A Woman’s Prayer Changed the Course of History
As a woman, do you struggle to pray, feeling that God is more attuned to the prayer of Christian male professionals and religious male elites? If you are a woman and struggle to pray with confidence or hope, the following thoughts from Scripture are written to encourage and inspire you.
If I were to cast my vote for the individual whose prayer was the most powerful influence in shaping the destiny of a nation, it would go to a woman. A woman, in my opinion, wins the MVP award for the most effective supplicant in Israel’s Scripture. The prayer of a woman was a national game changer. Don’t underestimate the power of a woman’s prayer.
Women are Equal to Men
Scripture clearly asserts the equality of women with men in worth, dignity, and as culture-makers. The first recorded words of a human being prior to the entrance of sin and its destructive effects on human attitudes, reinforce and assert this equality. After God formed the woman and brought her to the awakened man, he jubilantly responded—the first recorded words in time-space—to God’s gift of a woman by saying:
“This one now (finally!) is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called ‘woman’ because she was taken out of man.” Gen 2:23
The First Man Recognizes a Woman’s Equality
Adam’s enthusiastic and spontaneous response to the woman recognized her equality and likeness to him. His jubilant words are anchored in respect, admiration, and recognition of her sexual differentiation.
The man’s response, the only human words recorded before the curse of sin, sets the standard for male-female relationships. His words—untouched by envy or pride, free from the desire to control or dominate her, are to be normative for all who follow the God of Israel, and His living embodiment in the Gospels, Jesus Christ. Adam’s first recorded words about a woman form the foundation for all marriages, for all male-female relationships. Imagine what all marriages would be like if this foundation was laid at the beginning.
Are Women Viewed as Equal After Eve?
But is this equality between men and women reinforced by the remainder of Israel’s Scripture? Does the Jewish Bible affirm or detract from this equality? Israel’s Scripture affirms it. There are many cameos provided that show women are equal to men in worship.
A Woman Prayed Directly to God
One example where this equality in worship stands out is the case of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 and 2. The MVP award for the most effective prayer, in my view, is the request of this anguished woman.
Despite the insensitivity displayed by her husband Elkanah and by Eli the priest, Hannah prayed directly to God without the intervention of a priest or her husband. Hannah needed no go-between to get God’s attention. Her prayer to Israel’s God stood on its own merits. Hannah went to God directly.
“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD… As she kept on praying to the LORD…”
A Woman Misunderstood by Men
But Hannah was misunderstood as she prayed. Her passion in prayer shocked and angered the bland priest who jumped to a conclusion and misinterpreted her behavior.
“Eli…thought she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.’” 1 Sam 1:12-14
Even when challenged by Eli the priest and accused of drunkenness, Hannah didn’t keep quiet. Rather, she defended her right to pray directly to God. Hannah set the record straight to an insensitive religious leader.
“‘Not so my lord,’ Hannah replied. ‘I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not interpret your servant for a wicked woman. I have been praying here out of great anguish and grief.’”
I love her response. Hannah didn’t say, ‘I am an Israelite’ or ‘I am a covenantal Hebrew.’ She said, ‘I am a woman…’
Like many troubled women after her, barren Hannah’s prayer was conceived in the womb of anguish and grief. But she didn’t give up. She kept on praying, believing that the God of Israel listened to women at prayer. She was right.
The LORD heard the bitter cry of her soul and, in response, provided her with a son whom she named ‘Samuel,’ “Asked of God.”
A Woman’s Prayer Changed History
But the best is yet to come. The result of Hannah’s prayer, the prayer of a woman, was the about-face of Israel. Under her son’s leadership, Israel made a political and spiritual U-turn. Samuel the prophet, son of Hannah, changed Israel’s downward slide toward chaos into an upward ascent that climaxed in the glory of kingdom under King David.
Hannah’s prayer was the hinge of Israel’s history. That’s right. It was a woman’s prayer, not a man’s sword or a king’s army, which turned the tide of history. You want to see history changed? Put your sword back into its sheath, order your armies to return to their homes and, instead, ask a woman to pray. When women of faith pray, good things, big things, happen.
A Woman’s Prayer Saved Israel
It is no coincidence that the book of 1 Samuel begins—not with the word of a prophet or the command of a king—but with the prayer of a barren woman, a troubled woman, a woman with a broken heart. Hannah prayed directly to God and He heard her, despite her disadvantages—lack of support from her husband—and initial dismissal from the priest. Yet her anguished prayer changed the course of history. Her prayer reversed a corrupt national trend. Hannah’s prayer saved Israel. A woman saved Israel.
So what do you think? Does Israel’s Scripture affirm or deny women’s equality? What does the evidence suggest?
A Woman’s Prayer Wins the MVP Award
Hannah wins the MVP award for most the effective supplicant. A woman’s prayer did what no ordained male priest or prophet or king ever did. Something powerful happens when women pray. Women have the ear of God. He listens to them. He responds to them.
A Woman is a Theologian
Much more could be said about Hannah. For example, a quick look at her literary masterpiece in 1 Samuel 2: 1-10 demonstrates that Hannah not only could pray, she was also a top-shelf theologian who thought deeply about God. In fact, Hannah’s poetic words in 1 Samuel 2:3-4 provide the keys to understanding 1 and 2 Samuel. Hannah’s words unlock 1 and 2 Samuel.
In addition, the psalmist quoted her words in Psalm 113:7-8. I would go as far as to suggest that Psalm 113 was written as a literary biography of Hannah. Hannah’s achievement as a mighty woman of God is memorialized in Israel’s inspired hymn book. Observe the happy conclusion of the Psalm:
“He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.” Psalm 113:9
Just imagine: a woman ignored by her husband and dismissed by a priest, but heard by God, a writer of Scripture, and quoted by other inspired authors. Not bad for a lowly barren woman, wouldn’t you say?
God’s View of Women
In God’s view, women are equal to men. Their influential prayers affirm their equality. Women are game changers when they pray. Are you saddled with the same disadvantages as a woman that Hannah wore? Is your heart in anguish like hers was? Don’t stop praying. God hears the prayers of women of faith.
Do you long for a downward trend to change direction? Then, search out some women of faith and persuade them to pray for you. Then, watch God work and see history change.
Thank you for reading.
 Traditionally known as ‘the Old Testament,’ but both Jesus and Paul called it ‘Scripture.’
 Genesis 1:26-28.
 God also gave Hannah additional children; cf., 1 Samuel 2:21.
 In Jesus’ Bible, composed of three sections, The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (The Tanakh), 1 & 2 Samuel are not two, but one book.
 This word ‘barren’ is the exact same word used by Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:5: ‘She who was barren…’