Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
We don’t like to be weak. Admitting weakness means admitting we are powerless. It means that we have to accept that we can’t fix our problems on our own. As humans we sometimes don’t like to admit that we need help. It’s in our nature to try and take care of our own problems.
The problem is that if we want to have a relationship with God, we have to admit that we are weak. We must come to terms with the fact that we are helpless without God. Sin has separated us from God. We are weak, but the Spirit helps us with this weakness. Paul uses the word astheneai, meaning a “lack of confidence or feeling of inadequacy.” The Spirit restores our confidence through prayer. The Spirit takes the inadequate, and makes it adequate.
Our weakness is taken away by the Spirit, and the only hurdle left is our own humanity. We need to understand that we can have confidence in prayer. We should also accept the fact that we need God’s help. How wonderful that our God can hear us even with our weakness!
Samuel is nearing the end of his life by the time you read 1 Samuel 12. He gives a speech to all of Israel and there are several chilling statements that force us to consider our own spiritual standing. Samuel seeks the counsel of the Lord and asks Him on behalf of the people for an earthly king. God had established the Judges to rule them rather than a king which was typical for the time period. God grants their request, even though this kind of leadership was bound for failure. He handed Israel their shovel, and they began to dig. Here are some of Samuel’s final words.
“Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. 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.But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish” (18-25).
Here are five quick observations and practical truths based on Samuel’s speech.
We should never let our previous sins hold us back from pressing forward. Samuel tells the children of Israel not to let the evil in their recent past keep them down— but he doesn’t pretend as if they hadn’t sinned against God.
Samuel reminds the people that God is quick to forgive.
It’s interesting that Samuel says that his failure to pray for God’s people would be a sinful thing for him to do.
Samuel tells the people to fear the Lord AND remember what He’s done for them. God could have wiped them out. He clearly had the ability as he demonstrated His power over nature in the beginning of this section.
It was true for the children of Israel and it’s true for us today. If we persist in doing evil, we will perish.
The Old Testament is filled with relevant applications for us today. Let’s learn from the past, and like Samuel said— let’s not let our past failures keep us from moving forward.
Jonathan Martindale punctuated an unforgettable worship service yesterday morning with one of the most thoughtful prayers I have ever been privileged to be a part of. What made it so effective was the people and issues he prayed about. This is not exhaustive, but here are some of the specific people he prayed for among his beautiful words.
Individuals in nursing homes that are facing the end of life (they believe they are prepared for eternity, but are not)
Individuals who are in college who are not being adequately equipped for the challenges and skepticism being thrown at them (both those who are fighting for their faith and those who have started to drift)
Individuals who are have been rocked by broken families
High Schoolers who are dealing with temptation
Junior high youth (trying to figure out who they are in life and those dealing with depression)
Elementary kids that have not made the decision to follow Christ yet but still need prayers to learn Christ correctly and led to that decision.
Those who are in the world who are perfectly content with where they are but still do not have Christ
Those who are good moral people but don’t have Christ
Those who are in the world and caught up with various vices (drinking, drug use, pornography)
Those who have fallen away (and our being visionary and courageous to help them)
That prayer reflected true thoughtfulness, contemplating those who are lost or drifting. While I’ve heard other prayers devoted to groups of people, I cannot remember one exactly like Jonathan’s.
It reminded me of Samuel’s words to Israel after the coronation of Saul. They had sinned against God by rejecting Him as their king. He assured them of God’s care, adding, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23). It seems that, in principle, we can be guilty of sinning against God and our spiritual family by not praying for them. James encourages praying for one another when sin infiltrates our lives (Jas. 5:16). The church prayed for Peter (Acts 12:5). Paul wanted Thessalonica to pray for him (1 Th. 5:25; 2 Th. 3:1). So did the writer of Hebrews (13:18). So often, Jesus and His inspired spokesmen urged His followers to carefully, considerately pray for each other.
Let’s take every opportunity to do that today. Sit down and make a list of people—especially those who may get overlooked. Then, pray for them. Be as specific as you can about them. Talk with them and find out what they need from us in prayer. What a hedge of protection we may be giving one another by taking the time to pray for each other. What a huge blessing we can be for one another through prayer!
Alabama was handling Notre Dame handily. There was not much to notice on the field, so Brent Musburger observed the Tide signal-caller’s girlfriend in the stands, saying, “You quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman.” Kirk Herbstreit agreed, and the cameramen could not show her enough. By now, many have heard that her Twitter followers jumped from 2,300 that morning to 96,000 by night’s end. She’s a celebrity favorite, and she will appear in a reality show, perhaps on “Dancing With The Stars,” and the ever-lascivious Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition this year (via http://www.ibtimes.com). I mention this certainly not to endorse a woman whose prior greatest claim to fame, besides her attachment to A.J. McCarron, being finishing sixth in the Miss Alabama contest. She epitomizes our culture’s obsession with sexuality and the body (Paul urges the godly woman to accentuate the inward, spiritual self in 1 Timothy 2:9-10).
My point in bringing her up is to show the power of the “right” word spoken at the “right” time. Musburger had a national audience and he had something to talk about that was of interest to many of those listeners. Certainly, Ms. Webb, as she assesses from a carnal standpoint, would consider herself a winner.
You and I have the most vital message the world could ever hear, the heart of which is the eternal salvation of the soul. We may never have a forum like Mr. Musburger did on the night of the BCS National Championship, but we have daily opportunities to share this good news. The Bible says, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances” (Prov. 25:11). A timely word is “delightful” (Prov. 15:23). In the context of evangelism, Paul says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:6). Repeatedly, God conveys the power of the “right” word being spoken at the “right” time.
How can we do this? Pray. Be discerning. Open your eyes. Have courage. Genuinely care about souls. Keep Ephesians 4:15 dear.
Consider that what you are after is infinitely more noble than any earthly ambition. Do well in this and heaven’s population will grow. What is more, you add fruit to your own account and are in position to have the acclaim of heaven on the greatest day of notoriety and infamy that will ever be (Prov. 11:30; 1 Cor. 3:11ff).