The prophet Samuel called the people of Israel together one day and reminded them of God’s authority over their lives and over their nation. Samuel’s sermon was powerful in their hearing, and the people’s eyes were opened to the terrible situation they found themselves in.
At the end of the day the people repented. God’s Word tells us, “And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king” (1 Samuel 12:19).
How did Samuel respond?
After reminding the people of their responsibilities to God, Samuel affirmed: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you…” (1 Samuel 12:23).
As a Levite in the tradition of Moses, Samuel was required by the law to pray for Israel; to intercede between the people and God. It would be a sin for Samuel to neglect his responsibility to bring the people’s request to God, particularly in light of their having begged him to do so in verse 19.
Samuel may not have wanted to pray for them – he had warned them not to demand a king but they ignored his counsel – and now they’re wanting him to put his neck on the line to go before God and plead their case? Let them live with the consequences – Samuel didn’t need to worry about it, it wasn’t his fault after all. Samuel didn’t have to care about them.
And his prayer on their behalf by no means guaranteed their blessing or their deliverance. God did not need to show mercy or grace to these people who had turned their backs on Him, either. But the people had asked Samuel to pray for them. His heart rightly replied, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.”
Later in our Bibles, but earlier in time, a man named Job had suffered terribly under problems and persecutions which came his way. He was an upright man, loving God and living in His blessing, until Satan turned his hateful eyes toward him. You know the story – Job lost everything in this world, never had any answer to the question of “why.” And along came his friends, those on the outside stepping into Job’s life with perhaps the best of intentions but with the worst of advice.
Job 42:7 “After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
Job 42:8 – “Now therefore… And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
Their words had hurt Job, had cast guilt and shame upon Job, and accused him of deserving the persecution which he was suffering. God cleared up the confusion, but He did something else – He put Job in the middle. He put the 3 friends in a place where they NEEDED Job to intercede for them, to plead their case to God.
And that meant that Job would have to forgive them. He would have to love them enough to bend his knees and submit his heart before God on their behalf.
Job 42:9 – “So Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.”
Would God have accepted Job’s prayer if Job hadn’t really meant it? Was Job just going through the motions? Not likely. It is genuine and heartfelt. He prayed for his brothers and sought to intercede with God in order to meet their need – even in the midst of his own trials and struggles of life!
Job 42:10 – “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
Eliphaz looked to Job to pray for him and his 2 friends. Job essentially replied as did Samuel, “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you…”
Of course, the veil hadn’t been torn in two during the days of the Old Testament. Today our brothers and sisters in Christ do not need to go through someone else for God to hear their prayer. But that does not change either their need nor our responsibility.
Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” In today’s world, perhaps the most meaningful and powerful ways you and I can do this is to bow our hearts in prayer, speaking up for the destitute, the poor and needy, the persecuted believers in the world around us who are in desperate need of our prayer support in the middle of their most trying circumstances.
Gal. 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Heb. 13:3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the Body.
Col. 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the Word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—
HAVE YOU EVER NOT SHARED THE GOSPEL WITH SOMEONE BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO BRING IT UP – BECAUSE YOU WERE EMBARRASSED ABOUT SAYING SOMETHING? Imagine how you might then be tempted to hesitate all the more if you know that in simply saying the word “Jesus” might bring immediate death to you and your family!
There are untold numbers of stories of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who have, and are yet, suffering persecution for their faith. Think of them as you consider the command of James 5:16: “pray for one another.”
Then listen to them call out to you as they echo Paul’s plea in 1 Thessalonians 5:25: “Brothers, pray for us.”
Will this be YOUR response? “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you…”