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Near the beginning of Solomon’s reign, he does what we hope any ruler would do. In 1 Kings 3, he asks God for wisdom. After Solomon marries his queen, he travels to Gibeon to worship at the shrine (before the temple in Jerusalem was finished). There, he and God have a dialogue.
This one is different from the prayers we’ve looked at previously for two reasons: (1) the communication is initiated by God, and (2) it takes place in a dream. Neither of these differences disqualifies it from being a prayer. In fact, it falls perfectly within our definition of prayer being a conversation with God.
This isn’t the first we hear about Solomon. In the previous chapter, we read that he was involved in the murder of three men and that he banished Abiathar the priest from the land. These may be the dirty but necessary parts of being king, but they’re still a tough way for Solomon to begin his reign. It’s with this in mind that the young king goes off to conference with God in Gibeon.
As the events of the story begin, we find a young man, overwhelmed by the fact that he now sits enthroned as king of Israel, sleeping.
That night, there in Gibeon, God appeared to Solomon
in a dream: God said, “What can I give you? Ask.”
Solomon said, “You were extravagantly generous in love with David my father, and he lived faithfully in your presence, his relationships were just and his heart right. And you have persisted in this great and generous love by giving him–and this very day!–a son to sit on his throne.
“And now here I am: God, my God, you have made me, your servant, ruler of the kingdom in place of David my father. I’m too young for this, a mere child! I don’t know the ropes, hardly know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of this job. And here I am, set down in the middle of the people you’ve chosen, a great people–far too many to ever count.
“Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?”
God, the Master, was delighted with Solomon’s response. (verses 6-10)
Solomon doesn’t launch directly into his request, not that it would be unacceptable. Solomon first praises God for his goodness to Solomon’s father, David. The love God showed to David obviously has left a deep impression on Solomon, and the young king desires a similar relationship with the Lord.
Solomon even remarks on his own youth, and on the fact that God’s love for David is so great that it extends beyond David’s life. David is dead, but his heir is on the throne. Clearly, Solomon knows that his reign is dependent, not on his own strength or intelligence, but on the blessing of God. He is too young to be a good king, but with God’s help he knows he might manage it.
Then Solomon gets to his request: “Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil.”
Think about what you would ask for if God were to ask you the same question. Would you ask for riches? Good health? True love? Solomon doesn’t ask for any of these. He asks God for wisdom to rule over the Israelites, ultimately a selfless prayer. He put the people of Israel above himself, saying that their well-being is more important. Solomon offers a prayer of great humility. He asks for God’s wisdom because he knows his own wisdom is insufficient.
Left on his own, Solomon would be no better than any other king, but invested with God’s wisdom, he has the ability to rule with a justice that transcends human ability. God is pleased with Solomon’s request, and he grants it.
How can you remember to pray for wisdom the next time you’re given a big task to accomplish or when you’re put in leadership over others? Why is God’s wisdom better than your own wisdom? Check your motives to be certain you aren’t praying for wisdom as a way to get wealth, influence, or prestige.
If you like this and you’d like to read more, check out my book, Ask Seek Knock. Thanks.
Copyright Tony Jones, 2008. Used by permission of NavPress. www.navpress.com