The account of Hannah and Samuel is found in 1 Samuel 1 and 2. Hannah was one of two wives of a Jewish man named Elkanah. The other wife, Peninnah, had children, but Hannah was unable to have children.
The Bible’s account of Hannah starts before Samuel was born. One year, Hannah traveled to Shiloh where the tabernacle was. At the entrance of the tabernacle, she prayed for a child. She made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (1 Samuel 1:11).
The priest Eli saw Hannah praying intensely but silently and, thinking she was drunk, rebuked her. Once Hannah explained that she was praying, the priest blessed her and asked God to grant her request. She returned home and was able to conceive. Hannah bore a son and named him “Samuel,” which means “I have asked for him from the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:20).
Once Samuel was weaned (traditionally between the ages of 2 and 5), Hannah and Samuel travel to Shiloh, taking a sacrifice with them. After the sacrifice was offered, Hannah presents the young Samuel to Eli and says, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27–28). The chapter concludes with Samuel worshiping the Lord at the tabernacle.
In 1 Samuel 2, Hannah offers a prayer of thanksgiving to God and returns home. It is then revealed that Eli’s sons were wicked men who did evil in the tabernacle. In contrast, “Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod” (1 Samuel 2:18). Hannah got to see Samuel at least once a year; when she and her husband went up to offer the annual sacrifice, Hannah would always take along a little robe for Samuel. And “Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, ‘May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.’ Then they would go home” (1 Samuel 2:20).
Hannah’s story ends with an answer to Eli’s prayer. First Samuel 2:21 says, “The Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.” Hannah’s oldest son, Samuel, would go on to become the spiritual leader of Israel. As the prophet and judge of the nation, Samuel would anoint the nation’s first two kings, Saul and David.
The story of Hannah and Samuel offers many important lessons for today. First, Hannah turned to God in prayer during her time of need. Second, she praised and thanked God when He did answer her prayer. Third, she kept her commitment to the Lord, even though it must have been difficult. Fourth, God blessed Hannah beyond what she had asked. In the end, Hannah was not only the mother of Samuel but of three other sons and two daughters. The story of Hannah and Samuel has often been an inspiration and encouragement to women struggling with infertility or who for some reason are unable to have children. Though God does not always answer in the same way, Hannah’s attitude of prayer and dependence on the Lord is a good example for us today.