“The Prayer of Solomon – A Prayer Pleasing to God”
(1 Kings 3:5-12 – Pentecost 10 – August 9, 2020)
1 Kings 3:5-12 – 5At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” 6And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. 7Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. 9Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” 10The speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, 12behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.
Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ:
Can there be anything more natural for a child of God than to speak to his heavenly Father in prayer? Prayer is an act of worship in which we speak to God from our heart, asking something of Him, or thanking Him for His gifts. In order that we may know how to pray, Jesus has given us the model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. As we pray “Our Father, who art in heaven,” Luther’s Small Catechism explains: “God hereby tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him with all boldness and confidence, as children ask their dear father.”
Scripture is full of examples of believers lifting their hearts to God’s throne in childlike faith; and His hearing as a heavenly Father and answering for Jesus’ sake. In our text, we have a good example in “The Prayer of Solomon – A Prayer Pleasing to God.” We see that 1) Solomon humbled himself before the Lord in prayer, 2) He asked for godly wisdom and understanding, and 3) The Lord gave him more than he asked for.
1) Solomon humbled himself before the Lord in prayer
The first thing we see is that Solomon humbled himself before the Lord in prayer. When the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, what an amazing offer He made: “Ask! What shall I give you?” (vs. 5) God was giving Solomon a blank check that he could fill in however he wanted. On the outside, Solomon did not appear to be in any kind of need. He was the picture of earthly success. As King of Israel, he controlled the government. He had a strong army under his command. He possessed great wealth. He was highly educated. He was surrounded by power, pomp, and prestige. Solomon had everything that ordinarily the heart of a man might wish for.
So when God offered that he could pray for whatever he wanted, how did Solomon respond? Did he proudly point to all that he had going for him in life and push the Lord’s invitation aside? Indeed, so often this is the way sinful man treats the Lord in his pride. He feels that he does not need the Lord since he has his earthly wealth, success, intellect, and pleasures of life.
But it was not so with Solomon. After speaking words of gratitude for God’s great mercy and kindness shown to his father David (vs. 6), Solomon acknowledged that the throne, and all he had, was a gift from God. Then with a childlike faith, he lifted up his heartfelt need, praying: “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (vs. 7).
It was no vain self-glorification, but a total humbling of himself before the Lord. Though he was a great King, surrounded by power and pomp, he called himself the Lord’s servant. Though he was a young man, he called himself a little child. He confessed his inability to carry out his duties by his own wisdom. He trembled at the huge task of governing God’s chosen people. He bowed as a lowly servant who had nothing to bring before God but his unworthiness. He humbly depended on God’s mercy and the ability God could give him in his position.
We have not received such a special revelation as Solomon did. Yet in His Word, the Lord has invited each of us in the same way to come to Him in prayer. We can be sure that His invitation to us is just as valid and certain; as Jesus promises us: “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23).
Like Solomon, let us humble ourselves before the Lord. Let us remember that all we have in life – our position, our wealth, our abilities, our success – all of it has been given to us by God. How often, in our proud feeling of self-sufficiency, we have put off the Lord as if we did not need His help. How often, we have ignored His Word and invitation to prayer. We have gloried in our own abilities and success. We have enjoyed the honor and praise of men. Yet, all of our accomplishments stink before the Lord when they are covered by sinful pride.
In the humility of repentance, we bow before the Lord confessing that we are unworthy servants. Yet we pray in faith, knowing that He forgives us and hears us for Jesus’ sake. We pray knowing that in His mercy, God sent His Son to the cross to take away all our sins. We pray knowing that Jesus now presents us to His Father, clothed in His own righteousness. Therefore, we can pray “with all boldness and confidence, as children ask their dear Father.” We pray because the LORD gives us His open-ended invitation, as it says in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
2) He asked for godly wisdom and understanding
As Solomon humbled himself before the Lord, what did he pray for that was so pleasing to the Lord? He asked for godly wisdom and understanding: “Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (vs. 8-9).
Solomon had been called to a great task as King over Israel. As God had promised Abraham, the forefather of Israel, He had now made the people as numerous as the sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17). God had expanded Israel’s borders to their greatest extent through the conquests of David. But the nation was great in a more important way. It was the nation God had chosen to bear His covenant promises. It was the nation from which the Savior for all people would come. So governing this people required more than ordinary wisdom and ability. Not only did Solomon need to be able to promote temporal peace and prosperity for the people. Most importantly, he needed the wisdom and ability to lead them in obedience and worship of the true God. It was an overwhelming task. Solomon prayed that he might be faithful in his God-given duties. It was, first of all, a prayer for help to keep spiritual priorities straight.
Don’t we feel the same way at times with certain duties and tasks we have before us? Like Solomon, God has placed us where we are in life and given us gifts to use in His service. How often we see our inability to serve rightly by our own wisdom and strength. As parents, we see our unworthiness to train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6); for so often, we see our own faults as sinful parents. As spouses or as friends, we feel our unworthiness and inadequacy because so often we are selfish. At work, at school, or at home, we may face tasks that feel overwhelming. Expectations are high. People depend on us. Important matters are at stake. We feel tired and weary, and we wonder: “How can I ever get this done the right way? How can I keep from failing?”
Like Solomon, let us learn to pray for godly wisdom and understanding. As God would have Solomon write in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” True wisdom begins with godly fear, which includes repentance and faith in Christ as our Savior. God gives us this wisdom as His Holy Spirit works faith in our heart through His Word. 2 Timothy 3:15 says: “the Holy Scriptures… are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Simply by this faith in Jesus as our Savior, we already are wise in the most important things of life. We know our sins are forgiven in Christ, and we are reconciled to God in Christ and heirs of eternal life with Him.
Now, having our spiritual and eternal priorities straight, we can trust God also to give us the wisdom we need in temporal matters, as He guides us by His Word. Notice that, as Solomon asks for an “understanding heart,” it literally means “a heart to listen.” What a good prayer, as we plan and carry out our duties and tasks. Let us pray that God would give us a heart first to listen to His Word, and then act in faith. Let us pray, and then trust that He who is infinitely wise and loving, will work all things together for our good, for Jesus’ sake.
3) The Lord gave him more than he asked for
What was the Lord’s answer to Solomon’s prayer? He gave him more than he could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). God said: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.”
God gave Solomon the wisdom and ability needed for his calling, and then some. In fact, there would never be a wiser man on the face of the earth, except for Him who is Wisdom personified – Jesus our Savior. In addition, God went on to promise in the verse after our text: “I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days” (vs. 13).
As the Lord heard and answered Solomon’s prayer, so He will hear and answer our prayers. Psalm 145:18-19 says: “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.” Jesus says in Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” As we call on God in the name of Jesus, He will give just what we need. He will open doors and give us even greater things than we could ask for.
This does not mean we will always see the immediate answer we expected. Sometimes, we must wait patiently for God’s time. Nor will He always grant us things like health, wealth, and honor, as He did with Solomon. But as we pray in our need, somehow God will make it work out for the best – for us and for others around us. It must be so, for we bring our prayers to our heavenly Father in Jesus’ name. He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up to win our forgiveness and eternal life; therefore, along with Jesus, He will give us all that we need. As Jesus intercedes for us at His Father’s right hand, this is guaranteed to us (Romans 8:32, 34).
Even if we never see the answer to a certain prayer in this life, we already have our answer that is far better than we could ask or imagine, in the gift of eternal life God has given us Christ. In heaven, He is providing the ultimate answer for perfect health, unsurpassed riches, and unending joys. God will never fail to provide the best answer to our prayer in Jesus name. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says: “For all the promises of God in [Christ] are Yes, and in Him Amen.”
Let us, then, follow the example of Solomon. Let us humble ourselves before the Lord in prayer, knowing that He lifts us up in the name of Jesus our Savior. Let us fervently pray for all things; but above all, let us pray for the better gifts, those that pertain to the welfare of our soul and the souls of others. And let us pray with thanksgiving, knowing that our prayers in the name of Jesus are pleasing to God, and He will answer in all things for our eternal good.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.