Study 8 THE PRAYER OF FAITH – SAMUEL
MORE STUDIES IN HEBREWS 11
by Francis Dixon
Scripture References: Hebrews 11:32; 1 Samuel 7:1-14
The mention of Samuel’s name in Hebrews 11:32 is an indication to us to turn to the Old Testament scriptures in order to find out how the principle of faith operated through this man’s life and ministry – but to which portion shall we turn? In this study we shall follow the suggestion made by the marginal reference in the Scofield Bible which directs us to 1 Samuel 7:1-14, and in particular to verses 5 and 9. These verses introduce our theme: the prayer of faith. They read as follows – “Then Samuel said, Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the LORD for you” (verse 5). “He cried out to the LORD on Israel’s behalf, and the LORD answered him” (verse 9). It is the privilege of every Christian to pray, and to pray not only for himself but for others; in other words, to exercise a ministry of intercession. One of the conditions for successful prayer is that such prayer must be offered in faith; it must be the prayer of faith. The one who prays must be a man or a woman of faith – for two clear statements regarding this look up and compare Mark 11:22-24 and James 5:15. What, then, are the characteristics of the prayer of faith? In 1 Samuel 7:1-14 we shall find the answer to this question. Verses 1 and 2 of the chapter tell us that God’s people were in a sorry state spiritually, religiously, and from the last part of verse 2 it would seem that they longed that things might be different; so Samuel called the people together, and because they were in great danger from their enemies, the Philistines, he prayed the prayer of faith, which was wonderfully answered. Now notice:-
1. The Prayer of Faith must be accompanied by penitence, confession of sin and amendment of life.
We learn this from verses 3-6. Please notice the following words, their significance and the order in which they occur, in verse 3 – “Whole…if…returning…all…rid
yourselves…commit yourselves…serve him only…” What lessons there are for us in these four verses! Verse 4 tells us of the response and obedience of God’s people; verse 5 of Samuel’s readiness and willingness to pray for them; and verse 6 of their humility, confession of sin and deep desire for God’s blessing. Only as hindrances are removed can we pray the prayer of faith – look up and compare Psalm 66:18 and Isaiah 59:1-2.
2. The Prayer of Faith will be challenged by doubts and fears, but it will persist in spite of every discouragement.
We learn this from verses 7 and 8, verses which, incidentally, are full of encouragement for ourselves. The reason the people became fearful was that they looked at their enemies, their circumstances, their problems, their difficulties, and whenever we do that we become fearful. What they needed to do was to turn their eyes away to the Lord. This, as verse 8 tells us, is exactly what they did. When Peter “saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out…” If only Peter had kept his eye on the Lord! No wonder the Lord Jesus said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” – look up Matthew 14:25-33. But faith is always beset by doubts and fears. Noah must have had doubts when he was building the ark (Genesis 6:14 and 22); Abraham must have had doubts as he moved out of Ur (Genesis 12:1 and 4); Moses must have had doubts as he crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21,22 and 29); Joshua must have had doubts concerning the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-5 and 20); but when their doubts came they went on praying and trusting. They turned away from their circumstances to the Lord, as in verse 8.
3. The Prayer of Faith is specific, and is directed to the Lord.
Look again at verse 8 and notice the words “crying out to the Lord…for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines”. This was not a nebulous kind of prayer. Samuel did not generalise when he prayed. He directed his prayer to the Lord because He is always the object of our faith, and the One to whom we look and in whom we are trusting, and he asked for exactly what was needed. He was specific in his request – look up and compare 1 Samuel 1:10,11 and 20; and Luke 11:9-13. The Lord invites us and wants us to be specific and definite in our prayers. He encourages us to tell Him exactly what we need, and He promises to meet our need – look up Philippians 4:19, and compare Psalm 62:5. What is your need just now? Look to Him and ask Him to meet your need – see His promise in Psalm 50:14-15!
4. The Prayer of Faith must be offered on the grounds of a blood sacrifice.
We learn this from verse 9, and here we see ‘the cross in the Old Testament’. There is only one way for a guilty sinner to approach and enter the presence of a holy God; it is by the “new and living way” which is sprinkled with atoning blood. All other ways of access will fail. Thus, Cain’s way failed but Abel’s succeeded (Genesis 4:3-5); the Pharisee’s way failed but the publican’s way succeeded (Luke 18:9-14). In Hebrews 10:19-22 we have a clear statement of this glorious truth.
5. The Prayer of Faith will always be challenged by the powers of darkness.
It is significant that we read in verse 10 that it was while the people were gathered together and Samuel was offering up the burnt offering that their enemies drew near to attack them. This surely reminds us of the fact that when we pray, at once we enter into a great spiritual conflict. We learn this from Ephesians 6:10-18, and in particular in verse 12 of this portion; and we have an illustration of this very thing happening in the life of Daniel, in Daniel 10:10-21. How Satan hates any reference to the blood of Christ! – for this is the sinner’s only access into the presence of a holy God, and he fiercely challenges us as we seek to draw near to the Lord in worship and in prayer.
6. The Prayer of Faith is a prayer that is always answered.
We learn this from verse 10, and also from verses 13 and 14. God gave His people a mighty victory, and in answer to their prayers there was a miraculous intervention – a wonderful illustration of Jeremiah 33:3! Every prayer that is offered in faith, in the Name of Jesus and for the glory of God, is always answered abundantly – look up and compare John 14:13-14 and Ephesians 3:20-21.
7. The Prayer of Faith is a prayer that gives God all the glory.
We learn this from verses 11 and 12 – “Ebenezer”! God has done it! His is the victory! – look up Psalm 126:3.