There was a woman from the hill country of Ephraim named Hannah. She was married, but she had not been able to have any children. Each year, she and her husband Elkanah and other people in their family would travel from their hometown, Ramah, to Shiloh, where Elkanah would offer sacrifices to God. Back then, most people lived on farms that were spread out. They would worship God together as a family each week, but travel was so difficult they would gather in larger groups much less often.
Other family members who traveled with them had so many children. It made Hannah long for children even more. One year, her stomach felt tied up in knots with so much sadness, she could not even eat the meal after their time of worship.
“Please eat something,” Elkanah begged, his heart breaking for his wife’s sorrow. “Don’t I mean more to you than ten children?”
But Hannah was still gloomy, so after everyone else had eaten, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli was the Lord’s priest at this time. He sat in his chair near the door to the house of worship.
Brokenhearted Hanna cried as she prayed to God. “Lord, I know that you have all the power in the world and can do anything and I want to serve you. I want a baby so badly. Please let me have a son. I will have him become a Nazarite.”
Hannah promised to have her son belong to a special group of people who served God and showed their commitment by never cutting their hair or tasting any kind of grapes. These were both symbols that showed others who they were.
As Hannah prayed, she cried and didn’t even realize that as she spoke her thoughts to God in her head, her lips moved and her face showed the intense sorrow she was feeling.
Eli, meanwhile, watched her from his place by the door. Not used to seeing people lay their hearts out to God so openly, he wondered what was going on.
“What did you drink at lunch?” he asked her. “This is a house of worship. It’s no place for you to goof off!”
Hannah was jolted out of her alone time with God and suddenly noticed him. “Please don’t think I’m being disrespectful, sir!” Hannah answered. “I’m just so miserable and have been pouring out my heart to God.”
Eli realized how genuine her prayer had been. “Go home and rest,” Eli told her. “I’m sure God will answer your prayer.”
So, Hannah thanked him, feeling well enough to eat again.
Early the next morning, Hannah’s family got up to worship God again. Then they traveled back to Ramah. Soon after, Hannah had a son.
“God answered my prayer for you,” she said to her new baby boy. “I will call you Samuel.”
Hannah loved Samuel so much, but she remembered her promise to God. When he was older, but still a boy, she brought him to the temple to serve God. Back then, instead of going to school, children would apprentice with a person whose job they would one day have. Samuel became Eli’s apprentice, learning how to help with the sacrifices and worship.
Each year when Elkanah and Hannah came to Shiloh to worship God. Hannah sewed special clothes for Samuel.
“God has answered your prayer through Samuel,” Eli told her. “I pray He will bless you with many more children.”
Hannah and Elkanah had three more sons and two daughters. They stayed at home, learning how to farm like their family and neighbors, but Samuel studied how to serve God at the Lord’s house in Shiloh.