For this child I prayed . . . and to the Lord I have lent.
“For this child I prayed . . .” (1 Samuel 1:27a).
A phrase that floats over sonogram pictures on birth announcements.
Words painted delicately on wooden signs hung in nurseries.
Christians and non-Christians alike recognize these words—words a culture has embraced and made their own. But like other Biblical phrases cut from longer verses, a bit of their context is lost in the trimming.
Even if we acknowledge Hannah’s story of pain and barrenness, receiving a son, Samuel, after intense prayer, we still may not be recognizing the entire story.
Hannah’s words continue, “and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27b-28, ESV).
Hannah lends Samuel, the son she prayed for, to the Lord.
In her case, she quite literally hands him over to His service. After weaning him, she takes Samuel to Eli the priest and leaves him there. She says goodbye to the son God had so graciously given her. The son she prayed for and cried out in desperate hope for. She gave him back to the One who had given him to her.
Have we done the same? Under the cute signs in the nursery that read “For this child I prayed,” do we hand over that sweet baby to God.
What does that even mean? Are we to drop our children off at church and say, “Get to work.” How do we lend the children we have prayed for to the Lord?
What does it look like to be like Hannah today?
We recognize that our children are not fully ours.
Whether they grew in our wombs or grew in our hearts and came to our homes through adoption, we must recognize that we did not create them. We go by many names—mama, mommy, mom, mother—but never are we called by the name of creator. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). Even if our DNA is embedded in our children, their creation belongs to God. They are not fully ours. They truly are a gift from God, created by Him.
We have far less control over their lives than we like to think.
We make plans, we set schedules, we write and enforce rules, we control much of their daily lives, but we do not control their futures. And every day we have with them is a completion of what once was the future. We cannot control the length of time our children live on earth with us. “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). This is such a difficult truth to accept. We think if we do everything right, if we take every safety precaution, if we protect them with all we have, we can control the number of days we have with our children. But we don’t. God does, and He already knows their number.
For some of us, those who have lost, we have a painful understanding of this. Some of our children had only a few short pages written—the only home they knew inside our bodies. Others made their way into the world only to find the final page before we were ready to close the book. In that pain, we are reminded how little control we really have.
God loves them more.
That doesn’t seem possible, does it? Our hearts feel so full with the love for our children. They literally ache when we are apart from them. When they go through struggles, we struggle. Their pain becomes ours. How is it even possible that anyone else could love them more?
But we must remember that God too is their Father, “and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18). God loves them with a Father’s love, purer than even ours, and He’s given them to us with the responsibility and privilege of leading them to Him.
We give our children to the Lord by leading them to Him.
Let’s not confuse this with . . . lead them to Sunday school, lead them to religion class, lead them to church. If we want to lend our children to the Lord by leading them, then we must lead by example. Our homes, our interactions, our lives must be a place where they see and absorb our love for our Father, our shared Creator. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
Our kids need to see us spending time in God’s word. We need to show them how to love others. They need to see how we trust Him for provision and then give with cheerful hearts from that provision. Our kids will see us mess up, and they need to see us own up. They need to hear us ask for forgiveness and see us turn from the sins we’ve been forgiven for. We lead our children to the Lord when they see us living for Him in our daily lives.
We worry less because we trust more.
If there is anything guaranteed about parenting, it’s that we will worry about our children. Are they growing as they should? Is the color of this poop normal? Do they have friends? Are their friends good influences? Will they find their way in this great big world? Are they happy? I can’t answer any of these questions for you, but I can promise you’ll ask them.
We worry because we love them. And, honestly, I don’t think there is any way to be a worry-free parent. But we can be parents who take their worries to the Lord. We can be parents who trust in His great love for them when the worry leads to fear. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31). Mama, you are more valuable than many sparrows. Your children are more valuable than many sparrows. God has His watchful eyes on their every move and His loving hands hold them when you can’t. Fear not.
And so we strive to be more like Hannah, the whole-story Hannah. Not just the Hannah whose son was an answer to prayer, but a Hannah who gave that son to the Lord.