Don’t Sin by Ceasing to Pray

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him. 
—Judges 21:25

The book of Judges closes with these haunting words, a fitting summary of its final four chapters, which give a picture of what it looks like when people do whatever seems right to them. If you haven’t read that portion of Scripture lately, believe me—what happens is absolutely reprehensible. Even as you finish Judges and turn in your Bible to Ruth and then Samuel, the title at the top of the page may change, but the historical context does not. Most everyone is still doing “whatever seemed right.” 

Sound familiar? 

Last month “pride” flags flew proudly every which way we turned—a constant reminder that our society has rejected the true King and chosen to do whatever seems right. This year, more than ever before, I’ve been convicted that instead of responding in anger, despair, or denial, we followers of Christ must run to the throne of grace, interceding on behalf of our nation. I assure you, God has convicted me about this because I—maybe like you—have so often failed to pray for my nation, its leaders, lawmakers, and jurists. Though praying for a society in moral disarray is undeniably essential, it’s also often frustrating and feels futile.

But there’s hope. 

Let’s go back to the time of the judges, when everyone did “whatever seemed right.” In the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, we learn about Israel’s final judge—Samuel himself. In his final words to the rebellious and reckless nation he had served his entire life, we find instruction for our hearts, words, and prayers for a nation far from God. 

Don’t Personalize 

As Samuel makes his farewell address, the people have demanded a king, and God has given them what they’ve asked for. Israel’s first king, Saul, has recently been crowned. Samuel, an old man, has dedicated literally his entire life to serving the people of Israel (see 1 Sam. 1:27–28). He has led them well, never defrauding or misleading them, but pointing them to the covenant God. 

Yet they rejected him. And, even more tragically, they rejected his God. 

Though Samuel has done well, the people tell him that they no longer want his voice to be the one they hear. They’d rather have a king. They didn’t overthrow him because of any scandal or wrongdoing. They didn’t find a skeleton in his closet or a body in his backyard. They were just tired of listening to him and fed up with having God in charge. 

It’s clear from Samuel’s language in chapter 12 that he is devastated by Israel’s rejection of both himself and Yahweh, but he avoids a pitfall that we can be quick to fall into. This situation was personal, but despite having every opportunity to do so, Samuel did not personalize it. 

In our era of instant information and personal platforms for everyone who wants one, personalization of information is more common than ever. While it’s not wrong to give a personal response to an issue, even one that may be close to our heart, we can’t allow our personal feelings to blind us to what God is doing.

While Samuel was devastated by Israel’s rejection of God and even himself, he didn’t allow his personal hurt feelings to stand in the way of his praying. We can’t either.

Keep Speaking Truth

Saul had already been crowned king. It was a done deal. But that didn’t stop Samuel from trying to reach the hearts of the people. He continued to speak truth to them. 

With his heart broken by Israel’s denunciation of a theocracy, Samuel reminds the people of Yahweh’s faithfulness to them. He reminds them that when their ancestors were enslaved to a cruel Pharaoh in Egypt, their cries for deliverance were heard and Yahweh appointed a human deliverer. He recalls more recent times when the people, oppressed by their enemies, called out to Yahweh for help and he heard their cry. He raised up judges such as Barak, Jephthah, and even Samuel himself as agents of deliverance. Yet they still rejected Yahweh from being their King. 

Maybe you feel like the battle has been lost. Pride flags are everywhere. The LGBTQIA+ agenda is more ubiquitous and powerful than ever before—an unstoppable avalanche. What is the use in even saying anything anymore?

Let’s take a lesson from Samuel and continue to hold fast to truth while we also share it winsomely with our friends and neighbors. If we truly love them, we must give them the truth. Samuel certainly had a relationship and a position with the people that allowed him to preach the word. That may not be you. But we cannot capitulate to the lies being propagated by our society. Only the truth will set people free (John 8:32). 

Don’t Sin by Ceasing to Pray 

Samuel spoke truth without personalizing, but we cannotmiss his last promise to Israel: “As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23). Samuel was so committed to praying for his people; not praying for them would have been a sin. He loved these people—the very ones who had cast him aside so that they could be just like the surrounding nations (their enemies!)—he loved them so much that he would intercede on their behalf until the day he died. 

Did it work? 

On one hand, I suppose you could say that it didn’t. Israel would basically persist in idolatry and rebellion until its eventual exile from the Promised Land. 

On the other hand, Samuel was given the privilege of anointing Israel’s second king, a man after God’s own heart. David, the shepherd, all but forgotten by his father when Samuel came to visit, would become the quintessential Israelite king and lead God’s covenant people to love the Lord their God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength. An ancestor of the promised Messiah, David points us forward to the ultimate Deliverer, the King of Kings and Ruler of Rulers. 

It’s in this true and better Davidic King that we too can find our hope. We may not know how. We may not know when. But we do know that God will answer. He will hear from heaven and move His hand to action. 

Friend, let’s not give up on praying. I know it’s tempting. I know it can feel useless. But if our hope is truly in the Risen Christ, we know that He is ruling today far above every power of this dark world. And He hears our prayers. 

Who are you? We’ll be answering that question all month long at Revive Our Hearts as we learn about our true identity in Christ. In fact, your support for Revive Our Hearts makes it possible for us to share with women all over the world the message that whose they are is greater than who they are. When you give we’ll send you our beautiful magnetic notepad, printed with an encouraging message from Nancy, as our thanks.

About the Author

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson lives in a small Minnesota town with her husband, son and daughter, and ridiculous black dog. She enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and coaching basketball. You can read more of her musings about God's Word at

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