I’m reading through the books of 1 and 2 Samuel this month in my daily Bible reading and found a passage I’ve never really noticed before.
I read it a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been on my mind almost ever since. It’s one of the most convicting passages on prayer that I’ve found, at least in the recent past.
Take a look for yourself. The passage I’m talking about is found in 1 Samuel 12:23.
Let me give a little context. The Israelites have entered the Promised Land, and God has used a series of judges to govern the nation, drawing their wandering attention back to him continually.
But the people of Israel keep looking to their pagan neighbors. And now they want a king to rule over them. They’ve rejected God and have asked him to give them a ruler.
Samuel is disappointed. He knows that this is a rejection of God’s leadership for the Israelites. In fact, he tells them this, and he does so pretty bluntly.
God responds by choosing Saul to become king. But because of Samuel’s message, the people of Israel see the error of their ways and ask Samuel to pray for them. They know they’ve done wrong in rejecting God in favor of a king.
Samuel replies, and it’s pretty encouraging. Look at verses 20-25:
"'Do not be afraid,' Samuel replied. 'You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.'"
Right in the middle of Samuel’s encouragement to turn back to God and stay faithful, he slips in a short, simple phrase that has been the source of my conviction for the past couple of weeks.
“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”
This is as obvious as it can get. We are called to lift others up before God continually. Paul and the rest of the New Testament writers state repeatedly that they prayed for one another and that we should too.
But this passage indicates that failure to pray is a sin.
That’s harsh. That’s hard.
How many times have I told someone I would pray for them ... and then didn’t? How many times has God brought people to my mind only for me to wonder how they are doing in passing and then forget about them? How many times have I failed in this?
Too many to count. And I’m not proud of that.
And so, my prayers for others, and for you, have been more frequent, and more fervent.
Because, as Samuel said, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.
Are you guilty of promising to pray and not following through? What do you do to remember to pray for others?
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