Lessons from Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom
Just ponder over these words from the 17th century hymn by Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady, a paraphrase of Psalm 34: “Fear him, make you His service yours, He will make your wants His care.”1 God-centred rather than human-need-oriented prayers are a pleasing aroma to God. And the prayer of Solomon (1 Kings 3:5-10) is one of those humble God-centred prayers in the Old Testament. The principles that could be learned from this prayer transcend time.
God speaks to Solomon in the context of his obedience and personal allegiance to Yahweh alone. His burnt offerings at Gibeon are evidence of his commitment to the One True God. Constable notes, “Burnt offerings symbolised the dedication of the worshipper’s person to God.”2 God’s revelation to him was a test for Solomon: would he request something for his own glory or for God’s glory? Let me draw four principles from Solomon’s prayer.
Rejoice in God’s promises when you approach Him in Prayer
God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” King Solomon would have been overwhelmed when he heard these words from the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. The God who made everything through His Word, stoops down to a king of a territory and offers the opportunity to ask for anything. Remember that we can rejoice in the truth that our Lord announces the same promise for those who trust in Him (Matt 7:7; John 15:7; 1 John 5:4). But wait! The God who knows our motives even before we ask tests whether we ask to please Him or to gratify our selfish desires. He weighs our intentions. Do we pray that His Kingdom come or that our petty little kingdoms grow?
Remember God’s faithfulness when you approach Him in Prayer
Solomon remembers God’s faithfulness to his father and to him and praises God. Look at the emphasis on God’s steadfast love in his prayer. He says, “You have shown great and steadfast love…you have kept for him…you have made your servant king.” The king is filled with gratitude for the Lord for His ‘hesed’. The covenant relationship of God with His people binds himself to act toward them with faithfulness (hesed), and He is utterly faithful to his own self-commitment.3 This covenant faithfulness of God was revealed ultimately through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. When we approach the throne of grace in prayer, we remember Christ’s faithfulness that was credited to us.
Revere God and humble yourself when you approach Him in Prayer
Solomon humbles himself before the Lord and says that he is but a na-’ar. The Hebrew word literally means a child. It could also mean a servant. In comparison to Yahweh, who is the Sovereign King of the universe, Solomon sees himself as a servant. The source of His kingship is Yahweh. Solomon’s authority is a derived authority to rule Yahweh’s people. He pleads as one that had a humble sense of his own deficiency.4 When we realise the unfathomable majesty of God, we can only humbly surrender before this Lord. Genuine humility is what makes our communion with God in prayer a pleasant experience.
Make Requests that please the Lord when you approach Him in Prayer
Solomon does not ask for materialistic riches but a discerning heart (literally a hearing heart), tuned to the voice of God so he could lead Israel as God would want the nation to be led. This request pleased the Lord because Solomon wanted to listen to God’s voice to lead God’s people for God’s glory. How many times do we miss this truth when we pray for temporary, materialistic, self-centred goals? Look how our Lord Jesus prayed for His people (John 17). Apostle Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians (Eph 1:18), the Philippians (Phil 1:9-10) and the Colossians (Col 1:10) are filled with requests for the knowledge and insight of God’s people. “This helps them discern what is best, that is, the faculty for making proper assessments about what is absolutely essential regarding life in Christ.”5
1. Through all the changing scenes — Hymnology Archive
2. Thomas Constable, Dr Constable’s notes on 1 Kings, 31. Microsoft Word – 1 Kings Notes 22.docx (planobiblechapel.org)
3. Barry Cooper, Hesed, Hesed | Ligonier Ministries
4. Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Ed. Leslie Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 1960, 367.
5.  Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans), 1995, 101.