Yesterday I spent some time flipping through scripture and looking over passages where prayer is mentioned. There’s a lot of them. Almost 100 if you search for the word “pray” on esvbible.org. Out of all the texts that I skimmed through this one from 1 Samuel stood out to me most. Samuel is stepping down from his role as judge of the nation of Israel because they have demanded a king to rule over them and God has given them one. 1 Samuel 12 is his farewell address to the people who he has led and judged for most of his lifetime, and one of his concluding statements is,
“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” – 1 Samuel 12:23
This is a paradigm shifting verse for me. Every Christian knows they are supposed to pray. Every leader of God’s people knows they should pray for the people they are leading. But Samuel isn’t comfortable with should. He says that it would be sin for him to stop praying for the people of Israel.
Leader, hear this well. One of the greatest responsibilities you have – perhaps the greatest responsibility – is to intercede for your people. Your great task is to follow your savior in coming before the throne of God and pleading for those who the Lord has given you charge of. Teach them, yes. Train them and council them, yes. Lead them in the study of Scripture and cast vision, yes. Guide them into the mission the Lord has called them to, yes, but above all pray for them. Pray over them. Pray with them. To fail in doing so is to walk in sin.
We need to be men and women who, like Samuel, realize that it is sin when we cease to pray for the people God has given us. God gives grace to the prayerless leader and may allow him to succeed for a time, but shall we sin that grace may abound? By no means! “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray”!
Do you pray for the believers around you? Are these spaces carved from your day-to-day life for the solitary, focused labor of intercession? Does your community gather regularly for the sole purpose of prayer? Is prayer a natural part of your gatherings? If it is not that may well be root of many of your struggles. As R.A. Torrey wrote in his book How To Pray, “There is infinite grace at our disposal, and we make it our experimentally [in experience] by prayer.”
Let us be a people who take a hold of that grace on behalf of our people, praying without ceasing. God will not fail to hear the prayer of those who minister faithfully in the name of Christ. Do not cease in your prayer, oh leader.