I had one of those “wow” moments in 1 Samuel tonight--the kind where the words seemed to hurtle themselves off the page and I found myself wondering who snuck into my apartment and inserted a page in my Bible with a new part of the story that I had never seen before. In 1 Samuel 12, Samuel confronts the people of Israel for their sin of rejecting the Lord as their ruler in favor of having a king (Saul) like all other nations. The power of his words brought conviction (or perhaps merely terror--although the two do seem to come together at times) to the hearts of the people, because in verse 19 they beg Samuel to pray to the Lord on their behalf that He would not kill them for their sins.
What struck me followed in verse 23 when Samuel replied,
“…far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” (emphasis added)
In the Old Testament, Abraham prayed on behalf of Lot that God would spare the city of Sodom, and Moses prayed on behalf of the Israelites that God would spare their lives when they turned against the Lord to worship idols. In the New Testament, Jesus commanded us to pray for those who persecute us, and Scripture tells us that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are constantly interceding to the Father on our behalf. As a result, we have at least a vague notion that praying for other people is a good idea.
However, I wonder if we truly grasp the gravity of the role to which we are called on the earth. 1 Samuel 12:23 says to me that those of us who know the will of the Father and seek to walk in the power of spiritual leadership--whether as a forerunner like Abraham, a quasi-political leader like Moses, or a prophet like Samuel--have a divine responsibility to pray on behalf of others. With position comes responsibility. With an ear tuned and sensitive to the voice of the Lord comes a mandate to walk in humility and use the gift of hearing to serve others.
I wonder how much the face of the church would change if we all believed that we sin against God when we do not interpose ourselves between His judgment and the brokenness of our neighbors. I wonder how much He would soften our hearts toward our brothers and sisters if we truly began to grasp that He delights in mercy, that He is infinitely patient, and that He holds an inexhaustible supply of tender love for all of humanity. I wonder how much easier it would be to forgive the offenses we hold against others if we realized how serious about this He is.
Just a thought.