Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Samuel continued...
‘Clean house before you invite God in.’ This was the essence of Samuel’s message to the people. God is not willing to share space with another, nor is He willing to have only half your heart. With God it’s either all or nothing at all.
It is because we’ve allowed for half measures when it comes to serving God that we now have an entire generation of lukewarm, passionless individuals roaming about calling themselves Christians, believers, and sons and daughters of God.
There can be no half measures when it comes to following after God. Either we belong to Him, or we belong to the world. Either we serve Him, or we serve another.
Samuel understood this, and because he understood it, he was able to relay it to the people.
Job 11:13-17, “If you would prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward Him; if iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, and would not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then surely you could lift up your face without spot; yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear; because you would forget your misery, and remember it as waters that have passed away, and your life would be brighter than noonday. Though you were dark, you would be like morning.”
When it comes to spiritual things, we don’t like seeing the word ‘if’ anywhere, either in the vicinity or in close proximity. As put off as we might by this two letter word however, we cannot deny its existence, nor deny its inclusion within the pages of Scripture.
The word of God uses the word ‘if’ often, in order to denote conditionality. If we prepare our hearts, if we put iniquity far from us, if we remove it from our tents, then we could be steadfast and not fear, and lift up our face without spot.
Only after telling the people of their need to repent and put away their gods and idols, only after telling them they needed to turn their hearts wholly toward God, did Samuel pray, and intercede on behalf of Israel.
1 Samuel 7:9, “And Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. Then Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.”
Samuel could have cried out to the Lord for Israel before Israel turned their hearts back to the Lord, but the Lord would not have answered his prayers. Knowing this, Samuel laid the groundwork to ensure that when he did cry out to the Lord, the Lord would not only hear him, but answer him.
Another moment in the prayer life of Samuel worthy of meditation and contemplation took place when he, having grown older in years, was disrespected by the elders of Israel. In the elders’ defense, Samuel’s sons had not followed in their father’s footsteps, and they had turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.
Since Samuel was getting on in years, it was his sons who would have been the new judges of the people, and the people realized how far removed in character Samuel’s sons were from Samuel himself.
1 Samuel 7:4-6, “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make for us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ So Samuel prayed to the Lord.”
No longer did the people want a judge to rule over them, they wanted a king to judge them, like all the nations surrounding them already had.
Bringing up Samuel’s age was just an excuse, a way for these elders to make their point without really stating why they no longer desired his guidance and counsel. Samuel knew he was getting old, no one needed to point it out, but he was still strong enough wherein he could perform the tasks God had given him without complaint.
What the elders really wanted was a change. They wanted to be like the rest of the nations. They wanted a king, and even if Samuel would have been in the prime of his life, they still would have found a reason or excuse to remove him and bring in a king.
What I love about Samuel’s reaction to hearing the elders speak to him the way they did, is that instead of screaming at them, beating his chest and asking them if they knew who they were talking to, asking them to leave, or doing a myriad of other things, Samuel prayed to the Lord.
We see the character of Samuel in this often overlooked action he took when the elders of Israel came against him, because he did not attempt to defend himself, he did not attempt to rise to their provocations, he went and prayed to the Lord.
It is in times of hardship, stress, opposition or turmoil that our true character is revealed. When everything is going well, it is easy to feign piety, it is easy to feign a tender heart and a humble spirit, but when everything in our lives is upended, when what was once sweet is now sour, our true character is revealed in how we deal with such situations, and how we react toward them.
Samuel went to God in prayer, because he knew no one could clarify the situation better than the One who had spoken to him since early youth, the One who guided him, instructed Him, empowered him, and comforted him.
Is God the first one we run to when things are going south? Is He the first one we talk to when the unexpected happens, and we are left stunned and speechless?
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.