In addition to real emotion, a prayer warrior like Hannah will exhibit real passion.
1 Samuel 1:12 says, “As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk.”
Do you get the idea that people weren’t praying a lot in those days? When the high-priest – presumably the most spiritual person in the country – sees the real deal, he confuses it for drunkenness!
You always know that you’re in a spiritually dead environment when people observe genuine spiritual passion and are offended by it. It happened on Pentecost when the disciples, newly baptized in the Spirit, rush out into the streets to proclaim Christ. And what do observers say? “It’s 9:00 in the morning and these guys are drunk!” Just like with Eli.
And things were indeed spiritually dead under Eli’s leadership. Eli’s sons were out in the back room of the tabernacle sleeping with prostitutes. And skimming fat off the sacrifices that people brought to offer God for their own profit.
God’s not a big fan of faith without fire. Romans 12:11 says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” God expects passion. Meanwhile to the complacent church of Laodicea, Jesus said, “Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold – I am about the spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16.)
However there’s a big difference between faith with fire, and faith with fanaticism. I was a pastor for years in Connecticut, the land of steady habits, where you try to keep a lid on your emotions. And the Bible is careful to warn us that not all types of zeal are godly. Paul wrote of the unbelieving Jews in his day who were persecuting Christians, “they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Romans 11).
Which could certainly be said of every Muslim extremist today, who commits barbarous acts in a misguided passion for a god they’ve made up in their heads. It’s not emotion for emotion’s sake which God approves of. If you jump off the pews and swing from the rafters on Sunday morning and then sin your head off on Sunday night, you’re not pleasing God one bit. You’re just a caffeinated, high-strung, obsessive-compulsive, undisciplined sinner with ADD.
So where’s the balance here? The Bible commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. So this love includes all our heart: that’s emotional fervor. All our soul: that’s spiritual honesty and spiritual accuracy. All our minds: that’s mental control; you never unplug your brain when following Jesus. And all our strength: which points to how we use our bodies.
So it’s not passion alone. But passion with truth. And passion with purity. And passion with self-control. This is the passion that a prayer warrior like Hannah shows.