The Christian life is not one that is exempt from challenges. Let no one tell you differently. The ones who preached that if you accept Jesus, you will automatically sail through life smoothly, with money pouring in like a flood, and sickness being in the mindset and easily overcome if we cast them out simply through prayer, don’t know what they are talking about.
Throughout the past and even until today, many Christians have been persecuted. The Early Church experience was one of the toughest experiences anyone on Earth had to ever go through in its whole history. It took more than 300 years for the turn-around for the Early Christians. Today, in many parts of the world, many Christians are still persecuted, sometimes by own family members, simply for their faith and relationship with Christ. Some struggle with broken families. Even among many Christians who are relatively free from persecution, with supportive family and friends, many have to live daily with debilitating pain and illnesses.
Have you ever felt that your prayers go unanswered and that God is simply not there? We know deep down in our hearts that God is a loving Father, and that He will ultimately redeem us but sometimes find it hard to believe. We read all the testimonies and we admire people’s courage but feel that we fall short. At times like these, many of us plunge into what some call ‘drunken prayer’; prayers of real desperation, and we feel uncomfortable about it. But Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed precisely such a prayer (1 Samuel 1:14), and God used that prayer to give hope to Israel for many years. Pr Susan Tang’s book ‘Revelations Into The Anguished Prayers of Hannah’ gives 5 revelations into such anguished prayers. She shared through a personal word in the book that its message came to her late one night as she was preparing for bed, and it was so urgent that she immediately started to type it out.
She also shared that the story of Hannah amazed her. Sometimes we tend to underestimate the women in the Bible. How often do we hear people using Rahab, the courageous woman who helped Joshua during his battle at Jericho as an example of a heroine of faith? Or recognition given to Miriam as a backbone for Moses? Or the heroism of Deborah and Jael during the time of the judge Barak? Not many people know Hannah beyond being the mother of Samuel, or perhaps as the woman who prayed hard for a son. Pr Susan shared that Hannah
‘did not have a public or official role in the history of Israel, but she gave birth to a powerful and visible movement that changed the destiny of her nation. Hannah knew how to engage herself in intense, painful, struggling and relinquishing prayers and she was able to birth the greatest praying prophet for God’ (Page 11).
Pr Susan Tang, in her book, looks deep at the character of Hannah and the legacy and lessons we can learn from her character and the way she prayed. She shared 5 revelations about the prayer of Hannah, divided into individual chapters:
1. Desperation Drove Hannah To Bargain And Make Vows: Pr Susan shared that Hannah’s vow originated from the heart of God. She shared that many people made vows easily but unfortunately do not fulfill their vows eventhough God has answered their prayers and met their needs. Very often, the fulfillment of our vow is vital because, like Hannah, God may have worked in our heart to produce the vow. [God] may have orchestrated the events that led us into making such a vow, and the fulfillment of our vow could mean the fulfillment of God’s own strategy and plan (for our lives and surroundings) (Page 13). She shared many examples from the Bible of God’s fulfilled plans, and what happens when a vow is broken.
2. Prevailing In God’s Presence Changed Hannah’s Heart: This was one of the most poignant chapters of the book for me, and gave me a new look into the devotion of Hannah towards God. In her desperation, Hannah made the vow to give her son back to the Lord if her prayers were answered. It is only sometimes when we are at this place of full abandonment that we can see the workings of God (Page 18).
Later, though it was painful for her, Hannah kept her promise and rejoiced in the Lord (1 Samuel 2). Hannah had exuberant and lasting joy because she knew she had turned her highest desire into her supreme sacrifice (Pg 19). We may experience pain and loss, but through the process, we will learn to change our hearts, pouring it out to Him and seeing things from His perspective. Daily God wants to help raise us so that we see things from this elevated perspective.
3. The Divine and the Human Intertwined In Hannah’s Desperate and Anguished Prayer: The longest and most powerful chapter in the book, Pr Susan shared that in Hannah’s example, it is clear that the needs of God and Hannah were intertwined – He wanted a prophet and she needed a son. Each of us are called to the ministry of watchtowers and winepress (Isaiah 5:2). The experience of the winepress is painful, but it often has a purpose in it.
God wants us to identify with Him and His heart for this world. A man will never know God’s true sorrow and sense of lost humanity or souls until he himself has experienced the deep sorrow of losing his own children. A woman can never share the depths of God’s pain over men’s unfaithfulness until she herself has been betrayed by her own unfaithful loved ones (Page 26). Pr Susan encourages us to pour out our hearts to God, and in the process, come through a comprehensive and absolute understanding of the Father’s heart. He understands everything we go though, and has not given us to trials that He know we cannot withstand.
God has called Christians to a wider ministry and unless we completely understand the Father’s heart and are desperate for it, we will not be effective ministers for Him. Many powerful testimonies are shared from the Bible as illustration of this breakthrough in God’s servants.
In two other chapters, Pr Susan also shared about the workings of God and the nature of true worship.
4. Hannah’s Anguished Prayers Were God’s ‘Soft Flowing Waters’ For Changing The Nation: Like the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God works silently, stealthily and simply to effect great eternal changes.
5. Hannah Knew That True Worship Is Being Weaned Or Severed From One’s One Desire: True worship is not performance, activities, talents or noise. It is being able to release or relinquish one’s supreme desire to God.
In the conclusion to the book, Pr Susan shared that the ministries that Christians are called to are not easy ones. Sometimes, it requires huge sacrifices, but our God never fails. Pr Susan Tang is one of the renowned prayer warriors in Malaysia, someone who need no introduction, and whose ministry at Station of Life is one of the most vibrant and anointed one in the country. What many people may not know though is that this book was written and published in Lahad Datu in August 2012, when the state of Sabah was racked with a challenging and difficult time with an uncertain future. Far from a glib book written from a pedestal point, Pr Susan pours out her heart in this book.
Title: Revelations Into The Anguished Prayers of Hannah
Author: Pr Susan Tang
Publisher: Station of Life
Address: Box 60858
Lahad Datu, Sabah
References for pictures