Great Prayers of the Bible: Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom
What one thing would you ask of God if you knew absolutely that it would not be refused? Solomon had such a choice. After David died he became King over Israel and while he was at a place called Gibeon the Lord appeared to him in a dream during the night. “God said; ‘Ask! What shall I give you?'” (I Kings 3:5) WOW! This is better than any genie in a bottle wish – this is the God who made heaven and earth saying he could have any request without putting conditions on it.
Solomon’s answer qualifies it for inclusion as a “Great Prayer of the Bible.” Here is what he prayed for: “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?” (I Kings 3:9) Solomon was asking for wisdom to be a good king. The Bible says; “The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing." (Verse 10) Now let’s look at this a little deeper by putting ourselves in two people’s shoes: Solomon’s and God’s. First let’s try to get inside Solomon’s moccasins. We have some clues into Solomon’s heart because before he made his request to God he revealed three things about what he was thinking.
Compared to David
He compared himself to his father David. Talk about having big shoes to fill! Under David the kingdom was firmly established and all of Israel’s enemies were subdued. God called David a man after his own heart. This must have been weighing heavily upon Solomon because he says to God; “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.” (Verse 6)
In other words, Solomon wonders if God is still simply showing kindness to his father David by placing his son on the throne. He feels under David’s shadow. He has not yet felt or taken on the authority of the kingdom in his own right.
Compared to a child
Next Solomon expresses to God how he views himself. He says; “I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.”(Verse 7) When Solomon ascended the throne he was fully an adult but he doesn’t feel that way; he doesn’t feel up to the job. His statement is quite a humble admission of his inexperience and misgivings about his maturity to rule.
Compared to the people
Finally Solomon thinks about who he is going to rule over and he feels deeply inadequate and intimidated. He says; “And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted.”(Verse 8) He is saying; “Hey, these are God’s chosen people, who do I think I am that I could possibly be king over THEM?”
When Solomon went to bed that night in Gibeon all these issues were no doubt weighing heavily on his mind and had been since he first ascended the throne. Then God met him in a dream that reflected the new king’s struggling heart. It is often the case that we dream about whatever things deeply bother us but in this instance God initiated the dream. Why did the Lord give Solomon Carte Blanc to request anything of him?
Now it is time to slip into God’s moccasins but that can be a dangerous thing to do. Who can really know the mind of God? So with the understanding that I do not claim to be able to speak for God nor do I desire to put words in his mouth I will tell you what I think. I think God gave Solomon the option to ask anything because he knew he could trust him. Jesus said; “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”(Matthew 12:34b) God saw in Solomon a heart that was humble, not arrogant about running the whole show. He saw a man who felt he was not equipped to be king yet who desperately wanted to be a good ruler like his father David.
A second thing is that while God knew Solomon’s heart, maybe Solomon didn’t. Really good questions like the one God asked can expose our true self. Sometimes what we see in our own heart can give us confidence to take on big challenges or it may show us how shallow we are and in need of a new heart. Yet another thought is that God desired to honor the choice of the new king. No matter what Solomon would ask for; nothing was too big for God. Just like a proud parent that says to their child graduating from college; “What do you want for graduation?” If they are wealthy they might say; “I’ll get you anything you want; I’m so proud of you.”
The Lord was so pleased with Solomon’s request that he said; “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.” (Verse 12) Solomon became the wisest man that ever lived. But that isn’t all. God told him that because he had asked for wisdom instead of long life, riches or the life of his enemies; “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.” (Verse 13)
What would you ask?
You may now take off those divine moccasins and put back on your own. In the beginning of this article I asked what one thing you would request of God if you knew for sure that it would not be refused. Have you been thinking that over? Do you think your petition would make it as one of the great prayers of the Bible? Don’t pretend with God and say something you think sounds good or super spiritual; neither should you assume that you don’t have anything significant enough to ask because you aren’t a King. This is about the heart. What is really in your heart? Solomon’s prayer was a great one because his heart was right when he prayed it. Listen to God’s promise for those who have such hearts:
“I dwell in the high and holy place; With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15
Even though your prayer can no longer be included in the Bible it can be a great one in God’s eyes. And it may surprise you in the end that God gives you what you ask for – and maybe even all that you did not ask. Just like Solomon!
Read next about BOLD prayer.