Friday, October 9, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Blessings

Name Your Blessings
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.”
–1 Samuel 2:1 (KJV)

Recently, I was divinely prompted to review the Prayer of Jabez, found in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.

In this Scripture, the obscure character named Jabez prays for the blessing of expanded territory, not solely for his own exaltation. He wanted to create distance and differentiation from his brothers who were not as noble and peace loving as he was. He wanted space in order to live a sanctified life in harmony with the will of God. 

Jabez wanted to live where he would not be distracted by the evil that enticed his brothers. He knew what caused pain in his life and he wanted to rise above the den of iniquity so that he would not be a cause of pain in other people. So, God granted what he requested. You have probably heard of the prayer of Jabez. You may have read the book by that title written by Bruce Wilkinson.

Subsequently, I was divinely guided to the story of Hannah in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel chapter 2. Hannah was married to a man named Elkanah who had a second wife named Peninnah. She was fertile and had given birth to several children. Hannah had not given birth, yet. The women contended for Elkanah’s attention and affection. He favored Hannah with more material things than he gave to Peninnah and her children.

In those days a fertile womb was considered a sign of divine blessing. The opposite, was considered, the opposite, a curse. Peninnah reveled in her fertility and lorded her stature over Hannah. When all else failed, Hannah went to the temple and prayed. Soulfully, in speechless anguish, she prayed.

The story says that her prayers caught the attention of the senior priest in Israel, Eli. He chided her for being drunk in the temple. When she protested and assured him that she was not a wicked woman, the priest empathized with her and assured her that God would hear and answer her prayer. God did answer Hannah’s prayer by opening her womb and allowing her to conceive a son who grew up to become one of God’s most legendary prophets. His name was Samuel.

My devotional focus today is not on the ministry of Samuel but upon the prayers of Hannah. Two of her prayers are recorded in the Bible. The first prayer was her request of God that we read about in the first chapter of the Bible book of first Samuel. Hannah’s prayer is for a male child and we read how she made a vow to commit the child to the service of God. The second prayer is quoted in detail in 1 Samuel, chapter 2. It is considered to be a prophetic prayer.

The 17th century Bible commentator Matthew Henry says that this prayer was “dictated not only by a spirit of prayer but by the spirit of prophecy.” Who says women cannot be oracles of God or prophets? Weren’t Miriam and Deborah female prophets of Old Testament fame? Add Hannah to the pantheon of the prophetic women who we read about in The Holy Bible.

The key to this devotional is not the gender of the prophetically prayerful voice but that tenor and tone of the prayer and the mind of the one saying the prayer. Hannah was thankful after God blessed her with Samuel and she dedicated him to serve the Lord. She was obviously and vocally thankful for the interventions of God in her life. Herein is a lesson for each of us. Thanksgiving is not optional.

When we demonstrate with verbosity our thankfulness to God for His manifest mercies, those thanksgivings and praises become the catalyst for even more of His presence and His blessings. Hannah’s first recorded prayer was inaudible, but her praise report was intoned for the world to hear and subsequently record.

Our anguish should be private. However, our deliverances, our enlargements, our victories should, with enthusiasm, be shared. Your victory, your deliverance, and your divinely deposited acquisitions may strengthen someone else in their prayerful pursuits of God.

As we approach the Thanksgiving season, don’t just count your blessings, articulate them. Name them one by one. Share your story about how God’s glory came into your life and changed everything for the better!

Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps. 

Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

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