By Sandra Hasenauer
The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.
“Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.'” (1 Samuel 2:1, NRSV)
“Then Hannah prayed out of her deepest feelings.
Hannah: My heart rejoices in the Eternal One;
my strength grows strong in the Eternal.” (1 Samuel 2:1, The Voice)
When the story of Hannah was selected for the two year theme “Feel/Siente,” I wondered about The Voice paraphrase Bible, which reads, “Then Hannah prayed out of her deepest feelings.” I had not seen that particular interpretation of that sentence before, so I dug into my Strong’s Concordance. Strong’s is an excellent tool for doing word studies–a way of seeing the many ways the word in question is translated in its appearances throughout scripture, as well as seeing original roots and such. This can often help us gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening in any particular Bible verse. What I found was that The Voice, in its paraphrase, was most likely looking ahead a few words from Hannah praying, to Hannah saying that her heart “rejoices in the Eternal one.”
So, then I went to The Message, another paraphrase. “Hannah prayed: I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation,” (1 Samuel 2:1, MSG).
“Huh,” I thought. I realized that our common image of prayer is a fairly calm one. When one searches for images of the term “prayer,” the vast majority of what shows up from the Christian context are people sitting calmly, peaceful expressions on their faces, with their hands folded neatly in front of them. When we read of Hannah praying in most translations or paraphrases, we may get an image in our mind’s eye of Hannah standing or sitting still, perhaps with her head bowed and hands clasped, but undoubtedly with a small, circumspect smile on her face. Instead, as The Voice and The Message try to impress on us, Hannah is beside herself! The idea of someone praying out of her deepest feelings, “bursting,” “walking on air,” “laughing,” and “dancing,” is a very different image of prayer than we may usually have. Now I picture her twirling around, arms in the air, shouting and laughing–and that’s prayer.
On the flip side, “praying out of my deepest feelings” also reminds me of those times in my life in which I was praying while “ugly crying,” over personal hurts, deep losses, times when I just couldn’t see a way through. Even the phrase “praying out of my deepest feelings” seems tame compared to what that felt like. There have certainly times when I was cry-praying with no words–just an unspoken plea to God for healing, peace, understanding.
This two-year theme “Feel/Siente” will encourage all of us, I think, to explore more thoroughly what prayer is in our lives. Does it really come out of our hearts? Does it truly reach our deepest pains and release our greatest joys? Do we feel like dancing and shouting? Are we “bursting with God-news” or really praying out of our deepest feelings?