We are not told if Hagar was praying on this occasion. It would be very surprising if she did not, given the circumstances she was in. Perhaps she did not even use words; perhaps only groans came from her devastated spirit. What is clear is that her state of soul caused heaven to respond to her circumstances.
This was the second time that Hagar found herself in this kind of situation. On the previous occasion, when she had fled from Sarah, she had received divine instructions to return to Abraham’s household. Now, because of divine instructions given to Abraham she had been put out of his camp. I suspect she would have been confused, and her confusion led her to forget that there was a God whose eyes were on her.
In addition to her possible confusion arising from God’s different instructions, her circumstances had become very bad. Her son, about whom God had given her great promises on that previous occasion (Gen. 16:10-12), was about to die. It looked as if God’s pledge to her would not happen; in fact things looked as if God was against her. What could she say to him? All she could do was weep. But although she found the heavens as brass, there was One who collected her tears in his bottle and had not forgotten her (Ps. 56:8).
On this occasion Hagar receives heavenly guidance about Ishmael (just as Abraham had done about him). The passage stated that the person who spoke to her from heaven was the angel of God. On the previous occasion, when she had also received heavenly guidance, the One who spoke to her was ‘the angel of the LORD’, which was a common Old Testament designation of the Son of God. In this instance, the name of the heavenly being retains the definite article, which indicates that he is special, and he also says that he will make Ishmael into a great nation, which is beyond the ability of a created angel. So it is the same divine Person who is addressing Hagar for the second time and comes to her aid.
The Son of God speaks compassionately and tenderly to her before repeating his previous promise to her about her son. Here is a wonderful reminder that the Lord Jesus cares for those to whom he has given promises. He is aware of their fears and comes to comfort and console them. Having repeated to her his promise about the future, he also provides for her needs in the present by showing her that a well is close at hand. He knew all along that the well was there, and in his providence he had taken distressed Hagar to a location where he could meet her need, a reminder to her that he could provide for them in the future. This is an important perspective to retain: in our troubles the Lord leads the blind by a way they know not and often brings them, in their distress and concern, to the very place which they think is the worst but is actually the place where he will give great blessings.
I suspect that Hagar did not again need another special word from heaven. She could live out her days aware that One in heaven was taking care of her, that despite their unusual providences God was with her son as they adjusted to life away from Abraham. In due course, she found him a wife, probably from her relations in Egypt. But in her experience, she had discovered that God used prayer – that of her son and herself – to fulfil his promises. Therefore, this incident of a thirsty teenager and a distressed mother teaches us that God answers prayer and thereby keeps his promises.