1 Samuel 1:12-15 – The Invention of Silent Prayer


1 Samuel 1:12-15


The high priest of Israel has never seen anyone pray silently or in their hearts, because it has never happened until this point.


In ancient religion, all prayers seem to have been communal prayers or said/recited/sung out loud. We should not fault Eli for not recognizing what Hannah was doing, praying with her lips moving, but reciting silent prayers in her heart. Hannah is a religious innovator here. Her lips moved, as the silent prayer is an intermediary step between voiced prayers and the eventual practice of silent, inward prayers. First Samuel preserves this intermediary step in prayer practice, just as it will preserve changes in religious language (1 Samuel 9:9) and civil structure.