Prayerlessness (Lessons From Hannah and Eli)

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.” 

And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” 

But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.” Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” (1 Samuel 1:9–17 NKJV)

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. 

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV)

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. 

Prayers and Players

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.       

Guarding the Churches

Guarding the Churches
Robert Wurtz II

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17, 18) 

Paul employs a familiar verb to solicit action from the Romans when he writes, I beseech you.” This is the Greek word parakaleo and in this context means to call to ones side to urge them to action. It is a sincere and earnest plea to do what is written next, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Obviously, the Christians to whom this epistle is addressed, were unified in believing and acting upon the teachings they had received. However, Paul warns them that some people will not accept the form of Christianity he teaches, and will therefore lead people astray with fair speeches that deceive simple-minded folks. These people are not serving Christ, but their “own belly.” That is to say, they are as the sons of Eli in the Old Testament who abused their priestly position in ministry, using it for their own belly — rather than regarding God’s purposes. (See 1 Samuel 2:1ff)

Paul is writing the Romans and urging them in the strongest of terms to avoid a similar situation as to what happened with the House of Eli. These men in 1 Samuel 2 were charged to do the service of the Jehovah (YHWH), but they high-handily abused their position to the point that God warned Eli of coming judgment. Nevertheless, because he honored his sons more than God, he never stopped them and the bad behavior continued. What were they doing? They were walking contrary to the doctrine that they had received. God had given Israel the Law along with specific instructions for the priests. In spite of that, they were fornicators and gluttons. Scripture refers to them as children of the Devil, even though they were functioning as God’s servants. 

Paul knew that people who behave badly have to be dealt with in decisive ways. The challenge is found in getting Christians to take Paul’s words seriously and actually do what he is saying. I am convinced that a great amount of trouble that exists in the churches of God today is the consequence of not taking warnings and directives like this one Romans 16:17,18 seriously. There have always been people who creep in unawares to being divisions and offenses contrary to what God’s word teaches. It was in Eli’s House in the Old Testament and later Paul warned the elders at Ephesus of similar patterns. What are we to do?

Serious moral failings such as were found in the House of Eli are to be dealt with by the churches in accordance with Paul’s teachings to the Corinthians. Fornicators and such must be removed from ministry and put out of fellowship if necessary in order to see repentance. In extreme cases the church is to turn the person over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh until they truly repent (emphasis on truly). Otherwise, a fornicator will destroy a church. No doubt many of churches have been split because leaders failed to deal properly with a fornicator. Indeed, the “spirit of Eli” has wrecked many harvest fields. Nevertheless, God is not mocked, and will hold the leaders who have allowed this to happen accountable on judgment day. 

In the case presented in Romans 16, we do not have a directive to turn the offenders over to Satan or any such thing. This could be because the offender is being harbored and protected by some church. This makes for quite a dilemma. Sadly, it happens all too often in modern times. Offenders don’t usually stay in the church they divided with their bad behavior, they move someplace else. Some go from church to church wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of stumbled souls all over the place. 

What can we do in such situations? Paul told us to mark them and avoid them. Marking them according to A.T. Robertson means “to keep an eye on them so as to avoid them.” Our Greek word for avoid according to Vincent is better translated as “turn aside.” When you see them, go the other direction. Have no fellowship with them whatsoever. Do not bid them godspeed with your presence. In other words, give no one the impression that you are in agreement with them. If you are a minister, don’t share the platform with them. Vincent continues, “Not only keep out of their way, but remove yourself from them if you fall in with them.” 

This is Paul’s plea for dealing with those who profess Christ, but cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned. Bad behavior cannot merely be ignored. Sometimes offenders will find refuge with people they have charmed with their good words and fair speeches. Charm is the ability to make a person like you. It is not a spiritual gift, but a potentially dangerous character trait. People who are charmed by bad people often hang around with them — overlooking their behavior until it’s too late. eventually something awful happens and the churches of God are damaged. This is why Paul says, I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. He is concerned more about the safety of the churches than maintaining friendships. He was no Eli and this is no small directive. We do well in this crisis hour to heed Paul’s words and take them as seriously as “thou shalt not murder.” This would position us as God’s people to protect as many of the flock as possible from the destruction divisions and offences cause     

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