“‘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)
After the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, there were still several peoples left who were eager to wipe out Israel. One of these groups was the Philistines. The Israelites defeated them numerous times, but they continued to reemerge, refusing to leave Israel alone. By the time of Samuel, they held great power over the Israelites. This angered and frightened the people, and they decided that a judge wasn’t good enough anymore. So they went to Samuel and demanded something: a king, just like all the nations around them had.
When Samuel heard this, he was upset. He tried to warn the people what having a king would mean for them, how this king would have complete control over their lives and possessions. But the people refused to listen, insisting they be like the other nations. So God granted their request, commanding Samuel to anoint a king. A Benjaminite named Saul was chosen, and before long the Israelites had their coveted ruler.
On the day Samuel officially resigned from his leadership position, he reminded the people of their history with God, tracing His involvement with Israel from Abraham to the current time. He focused specifically on how God had always raised up a leader for them in their time of need. Then he declared that they had sinned by asking for a king. This finally hit home with the people, and they were grieved. They begged Samuel to pray for them, recognizing that they had once again rebelled against God.
And Samuel agreed. He had always intended to continue praying for the people; to him, to do otherwise was a sin. They had wronged him, but that didn’t matter to him. God had appointed him to be their representative before Him, and though they had rejected him as their leader, he would continue to intercede for them until the day he died.
There will always be people who wrong us. Everyone is wicked at heart, and that naturally leads us to do cruel things to others. But while we can’t control the actions of other people, we can control our own reactions. Samuel had every right to be angry with the Israelites; after all, he wanted nothing but their good, yet they rejected him completely. But instead of anger, he chose to pray for them. He knew that the time ahead would be difficult, and the only thing that would get them through it was an abundance of prayer.
When someone hurts me, my first reaction is to pray angrily for the judgement of God to fall upon their heads, much like James and John in Luke 9 when a Samaritan village rejected Jesus. But when these two disciples acted in this way, Jesus rebuked them. Like Samuel, He chose to love the people instead of retaliate against them. This is the reaction God wants us to have, as well. People are sinful; therefore, they are going to do sinful things. When we get hurt as a result of it, we must realize that it all comes from sin. It is those who wrong us who need the most prayer.