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We don’t know a lot about Anna, the prophetess mentioned in the Bible. But what we do know is that she was a woman of great faith and deep love for God. This blog post will explore ten lessons Christian women can learn from Anna gleaned from her example in scripture. These lessons will help us live more faithfully and boldly for Jesus Christ.
The main themes of Anna the Prophetess in the Bible
- Anna, a holy and wise woman, saw things that were not yet apparent to others: she ‘saw’ the destiny of the small child Jesus when she held him in her arms
- Like many stories in the New Testament, this is not about the woman Anna but Jesus. Its purpose was to show who Jesus is.
Who is Anna in the Bible?
Anna, the prophetess, appears in the Bible connected to Jesus’ childhood. She was the daughter of Penuel from the tribe of Asher. Her name, which she shares with Hannah in the Old Testament, means “favor” or “grace.”
While mentioned in just three verses of the New Testament, all in the Book of Luke, we get a glimpse of who this devout woman was.
When Anna encounters the baby Jesus in the temple, we see that her life reflects her name: favor and grace.
Let’s look at each of the verses Anna is mentioned in.
Anna is among only a handful of women in the Bible bearing the title “prophetess.” The others are Miriam, the sister of Moses, Deborah, the judge, Huldah, the wife of Shallum, Isaiah’s wife, and Philip’s four unmarried daughters (Acts21:9).
Anna was married just seven years before she became a widow, and she remained a widow for the remainder of her life. Most translations say that Anna was eighty-four years old when she met Jesus. But it is also possible to translate the text to mean Anna had lived eighty-four years after her husband died.
That would mean Anna was at least 104 years old—if she had married at thirteen, which was common in biblical times. Either way, she had spent most of her life without a husband, dedicated her life to the Lord, and ministered before the Lord in the temple.
We are given a surprising amount of detail about Anna in just a few verses:
- We learn of Anna’s tribe and family.
- That she became a widow after just seven years of marriage.
(There is a neat parallel here with another famous widow, the Jewish heroine Judith, who, like Anna, did not remarry after her husband’s death. Judith and Anna both lived to be about the same age. If you put aside her seduction and murder of the enemy general Holofernes, Judith’s situation was similar to Anna’s.)
- Anna is an elderly Jewish woman.
Strangely, her age is mentioned at all. I can’t think of another example in the New Testament where someone’s age is mentioned.
However, the text mentions how long she has waited for the Redeemed One.
Anna shares that He has arrived, and she holds Him in her arms.
I wonder if the point of sharing her ages is to parallel the long years the Jewish people have waited for their Messiah or to insinuate that the waiting, and the certainty of an eventual reward, has kept her alive and given her the purpose.
It is not clear from the text whether Anna heard these words.
It is possible that Anna was given a place to live at the temple because of her designation as a prophetess, or she may have lived nearby.
While we could point to several things, what truly stands out was her constant devotion for most of her life.
This devotion was rewarded with the gift of finally seeing her Savior. Her many years of sacrifice and service were worth it when she beheld the Messiah, the One for whom she had waited so long.
Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple with the baby Jesus to satisfy the Old Testament law. They were required to make the purification offering mentioned in Leviticus.
They were also to present Jesus as their firstborn before God
While they are at the temple, Simeon holds the Lord Jesus in his arms, praises God, and utters a prophecy concerning Jesus and Mary. At this moment, Anna enters. She immediately recognizes Jesus as the long-awaited Savior and begins to give thanks and praise to God.
Anna arrives at the purification of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the Temple, 40 days after Jesus’ birth. It is a scene familiar in Israelite culture.
The Law did not require the child’s presence at the Temple when payment was made, but the two ceremonies were held together on this occasion.
However, this purification is unlike any other, for Simeon and Anna arrive at the ritual independently, though both seem led by divine direction.
What happened when Anna saw Jesus?
The Greek word used by Luke suggests recognition intuition. She ‘sees’ what others cannot.
Her reaction is immediate and dramatic: she speaks loudly, telling anyone near her about this extraordinary child.
Here, in front of their eyes, is the One who will bring redemption to Israel.
Her father, Phan’u-el’s name, means ‘face of God.’ His name may be a foresight since Anna was among the first to recognize the face of God when she saw the infant, Jesus.
Anna, the prophetess, was among the first to bring honor to the infant Jesus born in a stable. Anna shared this good news with everyone who was anticipating the Messiah. The Redeemer had come, the prophecies were fulfilled, and Anna was blessed to see it happen.
Luke’s connecting of Simeon and Anna proffers an exciting comparison. Simeon arrives first, and Luke records more of his encounter. Simeon is an older man. He exclaims:
He prophesies about the child in his arms as God’s salvation,
When speaking of Anna, Luke writes three concise verses that portray her as a woman deserving the honor bestowed on the elderly in the ancient Mediterranean world.
The appointive “prophetess” leads the description of her. By doing this, Luke puts her above Simeon; a man praised as righteous and devout. He may have been a priest as he is given the honor of holding the baby Jesus.
Anna in the Bible: A Widow with a Purpose
Sorrow and heartbreak can harden one. A person can give in to self-pity. They are complaining about their hard lot in life, even, perhaps, being mad at God. They may even feel jealous of those who haven’t faced the sorrow they have and envy others who appear happier than them (we’ve all fallen into the comparison trap, haven’t we?)
A widow, however, who has given her life to the Lord may be one of the happiest of all. Bear with me for a moment here.
Anna’s life was full of prayer.
Living daily face to face with God, listening to Him speak to her, impart wisdom to her, and not giving in to self-pity. She must have glowed with the love of God and the light he shined through her.
Anna in the Bible: “to Speak of Him to All”
Many who devote themselves to prayer are people of few words. Anna, it seems, was this way, but when she did speak, she spoke of the coming Messiah.
Most people in Jerusalem likely had no idea who she was., but Anna knew “all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
The small company of Christians in this little town, with their eyes fixed on what is to come and the Kingdom of God which will replace it all lived lives contrary to how things were during Jesus’ day. Herod and Jerusalem were “troubled” at His birth, but Anna was filled with adoration for Him-the aged intercessor saw her prayer s answered.
Lessons We Can Learn from Anna the Prophetess
1. Don’t Ever Give Up
I’m sure there are many times that you and I have wanted to give up.
We can get lonely, sick, and exhausted. But Anna continued to pray for her prayers to be answered – the Redeemer.
We may have others who come alongside to encourage us and may experience some positive outcomes, but Anna praying for 60 years must have been difficult, and I wonder if she didn’t even consider giving up.
However, she didn’t and continued to share her faith with many people.
God’s timing is truly perfect. Think about it. If Christ had come the first day she was widowed, how many people would have never heard the message of salvation. We must never give up.
2. Always Obey What God Tells You to
Anna was told by God what to do! She listened and obeyed, and her life was changed. How about you? Has he told you something but you are afraid, maybe lazy or simply disobedient? The blessings of being obedient far outweigh any of our fears or concerns.
3. Be Strong
Despite her husband’s death, she exemplified that God is with us even in the worst of circumstances. She demonstrated that God could use you no matter who you are, what situation you’re in – married or single, rich or poor.Anna demonstrated that God could use you no matter who you are, what situation you're in – married or single, rich or poor. Click To Tweet
4. God Provides for Us
Anna knew from experience that the Lord answers prayers. Being a widow, Anna had to rely on others for food and clothing, but she never lacked anything because God provided it all in His kindness! And, my friends, He will provide for you, too!
5. Fasting produces results.
In our society, where food, electronics, and other necessities are available for most, fasting can seem difficult even when we commit to fasting with others. Ann, however, Anna fasted alone. What strength she must have had to do this. She honestly didn’t care what other people thought, but only what God thought.
Fasting, coupled with fervent prayer, brings results. For Anna, it brought her the Messiah.
6. Commitment is Imperative
Anna was committed to telling everyone about the coming Savior, no matter how long it took. She prayed, fasted, and shared that the Messiah was coming for about sixty years.
We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for they are good for us-they help to make our endurance stronger. And that’s precisely what makes these obstacles useful in developing character, which gives you greater confidence about our salvation. This commitment, this expectation, will make us stronger in our faith.
7. We Need to Be Courageous
Anna dared to keep going, and she did not let anyone stop her from telling others about Christ. Are you courageous in telling others about Christ? Are you showing bravery when answering a calling God has for your life?
8. Always Be a Strong Witness for Jesus
Anna demonstrated how important it is to tell others about Christ in all situations, whether at the gym, the grocery store, or our child’s sports practice.
9. Always Listen for the Direction God Wants You to
Anna didn’t listen to anyone tell her who she was in Christ. She heard God tell her who she was and the direction he wanted to go.
10. We Need to Understand and Practice Patience
Anna waited for Jesus’ arrival despite her praying for years without an answer. She had the patience and fortitude that few have, including me. It’s something God is working on with me. How about you? Do you share the patience of Anna in the Bible?
You may enjoy this sermon: Amazing Grace | Dr. Matthew Stevenson | The Mystery Of Anna.
Or one of these recommended resources:
Anna the Prophetess by H.B. Moore
The Anna Anointing: Become a Woman of Boldness, Power and Strength by Michelle McClain-Walters
The Story of Anna, the Prophetess by Daniel P (Daniel Parish) 1815- Kidder (Creator), Methodist Episcopal Church Sunday School (Creator)
The story of Anna the prophetess is an encouragement to all believers. She was a woman who was devoted to God and spent her life in prayer. As a result, she was blessed with the gift of prophecy and saw Jesus as an infant. We can learn many things from Anna’s example, including the importance of spending time alone with God, being faithful in prayer, and sharing the gospel with others. What are your takeaways from the story of Anna?
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”