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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 184

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Samuel continued...

The first of Samuel’s prayers we will discuss is a short yet profound prayer he prayed on behalf of Israel. Israel was in a deplorable state once more. They had strayed from the one true God, given their hearts over to idols, and even sinned with the Ark of the Lord.

For twenty years they had forgotten about the Ark of the Lord, they had dismissed all the warnings of God, but finally, as they saw the Philistines subjugate them to the point of slavery, they turned their hearts toward God once more and began to seek Him.

As is often the case, when we refuse to heed the loving warnings of a loving God, He removes His hand of protection and gives free reign to our enemies. Oftentimes we tend to believe that God Himself must judge, and punish, but all that is required for a nation to be upended is for God to remove His protection from around it. The nation’s enemies will do the rest.

God had long since removed His protection from around Israel, for they had not heeded His words, and now when they saw that without Him they were powerless, impotent, and at the mercy of the Philistines, they began to cry out to God, and turn their hearts back to Him again.

When the desire for God is sparked in men’s hearts, when they begin to lament after the Lord, a man whom God has been preparing to lead His people will always make an appearance, and compel them to repentance and righteousness.

1 Samuel 7:3, “Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘if you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.’”

Notice, Samuel didn’t come before the people and say, ‘it is well that you lament after the Lord, now I will pray for you and everything’s going to be alright.’ Samuel knew that without the people’s hearts turning fully toward the Lord and abandoning their idols altogether, his prayer would not have amounted to much.

The people desired to follow after God, and Samuel told them what they needed to do in order to make this happen. Samuel was direct when it came to telling the people what God required of them. If they really did desire to return to the Lord, then they needed to put away the foreign gods from among them, and prepare their hearts for the Lord, serving Him only.

The people lamented after the Lord, but as yet they had not put away their idols and false gods. In their hearts they desired the one true God, but as yet had taken no practical steps toward reconciliation with Him.

We know God remains the same from age to age and generation to generation, yet somehow we’ve allowed ourselves to be deceived into believing He no longer requires the same turning away from the sins in our lives, and the wholehearted embracing of Him.

God’s requirements of those who desire to come to Him have remained the same. Somewhere along the way however, men deemed putting away their idols and preparing their hearts for the Lord too difficult a task.

Samuel knew he could not do on behalf of the people what was incumbent upon them to do themselves. He could neither give up their idols for them, nor turn their hearts to the Lord. All Samuel could do was show them the path, and give them the instruction. Whether or not they followed and obeyed was entirely up to them.

1 Kings 8:48-49, “And when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land which You gave their fathers, the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication and maintain their cause.”

The preceding is an excerpt from a much longer prayer prayed by Solomon for the people of Israel. Being wise as he was, Solomon knew that unless the people returned to the Lord with all their heart and all their soul, God would not hear their prayer and supplication, nor maintain their cause.

Whenever discussing Israel of old, we tend to forget that they were the people of God. The Jews were, as they continue to be, God’s people, but even they would not have the ear of God unless their hearts were right before Him.

Just because we raised a hand in church does not mean we get to cut to the front of the line, or discount God’s pre-established parameters in regards to what He demands of those calling themselves His children. If Israel didn’t get a pass, if Israel had to repent, turn their hearts toward God, and seek His face in order to be heard of God, then we likewise must break ties with those things keeping us tethered to this world, and surrender our all to Him.

Israel had seen the light. They had realized the impossibility of victory without the aid of God, and it is within this context that Samuel asks for all of Israel to be gathered at Mizpah, that he might pray for them.

1 Samuel 7:5-6, “And Samuel said, ‘Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.’ So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the Lord. And they fasted that day, and said there, ‘we have sinned against the Lord.’ And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah.”

It was here that the people acknowledged their sin. It was here the people acknowledge their need to be forgiven and reconciled unto God, having been made ready to make the necessary changes in order to facilitate this outcome.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

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