“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.” 1 Samuel 12:23
How do you respond to believers who aren’t following God and His Word? If we’re not careful, we’ll fail to obey God regarding those who are failing to obey God! It’s easy to feel spiritually superior because their sin might seem worse than ours by comparison. Samuel not only gives us an example to follow, but reveals what makes a godly response possible.
First, Samuel confronted Israel’s disobedience (vv7-18). Too often, we talk to almost everyone except the person who needs to face up to his or her sin. We even dress up gossip as a prayer request. But our goal should be to restore the erring person to a right relationship with God and with other believers. Galatians 6:1 tells us, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”
And that’s exactly what Samuel did. He lovingly comforted those who were grieving over their sin (vv19-22). He then issued a challenge to shift their focus from all the evil they had done to all the great things God had done (v24). The Bible tells us to speak truth in love because the believer who has gone astray is still part of the body of Christ. If we harm them, we are actually harming ourselves as well (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Samuel also recognized His responsibility to pray—not just to point out their sin (v23). In fact, failing to pray for them would be “sin against the Lord.” There’s a fine line here. Don’t confuse praying for a wayward believer with sharing their situation in great detail as a prayer request. Paul warns, “watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1b). We can ask others to pray without wandering into gossip and disloyalty to friends and family members.
Are you failing to pray for wayward believers? Is your heart full of love, or judgment? Watch yourself. Remember, the qualifier for restoring an erring brother or sister in Christ is to “live by the Spirit.” Only then can we follow Samuel’s example, “And I will teach you the way that is good and right.” Are you prepared to invest in other believers; to offer your own life as an example to follow? When you pray for someone regularly, you cannot help but respond in love.