Now the Lord said to Samuel,
“How long will you mourn for Saul,
seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?
Fill your horn with oil, and go;
I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite.
For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.
—1 Samuel 16:1
The destiny of our churches and our nations are in peril, unless we pray and raise up the next generation of leaders. 1 Samuel reveals to us how the prayers of believers can transform and shape the destiny of their people in both the present and the future.
Samuel was one of the most influential characters in Israel’s history. Ultimately becoming a prophet, priest and judge, Samuel grew up during one of the darkest times in the history of the nation, when corrupt judges ruled and anarchy prevailed. (Judges 21:25)
At this time, there was another man called Eli. He had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were ungodly and corrupt. They were priests and serving at the altar of the Lord, even though they did not know God (1 Samuel 2:12-26). They were engaged in a kind of spiritual treason — living contrary to the word of God and serving themselves, rather than God and the people. As John C. Maxwell has said, “Talent is a gift, but character is a choice.” Eli’s sons chose to be corrupt, and it led to painful consequences.
The Bible indicates that the voice of the Lord was rare in those days (1 Samuel 3:1). The Israelites were defeated and oppressed by their enemies. They also suffered various casualties, even to the point where the Ark of Covenant — the symbol of God’s presence among His people — was taken captive by the Philistines. (1 Samuel 4:1-11)
The delusion and failures of a leader can lead to severe moral corruption in a nation. This in turn can generate socioeconomic crises and various other predicaments that affect every sphere of society. We see this in the life of Eli and his two sons (1 Samuel 2:12-26). As Ecclesiastes 10:1 reminds us, corrupt character diminishes a leader’s effectiveness.
The truth is that our private life affects our public performance. It arouses the wrath of God, and left unchecked, it ends with divine judgment (1 Samuel 2:27-36; 3:11-18; 4:12-22). Take note: the two sons of Eli died on the battlefield, and their father joined them later. The Israelite also suffered defeat in various ways.
Eli failed as the head of his family. It had been his responsibility to guide and correct his children. But his failures in this role meant that both his family and the nation suffered. In turn, his sons’ failures as religious leaders led to both religious and political crises.
Samuel arrived into the world after many years of prayer. He was raised and mentored by his godly mother, Hannah. Samuel became the next generation’s leader. Through Samuel’s ministry of priesthood, prophetic anointing and leadership, once again the nation of Israel was restored. Israel became victorious, prosperous and united once more — most importantly, there was spiritual revival. God’s presence and voice were audible once again. (1 Samuel 3:19-21)
What we learn from this is that the influence of one godly leader can transform a nation (1 Samuel 7:2-17). We also see that praying mothers and other ordinary believers who seek God can help raise up godly leaders for the future. (1 Samuel 1:11, 24-28; 2:18-19)
As Samuel grew older, his sons were not as faithful, wise, and discerning as their father. It was at this time that the Israelites requested Samuel for a king to lead and to rule over them (1 Samuel 8:1-21). Even though their request both displeased God and Samuel, their request was granted, and Saul was anointed as the first king of Israel. (1 Samuel 11:12-15)
King Saul started well, but he did not last long. He became unfaithful to God and inclined towards ignoring and disobeying the word of the Lord. Ultimately, he was rejected by God, and he lost God’s presence and favour — even to the point of consulting a medium and being possessed by evil spirits.
Disobedience, mediocracy, fear, incompetence, and lack of godly leadership crippled Saul’s reign and rule. Sin robs us of God’s presence, and it also sabotages a leader’s influence and effectiveness. (Romans 3:23)
Sadly, Saul also failed to address the Amalekites as God had commanded him to. This had severe consequences for both his life and his leadership (1 Samuel 15:1-35). When a leader or a believer becomes unfaithful to God and acts contrary to the word of the Lord, that opens doors for failures and it also empowers the enemy.
Later under Saul’s watch, the Philistines started regrouping, and they became stronger day by day, to the point of having giant warriors like their famous champion, Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-11). What we see here is that if you don’t deal with your spiritual enemies today, then tomorrow they will become giants which can be challenging and difficult to overcome.
The prophet Samuel, being someone who could see beyond the present and into the future, started weeping, mourning, praying and interceding for King Saul and the nation of Israel (1 Samuel 15:34-16:1). It was unusual for an old man to mourn for a living and reigning king. Clearly something was not right if a prophet was mourning before the Lord for many days and nights — and even months and years.
Samuel sensed that the destiny of the nation of Israel was at peril unless God intervened. He knew that something must change before it was too late. A man or woman of God sees beyond the natural realm into the spiritual. John C. Maxwell said it well:
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
At this stage, Samuel was advanced in age, and he was likely physically weak and fragile. Spiritually, however, he was strong. He didn’t remove his prophetic mantle. The God Who used him when he was a small boy as a channel of blessing for the nation of Israel, was still able to use him in his advanced age (1 Samuel 3:10, 19-21; 7:12).
Our age cannot limit the hand of God on our lives (1 Samuel 17:33). No one is too young nor too old to serve God (Isaiah 46:4). God is still the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God is not looking for our strength or wisdom. Rather, He wants our simple obedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 15:22). The godly influence of Samuel, even in his old age, shaped the nation of Israel both present and future.
Rather than using human wisdom or trying to start a revolution, Samuel resorted to standing in the gap and interceding for his nation (1 Samuel 16:1; Ezekiel 22:30). The things of God must be handled spiritually rather than with human means (Zechariah 4:6). A man or woman of God knows how to follow divine instructions by which they do only what God has told them to do — no less, and no more. That was what exactly Samuel did.
In turn, God answered Samuel’s prayers and gave him instructions on how to raise the next generation’s leader who would shape the destiny of Israel. Samuel anointed a young man called David to be the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:11-13). God showed Himself faithful and able to turn the situation around for Israel. He raised up David who believed that everything is possible for those who trust God and walk with him (1 Samuel 17:32-36; 18:14). Like Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) We need young men and young women like this, who are full of the Holy Spirit, faith, and courage.
Later in the lifetime of Samuel, David dealt with Goliath, and the nation of Israel was relieved from fear and oppression. Finally, they were able to breathe the air of victory and freedom (1 Samuel 17:48-54). David also dealt with the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:17-18). Samuel’s prayers were answered as God showed His mighty hand in these victories. Most important of all, the name of God was glorified in these victories. (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
David became Israel’s king, and Israel went on to enjoy prosperity, stability, and a spiritual shift and revival. All of this was possible because they had one God, one nation, and one king. Where King Saul failed to undertake the mission assigned to him, David accomplished the task set before him and took Israel to its highest peak.
Praying for Leaders
There are many other examples in Scripture of next-generation leaders being raised up by prayer — from Moses to Joshua, Samuel to David, David to Solomon, Elijah to Elisha, and Paul to Timothy. The greatest of all, of course, is Jesus Christ. He prayed for, chose, trained and raised up His twelve disciples. Being filled by the Holy Spirit, these leaders went on to turn the world upside-down.
As we learn from all of these stories, a nation’s destiny is in peril unless we pray for the next generation of leaders to be raised up. God is not looking for people with good looks or academic credentials (1 Samuel 16:6-10). Rather, He is looking for the ordinary people who have a passion to do the will of their Heavenly Father (1 Samuel 16:11-13; Acts 13:22, 28), whose mind, heart and spirit seek after God and who long to serve their nation and their generation. (Matthew 22:37-39; 28:18-20)
As John Wesley prayed, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.” God granted his prayers, and England was transformed, impacting many nations during the 18th-19th century.
What shall we do to raise the next generation of leaders?
We need to pray (1 Samuel 16:1, 11-13). We must intentionally sow seeds of leadership into young people’s lives (1 Kings 19:19-21). We also need to provide teaching, training and mentoring (1 Samuel 19:18; 2 Timothy 2:16).
If we love God and our nation, we have to pray for the next generation of leaders today and invest in them. The destiny of our nation is entwined with their destiny. When was the last time you fasted, kneeled down, prayed and interceded for your nation? (1 Samuel 12:23; Nehemiah 1:4; 2 Chronicles 7:14) When was the last time you fasted and prayed for your spiritual and political leaders? (1 Timothy 2:1-8)
It’s never too late to start. We must. Our future leaders will transform the destiny of our nation.
[Painting: François-Léon Benouville (1821–1859), The Anointing of David by Samuel]