“Hannah was deeply distressed
and prayed to the Lord,
and wept bitterly.”  
1 Samuel 1:10

When I lived in Israel I loved to go to the Western Wall,
an ancient limestone wall
remnant of the second temple,
a place of prayer and pilgrimage for Jewish people.

I’d sit in the women’s section.
Around me Jewish women
with brightly coloured head scarves
stood swaying
to the rhythm of their
solitary
whispered prayers.

But before them,
there was Hannah.

For years
and years
Hannah was mother of no-child.

This was pain; pain etched deep.
In her culture, infertility was a women’s fault
a sign of God’s disfavour,
a source of shame,
a  slow internal dying of an envisioned future,
a well of grief and tears.

And every year
their religious pilgrimage took them to Shiloh,
where the Tent of Meeting,
the Tabernacle is set up,
the dwelling place of God.
And Hannah prayed,
the prayer of her heart.

I can see her in my mind.
under the eye of Eli,
High Priest of Shiloh
swaying
to the rhythm of her
solitary
whispered
prayer of the heart.

Here Hannah came
year after year
staying faithful to her deepest desire
until the time of fruitfulness came.

Our deepest prayers
our whispered
solitary
prayers
come from the heart
and, somehow,
God’s love is real.

Photo credit: By Hamed Saber  [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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