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Desperate Prayers

are the best.

1 Samuel 1:8–11

Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

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.”

Hannah cracks and makes a bold, desperate, world-changing vow.

But notice why she cracks. Her husband’s clumsy attempt at comforting her drives her over the edge. No, he is not better than ten sons, despite the word “not” in, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” That wording implies the answer. It’s not really a question. He’s implying that he is better than ten sons.

Also, the line about ten sons shows that he knows why she’s weeping. So, what’s the point of asking questions he knows the answer to?

Elkanah’s questions just increase the pressure on Hannah. They imply that she shouldn’t be crying. Presumably, he’s just trying to comfort her and give her a reason to stop crying, but it has the opposite effect. Hannah is now ashamed of her tears on top of being ashamed of her barrenness.

So, in an attempt to escape her nightmare, she prays a prayer of desperation to the LORD. Her barrenness includes both sons and daughters, but Elkanah mentioned sons. So her focus goes to a son ,and she asks specifically for that. If the LORD will remove her shame, He can have the boy.


Desperate prayers have something special—a sort of purity. All pretense is gone. Even logic is gone. All that’s left is heart and soul. We don’t care if it’s okay to scream. The masks are off.

Absent any sense of self-sufficiency, we finally get into the appropriate posture. The connection is strong because the prayer is straight from the heart.

Desperate prayers don’t need to lead off with adoration, confession, and thanksgiving. That’s a great way to get into the right posture and focus our minds on His holiness, but desperate prayers already have that—in spades.

So, desperate prayers are the best. Unfortunately, they need one thing to work—desperation. You can’t make up a desperate prayer.

It has to be given to you.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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