"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you..."
Samuel is speaking to Israel. While the setting for his speech is not certain, we know he is still speaking as a prophet to instruct the people. His words are direct and worthy of consideration.
He tells the people to serve the Lord with all their heart (verse 20); to not chase after empty things of this world (verse 21), and reminds them that the Lord is a faithful God (verse 22).
These are the same things Christian parents labor to teach their children and faithful pastors long to help their congregation understand.
Then, he says something that should cause us to slow down, read carefully, repent, and change. He says he does not want to sin against the Lord by "ceasing to pray" for them. Wow! He says that He can love the Lord, he can speak the truth, he can serve others, but if he does not pray for them, then he has sinned against God.
Here is the part that really convicts my heart. The phrase that really causes me to pause comes right after he says, "far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you..." He follows up by declaring, "...and I will instruct you in the good and the right way."
Did you catch it? Samuel is saying that he WILL teach the people the truth AND he will not sin against the Lord by failing to pray for them. This means that if he were to teach the people the truth but NOT also pray for them, he would be sinning against the Lord.
Here is the principle: Teaching the truth is absolutely essential, but it does not take the place of praying for people.
The applications of this truth are far-reaching. It means that as a parent you should certainly teach your children the truth and guide them to a knowledge of the Lord. However, if you are not praying fervently for them, you have let them down. It means as a pastor, if I study the Word diligently and preach my guts out every Sunday, that is good. However, if I have not prayed for people, I have sinned against the Lord. If I help my wife grow in her relationship with the Lord, I have done a noble thing. Yet, if I have failed to intercede in prayer on her behalf, I have not done all that I am called to do.
Ouch! I suspect I am not the only one feeling convicted right about now. I love the truth. I love to study and I love to teach. I am committed to pour over the Scriptures and strive to share the truth in a faithful way. A trustworthy pastor and father can do no less.
But, our responsibility does not end when we "instruct in the good and right way." We must also pray for those in our lives that we are serving. If you are one who more easily studies than prays, take note. If teaching and instructing your children comes naturally to you, but you do not pray passionately for them, be on guard.
But, do not lose heart and do not let this end in guilt!
If, like me, you feel convicted to pray more for your spouse, your children, and those in your care, confess your sin to the Lord. Thank Him for His Word that brings instruction and guidance. Then, put this principle into practice. God is not honored by defeated Christians, nor by disheartened ones. He is, however, glorified in our repentance and obedience.
There are numerous things you can pray for over those you love. Here are a few suggestions from
1 Samuel 12:20-24:
-pray for them to love the Lord with all their heart (to seek the Lord more than anything else)
-pray for them to not chase after the charms of this world (to fight and overcome temptation)
-pray for them to represent the Lord in a godly way in all they say and do (to live with integrity)
-if they are believers, pray that they will thank the Lord for saving them and for bringing them into His family (to live with gratitude)
-if they are not yet believers, pray for them to come to a saving knowledge of the gospel (to trust in Christ as Savior and Lord)
-finally, pray that they will serve the Lord faithfully (to follow the Lord all the days of their life)
Together, may we strive to teach those in our care with diligence AND to not sin against the Lord by failing to pray for them.
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