Why Samuel Prayed, 1 Sam 12:23

In 1 Sam 12:23, Samuel said to the people of Israel, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you”.   Today, we’re going to discuss why Samuel prayed for them.

In this chapter, Samuel is essentially resigning as judge of Israel, since they now have Saul as their king.  In his resignation speech he reasons with Israel of all the righteous acts that the Lord had done for them, 1 Sam 12:7.  

The Lord brought Israel out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.  Then he brought them to the land of Canaan.  Repeatedly they forgot the Lord.  And each time, he sold them into the hand of their enemies.  When they cried unto the Lord, he sent judges to deliver them.  And for a time they dwelled safe.

When Nahash the king of Ammon attacked, then Israel asked for a king like all the other nations.  The Lord gave them Saul and he delivered Israel from the Ammonites (1 Sam 11).  It was a great victory.  Nevertheless, Samuel warned them to to never rebel against the Lord or the Lord would turn against them.

To demonstrate the magnitude of Israel’s wickedness in asking for a king, Samuel called unto the Lord, who sent thunder and rain on the day of their wheat harvest.  The people were so afraid they asked Samuel to pray for them so that they would not die.  But their request was no more sincere than Pharaoh’s in Ex 9:28 and Ex 10:17.  They just wanted the trouble to go away.

Samuel warned them to not turn aside from the Lord to vain things that would not profit them.  Then he assured Israel that God would not forsake them for his own name’s sake.  They were his people.  It’s at this point in his prophecy, that we find our text.

1 Sam 12:23 Samuel said, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you”.  Why Samuel prayed for Israel is the subject of our message.  By this time, you would think that Samuel was through trying to bring Israel back to the Lord.  Their history was filled with rebellion.  Nevertheless, Samuel prayed.  And, likewise, we should pray.

Why Samuel Prayed

Because to not pray would have been a sin.  From his childhood Samuel served the Lord in the tabernacle.  He had served the Lord and Israel his whole life.  And he had seen them descend further and further into apostasy.  Yet, he prayed for them.  It would have been a sin for him to not pray.  As a priest and a judge, that was part of his calling.  Like the apostles, he gave himself to prayer and the ministry of the word.

Likewise, it would be a sin for us to cease praying.  1 Thes 5:17, “Pray without ceasing”.  Lk 18:1, “men ought aways to pray, and not to faint”.  Never give up.  You can quit praying when God tells you to quit, like he told Jeremiah, Jer 7:16; 11:14; 14:11. But not before then.

Because he was burdened for the people.  He was burdened.  As difficult as it was to minister to Israel, Samuel cared for them.  In this he was like Moses, who was burdened for Israel.

Likewise, Paul prayed for Israel because of his burden for them, Rom 9:1-2; Rom 10:1.  If you’re not burdened for people’s souls, you’re never going to be effective as an intercessor or a witness.  I have prayed for people where the burden was so great it was palpable.  There is, indeed, much sorrow in intercession.

Samuel taught them, v.23.  He warned them, v.20-21.  And he bragged on how great God had been to them, v.24.  But he couldn’t live their lives for them; and neither can you.  So, he continually prayed for them. 

Likewise, you can talk to the people for whom you pray, when the time is right.  But even when you can’t talk to them, you can always pray for them.  The time is always right for prayer.  This is what we do.

Because God answers intercessory prayer.  Samuel warned them to not turn away from the Lord.  And they did it anyway.  Intercessory prayer doesn’t stop people from doing what they want to do.  But it does protect them.  Moses interceded for Israel’s protection and God answered him time and again.  

Also, God responds to intercessory prayer at just the right time to get ahold of people.  By intervening in the circumstances of their lives and by showing up at just the right time, God turns people toward him.

Why else would Jesus be interceding for the lost, Heb 7:25?  During my years of rebellion, I attribute the fact that God didn’t kill me, or that I didn’t die, to the intercessory prayers of some people I know who were praying for me.  At just the right time, God got my attention and I turned completely around.

Conclusion: Don’t ever give up on praying for others.  As long as they are still living and as long as God hasn’t specifically instructed you to quit praying, keep it up.