Calling Out with Longing to God :: Marc Chagall, “Hannah Prays to God”

Marc Chagall - Hannah Prays to God.jpg
Marc Chagall, Anne invoque l’Eternal, etching; France: 1931-39, 1952-56.

Lent brings us face to face with our own sins and brokenness, but also with our deepest desires. We all long for things, but many times we are afraid to voice them aloud. One of the most moving stories of Scripture arises within a marriage bereft of children. Elkanah the Ephraimite, we’re told in 1 Samuel 1, has two wives. One, Peninah, has many children, but the other, Hannah, has no children. Hannah longs for children, but over the years she is never able to conceive. Her husband Elkanah speaks a memorable line that humorously but painfully misses the heartache of Hannah’s life: “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8). Anyone who has ever longed for something just out of reach knows how it seems nothing is really adequate to that unrealized desire. Eventually, Hannah travels with her husband to the place of worship in Shiloh and calls out from the deepest places of her soul to God. Her prayer arises to God from deep agony and earnest desire. Marc Chagall’s Hannah Prays to God (Anne invoque l’Eternal) expresses Hannah’s strong emotion and longing. One hand on her breast and one raised to God, Hannah calls out in prayer, letting the depths of her soul rise up to the ever-listening God. How many of us have been Hannah? Don’t we all encounter seasons where our deepest desires seem to go unanswered for exhausting lengths of time? Perhaps we, too, can call out with longing to God today.

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