Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Powerful prayers, continued

We're studying several chapters in I Samuel, and learning more about this grand old man of God. He was a man of prayer, and we can learn a lot from him!

In the first chapter of I Samuel, we see the story of Hannah, who prayed to God for the blessing of a son -- so sorrowful was she that her silent prayers were mistaken by Eli for her being drunk. Only her lips were moving as she bowed in prayer, promising Yahweh that if she had a son, she would turn him over to God, to minister in the temple. We know that Hannah did conceive, and that the boy Samuel was in the temple of God from a young age.

We also see in I Samuel, that after the deaths of Eli's wicked sons, and of Eli himself, that Samuel became a judge over the people. The Bible describes his work as that of a "circuit" judge, traveling from city to city to judge the people. "Back in the day," the authority of judges was just slightly short of kings; they could declare peace and war, they could decide cases with unchallenged authority, but they couldn't make new laws, or impose new burdens on the people. They were tasked with protecting the law, defending religion, and deciding on crimes. But wait! They didn't have a salary, and had no gilded splendor, no guards or "fans" to admire them . . . they truly had to know that God had called them to take on these responsibilities!

The people's judges also had to rely on God for their strength and their wisdom. Not hard for this grand old man  . . . for Samuel was born of prayer! Hannah, in her sorrow and pleading, received him from God, and joyfully exclaimed, "For this child I prayed." She named him Samuel -- "asked of God" is the meaning. He was nurtured by Hannah, a woman of prayer, and when she took him to the temple, it was for him to live in the house of prayer all of his days.

We all seem to remember Samuel as that small figure, the child at prayer. The child who said, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears." But as he grew into the man of God that judged the people, he persevered in prayer for others. He was so known for his intercessory prayers that he is one of the men mentioned in the ninety-ninth Psalm:
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,    Samuel was among those who called on his name;they called on the Lord    and he answered them. (Psalm 99:6)
Samuel was so immersed in this habit of prayer for the people that he said in chapter 12:
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. (I Samuel 12:23)
I like how the King James presents it, too:
 Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: (I Samuel 12:23)
He has become so rooted in the habit of praying for the people that he seemed to be startled at the thought of stopping his prayers! I think that the people who came to him at the time must have been measuring him by themselves -- they may even have thought that he would be irritated by them, and deny them his prayers. Look at verse 19:
And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto theLord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. (v 19)
Earlier, they had chafed under his godly leadership, and asked him to anoint a king. You may recall that Samuel took it personally at first, but God told him, in essence, that they were not rejected Samuel, but rejecting God. I think at this point, many of the people had realized their sins and valued Samuel's prayers. They were pleading for him to intercede, but stopping his prayers seems to almost horrify him. He says "God forbid" or "far be it from me" to stop praying for them.

It's no wonder that they put great stock in his prayers -- they were successful! Not only did they result in thunder and weather changes, but the outcome of battles depended on Samuel's intercession.
Look at the seventh chapter of I Samuel when you have a chance . . . the Philistines were oppressing Israel, and Samuel called the people together. He told them that they must turn from their idolatry and worship the true God. He promised them his prayers, and he offered a sacrifice as he cried to the Lord.

What a grand event happened next! God heard his cry, and as the Israelites marched into battle, Jehovah went before them, in answer to the prophet's prayer. The sound of marching must have fairly shaken the earth, and the spears glittered and shields shone in the sun. Watch what happened:
While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panicthat they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar. ....So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. (I Samuel 7:10-11,13)
The Philistines were subdued . . . the prayer of Samuel was the catalyst for the conquering of that people. Philistia was forced to crouch beneath the power of that prayer. That grand old man of God, and the God he served, had prevailed.


Cathy said...

Samuel went to prayer as the first thing on his list to do in any situation. There have been many situations in my life when I’ve approached prayer as the last thing I can do, rather than the first. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard myself say “all I can do is pray” as if it is a last resort type thing. How wrong that is.

Austin Towers said...

Yes, we should make prayer the first port of call in every situation! Even after all these years I still haven't learnt that fully!