Solomon’s Prayer For Wisdom
1 Kings 3:5-15
At Gibeon the appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 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. And now, O 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. 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?”
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, 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. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”
And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants. – 1 Kings 3:5-15
If you read only of Solomon’s failures, you might be surprised to read this prayer or perhaps you doubt the sincerity of it. But biblical history is clear, there were times when this man held to great sincerity of interests and affection for the Lord, though his consistency and follow-through was obviously failed. This prayer is an example of a good time, and instructs us in several good ways.
“The kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon,” according to the last verse of the previous chapter (though after some struggle & violence), and now – he must be serious about the challenges soon to be encountered; the choices soon to be made; the leadership to be provided through him to God’s people and his own personal salvation. His succession to the throne had not been easy. Now the task ahead would be obtained only with God’s help. So he prayed. What can we discover from this?
(1) Imperfect People Need To Pray. “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places,” (v.3). The “high places” were locations where idolatry was practiced. This is evidence of his imperfection. Good intentions were not fully carried out, thus he was imperfect in his efforts. Let us consider that imperfection is reason to pray, never a reason to neglect speaking to God. It may be argued, in fact, the more we struggle; the less perfect we are, the more we need to speak to God and ask for His help and make good commitments to Him. Here is a man with enough love for the Lord to respond to God and make requests in prayer, at least at this point in his life. What he says is rooted in his trust in the good and faithful God his father taught him to serve.
(2) What If God Asked You What You Wanted? What would your answer be? Money? Worldly Success? Celebrity Status? That new truck? Our first response might not be our best. Solomon had enough love for the Lord to know what he needed. He needed to receive wisdom from the highest source. “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?” He wasn’t perfect before God, but humble before God to ask for something valuable, not temporal. We need this humble sense of our weakness and need. And we need to take those weaknesses and needs to the Lord in sincere prayer. While we are not assigned the leadership of a nation, the navigation of our personal lives requires wisdom and discretion. We learn from others, from experience and by reading God’s Word. But all such efforts ought to be accompanied by prayer to the Father through Jesus, that we might be wise. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him,” (Jas. 1:5). I don’t know of anyone among my acquaintances who has mastered wisdom, who doesn’t need more, or who doesn’t need to offer up this prayer. Ask God for wisdom now; don’t wait! (Read the first three chapters of 1 Kings! Perhaps you will conclude Solomon should have offered up this prayer earlier.)
(3) Always Acknowledge Past Blessings Received In Your Family. In Solomon’s prayer, he acknowledged past blessings received: “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,” (v.6). It is always commendable and necessary to remember what God has done for your family, that brought you to where you are now in life. How soon we may forget how God has providentially nurtured us and blessed us through our families. Do not let such memories and gratefulness slip from your mind. Tell God how you appreciate it.
(4) Always Confess Your Ignorance (v.7). The new king said, “I do not know how to go out or come in.” It was like someone today saying, “I don’t know if I’m going or coming.” Such humble confessions of ignorance ought to be stated to God, when we ask for His help. We ought to be willing to say to the Father: “I don’t know what to do, but I know You do. Help me learn and grow and do right.” We do not boast of our ignorance, but we must confess it. Implied in such confessions, our need for God’s help and our responsibility to listen to His Word with obedient intent.
(5) The Value Of Discernment. “…that I may discern between good and evil,” (v.9). No matter where you are in history, geography, culture, or position – you need this skill: Discernment. It is the capacity to see issues, recognize temptations, and know what is right and wrong, based on divine truth. Fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, single people – all need this skill. Children need to learn it; preachers need to preach it; teachers need to illustrate it; sinners need to embrace it and Christians need to use it from now on. Discerning between right and wrong is a critical life skill. Pray God to help you acquire it, and accompany all such praying with your diligent study of His Word, His Standard!
(6) Governing Others Requires Discernment. “…for who is able to govern this your great people?” (v.9). Our influence on others is directly related to our capacity to see what is right and wrong. While we are not charged to lead a nation, we are charged to let our lights shine and exert a good influence on others. That serious charge cannot be well done if we are unclear about right and wrong.
An unknown civil war soldier wrote this eloquent testimony:
I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy; I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men; I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life; I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I had asked for, but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered; I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
So the Bible says that It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 20.8; August 2013