I really enjoy the child dedications that take place periodically during the Sunday morning worship service. Watching parents bring their infants and young children up on the stage to be dedicated to the Lord in front of the whole congregation is a joyful time for me. Especially as not only the parents and pastor are part of the dedication, so are we in the congregation as we are given the opportunity to commit to helping each family raise their children, ”…in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” (Ephesians 6:4), as nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders and friends.
It brings to mind the story in 1 Samuel 1:1-28 which took place about 1100 years before Jesus was born. It tells about a man called Elkanah, who had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah had no children. Peninnah had several sons and daughters.
Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.
Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?” 1 Samuel 1:3-8 MSG
So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline. 1 Samuel 1:9-11
It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”
Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman brokenhearted. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.” Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.” 1 Samuel 1:12-17
Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah, his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked. Before the year was out, Hannah had conceived and given birth to a son. She named him Samuel, explaining, “I asked God for him.” 1 Samuel 1:19-20
When Elkanah next took his family on their annual trip to Shiloh to worship God, offering sacrifices and keeping his vow, Hannah didn’t go. She told her husband, “After the child is weaned, I’ll bring him myself and present him before God—and that’s where he’ll stay, for good.” Elkanah said to his wife, “Do what you think is best. Stay home until you have weaned him. Yes! Let God complete what he has begun!”
So she did. She stayed home and nursed her son until she had weaned him. Then she took him up to Shiloh, bringing also the makings of a generous sacrificial meal—a prize bull, flour, and wine. The child was so young to be sent off!
They first butchered the bull, then brought the child to Eli. Hannah said, “Excuse me, sir. Would you believe that I’m the very woman who was standing before you at this very spot, praying to God? I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.” Then and there, they worshiped. 1 Samuel 1:21-28
There is more to this story. Hannah never forgot Samuel. Before the next year’s trip to Shiloh, she worked on a new larger tunic that she could take to him. I can imagine her praying for him the whole time as she did it. See, 1 Samuel 2:18-21
Over the years I have been given the opportunity to pray for specific children in different families, bohth here and out of state. How about talking to the Sunday school and youth group leaders and offering to do that for families who would welcome prayer for their children?