:9–18

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of Hannah's pain is from her hope being continuously deferred. She is praying a radically honest prayer for an incredibly specific dream- she wants a son that she can give over to serve in the presence of the Lord, to minister to Him. Hannah is not a jealous woman who merely wants children so Peninnah can't be snarky with her anymore, she wants a son. She has a desire, a longing deep within her, for a son. She prayed with such bold vigor, it wasn't just her lips that were moving silently, her heart was moving, crying out with every fiber of her being to her God. This type of honest pouring out of the soul in prayer was so unheard of at the time that even Eli, the priest, accused her of being drunk, and told her to knock it off with all the wine. To this Hannah responded that no, she was just a woman troubled in spirit.

She was just a woman troubled in spirit. She was merely an ordinary woman, but she had the audacity to pray as if she were Abraham, a friend of God, or Moses, trying to barter with God. But I suppose every single indivual the Lord chooses to use is merely ordinary.

The Spirit of God fills the hearts of the merely ordinary with extraordinary dreams.

Jesus instructed His friends to pray for "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). That prayer is an invitation to dream. That prayer ushers us, the merely ordinary, into the extraordinary role that Jesus permits us- the role of a royal priest, acting to intercede on behalf of all the people around us. Allow yourself to dream a little bit- what would it look like for God's kingdom to come and pervade the most monotonous places? What does Your kingdom come look like under the bright flueroscent lights of a public high school, at the grocery store, at Barnes and Noble, at the coffeeshop? Tell me that doesn't get you insanely excited to be chosen to be a part of what Dallas Willard coined the "divine conspiracy"- the reality of the Upside Down Kingdom making the concrete beneath our feet into golden streets.

The words Your kingdom come have a way of taking root inside all the people who pray it. Similar to how God worked in the heart of Hannah to give her the dream of a son who would serve Him all his days, so Jesus works in us to make us desperate enough to pray bold prayers, and to keep praying them. God granted Hannah a little glimpse into what her dream fufilled would look like, and her prayer was a response- I want that. I want Your will to be done.

Elkanah had asked Hannah, why are you weeping?

We don't how what she responded, or if she responded at all at the time. But I imagine years later, after seeing her son who she prayed for and wept for and begged for and trusted God for anoint David as King of Israel, she realized her answer.

Her tears made a way in the dry, barren land. Had it not been for her sorrow, she would not have prayed. Had she not have glimpsed all the goodness of the stream of Living Water, she would not have prayed harder. The dream the Lord was faithful to tend inside her led to the life of a son whose hands would have the same wild faith as his mother, to anoint a shepherd boy the King of Israel. A son who Hannah named Samuel, which means God heard. Prayers answered. Dreams fulfilled.

What's so incredible to me is that Hannah's dream, in the grand scheme of things, was nothing compared to what the Lord would do through it. Because He plants dreams within the human heart that stirs us to pray, but what He will do through it?

It's better than we can ask, think, or imagine.

And yet- He accomplishes it through His power working in us. Working in our sorrows, our tears, our desperation, our honesty, our joys, our fears, our hopes, our dreams.

So let us all have the audacity to pray and to dream what it would look like for His kingdom to come right here, right now, in the midst of us. Let the Spirit use these merely ordinary lips to be moved by the Jesus who hears.

Some days are dark.

Some months pass by, marked by God's silence.

But it is in these times that Jesus sets His people praying.

It is in these times that Jesus sets His people dreaming.

Don't be contented with a Kingdom that feels far. Never be contented with distance. Pray for proximity. Let His Kingdom come. Never stop praying until His will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Dream. Because our God hears. And maybe, just maybe-

He's waiting for you to speak.


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