April 11 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” ~1 Samuel 8:18

Samuel serves in the dual capacities of prophet and judge. He is both spiritual pastor for the nation and the political leader of the nation, it would be like Billy Graham becoming the President of the United States, however, the people demand a king to lead them. Their request offends Samuel and displeases God.

Old Testament scholars have puzzled over both reactions. Were not Samuel’s successors (his sons) unfit for service? Was not the period when Israel had no king among the darkest in the nation’s history? Did not Moses speak of the nation as someday having a king (Deut. 17:14-20)? Considering all these issues, it seems that God is not displeased with the request itself, but rather with the people’s motivation to “be like all the other nations” (1 Sam. 8:20). The Israelite elders point to Samuel’s sons as the reason for their request, but that’s merely a pretext. The people rejected God and His leadership again and again and again (1 Sam. 8:7-8).

Have you considered that it’s possible to pray and sin at the same time? That’s exactly what Israel was doing by requesting something that was not good for them: a completely secular ruler. Israel rejects the covenant established with God in favor of a covenant established with a king. They are not looking for spiritual guidance or for a leader who values living under the law of God given by Moses. They just want someone to fight their battles. Success is a much higher priority than following the Lord.

The motives behind our prayers matter. So it behooves us to examine why we ask for what we do (see James 4:1-6). I am not suggesting that it is wrong to pray for something simply because you desire it and want to enjoy it. There is nothing inherently sinful about wanting God to bless your business or to free you up to spend more time with family and friends. However, motives can be tricky. What looks good and feels right can be used unwisely. We can pray for what we want, but we must never try to use God to get what we want in order to sin against Him.

Ask God to help you examine your motives in prayer. And then pray big. Yes, pray for things you need and even for those you want. But make a corresponding commitment to follow Him wholeheartedly, always using whatever blessing He provides to bless others and to glorify His name.

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.