by Ted Kyle
In a little-remarked text in 1st Samuel is a warning to all spiritual leaders: Don’t neglect your responsibility to pray for the flock over whom God has given you authority.
The text, found in chapter 12:23, is part of the prophet Samuel’s final charge to the rebellious Israelites as he turned over his leadership function to the newly-crowned King Saul: “Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you….”
Samuel had been God’s human instrument in the governing of the nation for many years. As judge, he had not considered himself as their ruler, for God Himself was their ruler. But the people chafed because they had no visible king, as did the nations surrounding them, so reluctantly Samuel anointed Saul, as God’s choice. And now he was turning over the reins of government to this young man, while warning the nation that they were in no way released from their obligation to follow God.
Did you note Samuel’s words? “God forbid that I should sin…in ceasing to pray for you….” If he had given in to his natural inclination, washing his hands of the ungrateful flock, he knew it would be sin. Praying for his people was a responsibility he had borne for more than forty years, and God continued to expect it of him, even in retirement.
What, then, shall we say of our own responsibility? Are we not equally required to pray for those for whom we bear a spiritual responsibility?
We pray for ourselves and our loved ones. No doubt we pray for our missionaries on distant fields. We ought not neglect to pray for brothers and sisters in Christ wherever there is persecution or war or poverty or want of any kind. But we need to remember that every child of God in our pews has urgent needs, spiritual or physical, and our heavenly Father expects us to bring those needs—individually as well as corporately—before Him in prayer.