Prayerlessness (Lessons From Hannah and Eli)
Robert Wurtz II
So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
It is hard to read this passage and not be riled by the complete lack of discernment that Eli showed when Hannah wept before the Lord. Here was a man ready to accuse a praying woman for being drunk, while his two playing sons Hophni and Phinehas were living like devils in the ministry unthwarted.
Hannah wept because she had no son. Her husband tried to comfort her by giving her extra food to eat, but his other wife Peninnah, in her diabolic cruelty tormented Hannah until she couldn’t even eat. Then Hannah goes to the house of the Lord to pray about the situation and is met with Eli’s recklessness. the devil will use anything or anyone to discourage us from praying. In modern times, we might characterize Eli’s actions as criminal negligence. Nevertheless, while he was watching Hannah’s lips, God was hearkening to her prayer. In fact, he wist not that Hannah was praying in his replacement.
It is folly to pretend to have faculties of spiritual discernment and yet be void of basic common sense. Paul once told the Corinthians, who were keen on moving on the Spiritual gifts, “…does not even nature teach you?” (1 Cor. 11:14a) Any person who had even the faintest understanding of Jehovah would have known how evil these boys were in His sight. For starters, they were having sexual relations with women in the Temple. To make matters worse Phinehas had a pregnant wife at home. Moreover, in their gluttony they would take the largest portions of the offering for themselves causing the offering of the Lord to be despised. It is sobering to think that a sinner could probably been called in to bring correction to such high-handed disregard for the things of God. That’s how bad they were.
Why did Eli allow this to happen? God said it was because he honored his sons more than he honored YHWH (Jehovah God). Loyalty is when you will stand by a person even when they are in the wrong; faithfulness is when we will stand for truth no matter who it effects. Eli’s loyalty to his sons trumped his faithfulness to God. Absolutely nothing moved Eli to correct His sons. He was receiving undeniable and direct threats from God (not that God makes any idle threat). God spoke to him in the strongest of ways warning him of what would happen if he did not stop them. Nevertheless, he carried on into the 40th year as if God was not talking.
Our times are little different than the day Hannah prayed as Eli’s sons played. There are people today who are vexed by the high-handedness of our times and pray that God will send revival. All the while the reports come in each year of another minister or worship leader who duped the people for years while living to a greater or lesser degree like Hophni and Phinehas. Men and women who were lauded as being “anointed” and how you could “feel the presence of God” while they preached and sang — turn out to be in adulterous affairs or worse. There is a blindness today that is the direct result of prayerlessness. Some hear these things and are disillusioned while others line up in their defense.
While a chorus of articles will go on to press on the topic of “not judging” I think we need to ask a more pointed question; why do we seem to have so much sin in the camp and yet we laud the presence of God being among us? A cursory read of the Old Testament reveals that God does not dwell among people when sin is rife. I suggest that what people call the presence of God is not the presence of God at all. It’s the same goosebumps they would feel if they attended a secular concert. Modern technology moves people. In the old days people needed to pray so that God would honor the meetings. Today the musicians just play and the people think they are feeling God. Men can falsify the presence of God by creating an atmosphere with sound and lights. But the environment is often one of prayerlessness. Not prayer as in listen to your favorite worship singer and sing along… prayer as in getting away and praying with a pure conscience until you truly touch God.
When a person is right with God they don’t need modern technology to prop them up. the presence of God in the Old Testament was akin to our concept of “face to face” or “eye to eye.” When our conscience is clear we can know the presence of God. However, a person can be playing around in sin, switch the power button on to the sound system and fool themselves and other people into thinking it’s the presence of God. This is how these scandals go on for years and people still think God is with the person.
What happens? Prayerlessness is compensated for with music that generates a false presence of God. These are the cold facts. In the old days when someone was off of their game everyone could tell because they struggled to minister. They had no unction. Not today. Technology serves as a kind of life-support to keep things feeling and seeming to be spiritual. A preacher can crank up his microphone and many people will think he‘s anointed and “powerful.” Switch the power off and see what happens.
The same lack of discernment that characterized Eli’s life, and the same style playing around in the house of God is here today. Carnal professors of Christianity would rather rebuke the person who is trying to touch God than rebuke the people who are causing God’s presence to leave. The consolation that we have is that God will answer the Hannah’s of the world in due time. It took decades for things to turn around in Israel… but turn around it did.