1 Samuel 8:6
But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed to the LORD.
And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. The blessings obtained in answer to prayer are real and manifold. Some of them are outward and material - daily bread, health, safety, life. God is "in all, above all, and through all," the personal and free Ruler of the universe, and able to grant our petitions for temporal good in harmony with the established order of nature. The mind and will of man can produce changes in the material world without disturbing that order; much more can the eternal mind and will do the same. Other blessings are inward and spiritual - wisdom, righteousness, peace, and joy. The "Father of spirits" has access to the human spirit, interpenetrates it as light the atmosphere, holds communion with it, and disposes it to holiness. Spiritual blessings are incomparably more valuable than material. What we are determines our relation to surrounding objects. And beneficial changes wrought within are followed by similar changes in the world without. "In prayer we make the nearest approaches unto God, and lie open to the influences of Heaven. Then it is that the Sun of righteousness doth visit us with his directest rays, and dissipateth our darkness, and imprinteth his image on our souls" (Scougal).
"Speak to him, thou, for he hears, and spirit with spirit can meet.
Closer is he than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet"
(Tennyson) In illustration of the spiritual benefit of prayer let us consider how Samuel, who "prayed unto the Lord" in his trouble, and "rehearsed all the words of the people in the ears of the Lord" (ver. 21), was comforted and helped in time of need. What a different man he was when he came forth from communion with his Almighty Friend to speak to the elders of Israel from what he was when he went from them, "displeased" (ver. 6) and distressed, to pour out his heart before the Lord! "What profit shall we have if we pray unto him?"
1. Relief for a burdened heart. It is often a great relief to tell our trouble to an earthly friend; much more is it to pour it forth into the bosom of God. "No other God but the God of the Bible is heart to heart" (Niebuhr). "They went and told Jesus" (Matthew 14:12).
2. Sympathy under bitter disappointment. Samuel seemed to have "laboured in vain and spent his strength for nought." But God sanctioned his work, identified himself with him, shared his disappointment, and took his burden on himself. In rejecting his faithful servants men reject the Lord. "Why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:5). He sympathises with them (Hebrews 4:5); and one smile of his more than compensates for apparent failure and the frowns of the whole world. "By degrees two thoughts calmed him. The first was the feeling of identification with God's cause. The other element of consolation was the Divine sympathy. Atheism and revolution here, as elsewhere, went hand in hand. We do not know how this sentence was impressed by the infinite mind on Samuel's mind; all we know is, he had a conviction that God was a fellow sufferer" (Robertson).
3. Guidance in great perplexity. The will of the Lord, it may be, is at first hidden or obscure, but in fellowship with him the mists and clouds that prevent our seeing it are cleared away, the sun shines forth, and our way is made plain. We see "the light of this world" (John 11:9). "The vocation of man is the sun in the heavens of his life." "The secret of the Lord" (the counsel or advice, such as a man gives to his friend) "is with them that fear him" (Psalm 25:14). God tells his secrets only to his friends. "The meek will he guide in judgment: the meek will he teach his way" (Psalm 25:9). "He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
4. Submission to the supreme will. That will is always wisest and best; it cannot be altered or made to bend to ours; and one of the chief benefits of prayer is that thereby we receive grace which disposes us to accept humbly and cheerfully what at first appears evil in our sight. We are made of one mind with God.
5. Strength for painful duty. It may be to "protest solemnly" (ver. 9) against the course resolved upon by others, to alter our own course and expose ourselves to the charge of inconsistency, to face opposition, danger, and death. But, God never appoints us a duty without giving us strength to perform it. Habitual prayer constantly confers decision on the wavering, and energy on the listless, and calmness on the excitable, and disinterestedness on the selfish" (Liddon).
6. Composure amidst general excitement. Whilst the elders clamour, "Nay; but we will have a king over us," Samuel is unmoved. He calmly listens to their decision, takes it back to God in secret prayer, and then comes forth and says, "Go ye every man to his own city." "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (Isaiah 26:3). Hurricanes revolve around a centre of perfect calm. Outside the charmed circle the tempest may rage furiously; within it all is peace. Such is the heart and mind kept (garrisoned) by the peace of God (Philippians 4:7).
7. Confidence in a glorious future. "The Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake" (1 Samuel 12:22). He works out his purposes by unexpected methods, overrules human perversity, and makes the wrath of man to praise him (Psalm 76:10). "What will the end he?" it was said at a time of great and general anxiety to an eminent servant of God (Dr. A. Clarke), who replied, with a beaming countenance, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.