3 Unlikely Prayers God (Eventually) Answered

hannahs prayer

As born-again believers, there are some expectations that the Bible (and hence, God) has of us. One important feature of a believer is that we ought to walk in the spirit so we won’t “fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

The Scriptures also instruct us to “set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

In one famous parable, Jesus even warns against the “cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things” (Mark 4:19).

With these admonitions in mind, I have found it a bit puzzling and somewhat startling, that God honoured certain requests in the Bible. From a religious and dogmatic viewpoint, there are some requests that don’t seem to be as spiritual or heaven-centred as I thought they needed to be!

Here are three prayers that got an answer I did not expect a holy God to give.

The Prayer of the Syro-Phoenician Woman (Matthew 15: 22-28)

If anyone shouldn’t have had the nerve to approach God, it would have to be the Syro-phoenician woman (Miss SP for short).

First of all, Miss SP was a Gentile who at that time had no lot with Israel. Jesus was blunt in reminding her of who His priority in ministry were–and it didn’t include her.

First reason not to pray? Check!

As if that wasn’t enough, her request was denied–by Jesus Himself. Another reason not to pray!

She was, however, shameless, and showed determined persistence. In fact, according to the Matthew account, Miss SP’s faith would eventually earn the commendation and admiration of the Lord.

But if she had processed things too much (like, I don’t know, maybe me?), I guarantee she would not have approached Jesus in the first place. Before He would have had a chance to tell her “no”, she would have already disqualified herself from making her request known.

Then to hear Jesus say you can’t have what you’re asking for would have deterred even the boldest of intercessors, but not her.

What kind of crazy faith does it take to hear God say you’re a dog and you still keep groveling before him?!

What Kept her Praying?

I can only make some guesses about what could have pushed Miss SP to stoop so low.

It could be the love she had for her daughter back home who was tormented by a demon.

It could be the frustration of knowing how her own life was being disrupted by the extra care she had to give to that ‘sick’ child.

Or perhaps it was pure desperation from having no-one else to turn to for help.

Whatever her motivation was, it was strong enough to cause her to endure blatant disregard and rejection.

Would You Ask God for Crumbs?

Miss SP was so desperate, it seems, that even after being hinted at as an unworthy dog, she started begging for crumbs! That was not very dignified to say the least, but something happened to Jesus when she made herself “of no reputation”.

What was deemed as a closed door just a few sentences before in the story, suddenly turned in her favour. Not only was her request granted, but it was granted “from that very hour” (Matthew 15:28).

Miss SP was among the least qualified persons to get God’s attention.

She is proof that we too can come boldly unto the throne of grace. The mercy and grace that Jesus gave to her may very well be made available to you today–if you’re willing to ask for crumbs too!

The Prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10)

The prayer of Jabez is a famous prayer, no doubt. Books and songs have been based on this man’s testimony that continues to inspire believers.

But if I had met Brother Jabez, I would have probably wagged a finger of rebuke at him! (I hear you gasp in disbelief!) I would have thrown 1 Thessalonians 5:16 at him–Rejoice evermore! And then I would have dished out Ephesians 5:20–giving thanks always for all things!

I would have found every spiritual Scripture to encourage Jabez to accept his condition and to “seek those things which are above”.

Now why would I do that? Why would I have challenged Jabez’s desire to be blessed?

Because that’s what I would do to MYSELF!

Aren’t true blessings found in the presence of God and at His right hand? Are we not to be focused on the lively hope we have for Christ’s return?

The answer is yes and yes again.

The prayer of Jabez could very well have been “Lord, give me the strength to go through”.

Or, “God, give me the grace I need so I won’t be distracted by worldly affairs”.

Those are great prayers, but those were not Jabez’s desires.

Jabez had some things bugging him, and he was not about to be a religious hypocrite about them. When something bothers you enough, it would be wise to call on God to fix it! There are times when you just need to blow off some steam before God, and let God know how you honestly, truly and really feel–and that’s what Jabez did.

Of course there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get every single whim and fancy fulfilled, but don’t let that stop you from praying about it!

In Jabez’s case it just so happened that God decided He would fix it. Who knows? You might end up having the same testimony as Jabez! Winner-winner!

The Prayer of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-20)

There are few prayers that wreak with carnality as does the prayer of Hannah for a son. (I know she was barren, so before you stone me, let me tell you why I think her focus was possibly of the flesh.)

We know that Hannah was one of two wives to Elkanah and despite her barrenness, she had a couple things going for her:

  1. She was the wife who Elkanah loved

  2. She was always given more (a worthy portion) than the other wife

  3. Her husband never pressured her to bear children

In fact, it appears to me that even Hannah was ok with the way things were. She was happy! No child, no problem.

But that was until she started being teased about her barrenness.

What previously was not an issue steadily grew into a burden. What had not been on her mind at all, started to become her focus.

It’s not because having a child was her initial desire–it’s because she was now being “provoked”. The other wife wanted Hannah to “fret”.

She did it on purpose!

She knew Hannah was ok and comfortable, content in love and acceptance from her husband. Things only changed when Hannah allowed her adversary to nag her away from contentment and into worry.

When the Flesh Rises Up

What I want you to see is that Hannah would not have prayed for a son if she hadn’t been mocked by a competitor. If she had stood her ground in contentment (as every good Christian should) she would have kept her peace and been unmoved (as every good Christian should).

For Hannah to react the way she did, that sounds like the flesh to me!

Why didn’t she rest in the love and pampering she was already known to receive from her husband?

The religious me would have told Hannah to go and be thankful.

“Be content with what you already have”, I would say.

“This is the plan of the enemy to distract you, Hannah”, would have been my counsel.

I would have told her to pray, but for forgiveness because she was taking her eyes off eternity!

Show of Hands if This Is You

So Hannah fell for it. She caved. She gave in to the devices of her enemy. Hannah was shaken from her eternal focus and began to be bothered by a temporal thing.

But aren’t you and I guilty of this too?

How often are we quite content with our lives until an old friend from high school shows up with the model wife, owning the large corporation and he’s not even going bald?!

Yes, life was good before I saw my friends on Facebook promoting their third book and all before the age of 40!

But you know what? ‘Carnal’ Hannah still prayed.

She didn’t allow the ‘unspiritualness’ (did I coin that word?) of her desires to fester inside of her. She poured it all out to her God! Yup, Hannah shows us how to pray when we get jealous!

And of course we know the history–she got an answer! Who would’ve thought that a prayer fueled by a desire to be like someone else would have gotten God’s attention? Well, somehow it did! And that blows my mind!

The Conclusion

A friend once told me this: If it’s too big to be a prayer, then it’s too small to be a burden!

In other words, what made something suitable for my prayer list was not how well it fit my concept of true spirituality, but how much it was a burden to me! Friend, if your feelings and worries don’t make it on your prayer list, they shouldn’t be on your mind either!

The desires and concerns of your heart may not always follow the rules of your religion, oh Christian. You may not even be at “the place” (whatever that means) to pray. But the same Bible that teaches you not to “mind the things of the flesh”, also teaches “casting all your care upon Him because He careth for you”.

You are wrestling with whether or not you should even say such things to a holy God. You think it might not be the most spiritual conversation to start with your Father. But if it’s bothering you, go ahead and talk to God about it!

I don’t promise you that you’re going to get that large coast Sir Jabez; or that breakthrough Miss SP; or that child, Hannah.

What do I promise? Only what is said in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Translation? If you pour out what’s on your heart, you will at least get some much-needed peace on the matter that weighs so heavily on you!


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