EXPOSE | The Heartless Prayer is a Rotten Thing
“It is necessary to iterate and reiterate that prayer, as a mere habit, as a performance gone through by routine or in a professional way, is a dead and rotten thing.” – E. M. Bounds
EXPLORE | The Wisest Request is a Request For Wisdom
Maybe it was his age. Or, that he was genuinely scared and couldn’t help himself. But there is no mistaking his honesty in his request for wisdom in 1 Kings 3.
King at age 19, God appeared to Solomon and asked a penetrating, sobering question: What do you require of me? It cleared away any childish response he might’ve had; any route requests he would have picked up from living in David’s house, and confides in God his deepest need.
I’ve had supervisors in the past that were every bit the typical Type A, “don’t waste my time” kind of managers. But I have to admit, it did mean you thought twice about what you said, forcing you to “hit the highlights”. While we’re fortunate that God isn’t quite like that, He does listen for what is really going on.
There is something to be said for focusing on what’s most important and what will have the greatest impact. In that sense, you’re wise to make the most of it. Are you? When you consider that we have an audience with the One who controls all, created all, knows all, can grant all, shouldn’t we be sure to make it count? A safe bet is a request for wisdom.
EXECUTE | How to Pray Honestly and Wisely
Reading the first few verses of 1 Kings 3, you’ll see the early signs of what would lead to Solomon’s undoing. In fact, God appears to Solomon in a dream during a trip he made to sacrifice to other gods! God’s timing is perfect. And humbling. 1 Kings 3:5-14 gives us a look into the heart’s response to God by a king who would become the wisest man to ever live. How can it help us avoid our prayers from becoming “a dead, and rotten thing”?
Realize God is waiting to provide (v5).
“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.””
God says to Solomon “ask what I shall give you.” We are to understand this to be a test for Solomon. Keep in mind the one who is asking, and that He desires to provide us what we need. Gary Millar, professor at Queensland Theological College, points to six prayers that God always says “yes” to, which also show up in Solomon’s request for wisdom:
1. Glorify yourself through me
2. Forgive me
3. Reveal more of yourself to me
4. Give me wisdom
5. Strengthen me to obey you
6. Spread your gospel to the lost
You can also see parallels in to Matthew 6:33 (“Seek first…”), James 1:5 (“If any of you lacks wisdom…”), and James 4:3 (“…because you ask wrongly,”) in Solomon’s request.
Recall God’s faithfulness and promises (v6).
“And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.”
Solomon restates God’s promise: because his father David was faithful meant that they would continue to have a man on the throne. Whether promises to us as His children, or how He has been faithful to you in particular, remembering can help us better understand the request we need to make of God.
Reveal your position (vv7-8).
“And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude.”
As a young, inexperienced king, Solomon acknowledges his inability to rule, and how little he knows about what he has been given to do “your servant is in the midst of your people… too many to be numbered”.
Request what you need (v9).
“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?””
In other words, “give me what I need to do what you’ve called me to do” as a father, a brother, a son, a co-worker, a colleague… a Christian.
Revel in how God responds (vv10-12).
“It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked… for… understanding to discern what is right… “I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.””
He was given “discernment (literally: hearing) to understand justice” that he would faithfully apply–the very essence of biblical wisdom. God gave him a wise and discerning heart, so that he is uniquely qualified and empowered in a way that can only be recognized as God’s doing.
The request for wisdom pleases God (v10), and more often than not means we receive more than we ask for (v13).