Imagine if God came to you and asked you to ask him anything you want. Ask God whatever you want. What would you ask him? What would you want God to do for you? God has given you the blank check. Ask him whatever you want. This is what happens to Solomon in 1 Kings 3. Solomon has gone to Gibeon to offer sacrifices to the Lord. In fact, we are told that Solomon offered 1000 burnt offerings on that altar. Perhaps the reason that Gibeon is the greatest of the high places in Israel is because the tabernacle of the Lord was there (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:39; 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:3,13). One of times while Solomon is at Gibeon, the Lord appears to him and says, “Ask what I should give you” (1 Kings 3:5).
Solomon’s Request (3:6-9)
First, Solomon praises the Lord for his faithful and steadfast love. Solomon acknowledges how the Lord has kept his word and his promises. You have shown your faithfulness to David as David walked in faithfulness, righteousness, and uprightness of heart. You promised David that a son would sit on his throne and that is what you have done. Solomon recognizes that he is in the position he is in because God put him there. He understands that he is reigning over Israel because God has been faithful to his covenant with David.
Second, Solomon displays humility. In verse 7 Solomon calls himself the Lord’s servant who like a youth who does not know how to lead these people. Solomon recognizes that he has been given charge over a great people but he needs to know how to lead them. He does not declare how smart he is or how he is ready for the challenge. He declares his need for the Lord to help him with the task that has been given to him. This leads to Solomon’s request in verse 9.
Solomon asks for an understanding heart to govern the people, discerning between good and evil. They are a great people and I am your servant. Give me an understanding mind so that he can rule properly, distinguishing between right and wrong.
God’s Response (3:10-12)
Let the words of verse 10 sink in. “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.” Think about this for a minute. Your prayer request can be pleasing to God. Your prayer request can be something that the Lord delights in.
Why was the Lord pleased? Look at verse 11. The Lord was pleased because Solomon did not ask for himself a long life, riches, or the death of your enemies. The Lord was pleased because Solomon did not ask for things that were for his own good. Solomon did not ask for health. Solomon did not ask for stuff. Solomon did not ask for power. He did not ask for things that would better his own life. He asked for what we be good for God’s kingdom. He asked for what was needed to be the leader of God’s people. It would have been so easy to think about only what was for his own personal good or selfish gain. But that is not what he asks. He asks for discernment. He asks for wisdom so that he can fulfill the role God has placed him in.
Have we thought about prayer in this way? The Lord is pleased by prayers that extend beyond ourselves. Your best prayer is not that you would pray for yourself. Your best prayer is that you would pray for others. But let me explain that a little more because that is not even right to what we are seeing in the text. Your best prayer is that you could be used by God to be the answer to the needs of others. Do you see that this is what Solomon did? Solomon did not pray for himself. Solomon did not pray for others. Solomon prayed that he could be given what was needed so that he could be the answer the needs of others. Give me wisdom, not for myself, but for the good of the people I rule over. God, give me the ability to be the answer to someone else’s prayers. God, give me the opportunity to be the answer to the needs of someone else. This is what Solomon is praying and this is why the Lord was pleased.
The goal of our prayers should be that our prayer would be pleasing to God. I think this is the idea when the scriptures instruct us to “pray in the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20). We are praying for God’s will. We are praying to be pleasing to God. We are praying that we would be used by God to be the answer to the needs and prayers of others.
Think about how different this is to how we can typically pray. How easy is it for our prayers to be self-focused only? How often to do pray for things that Solomon refused to pray for? Solomon did not pray for health. He did not pray for wealth. He did not pray for power. What are we asking God for? What do we want God to do for us? James warned us about our prayer life. Listen to what he says.
1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1–3 CSB)
James tells us that prayer goes wrong because we ask with the wrong motives. We ask for ourselves. We do not ask for God’s glory. We do not ask to be pleasing to God. We ask because we want something for ourselves. James tells us to not do that. Is our prayer life blocked because we are asking with the wrong motives? Do we pray for ourselves or do we pray that we can be the answer to the needs and prayers of others?
Solomon’s Blessing (3:13-28)
In verse 13 we see that because Solomon did not ask selfishly, God grants Solomon more than wisdom. God answers his prayer and then gives him everything he did not ask for. Because Solomon was seeking to be the answer to the needs of God’s people, God blessed him far more than he could have ever imagined. God will give Solomon riches and honor and long life if he will walk in his ways. The rest of chapter 3 is the evidence of Solomon’s wisdom. Two prostitutes come to Solomon arguing over whose son is alive and whose son is dead. Solomon’s answer is to divide the child in half so that each could have a part. This causes the true mother to show herself and Solomon was able to administer justice. Listen to verse 28.
All Israel heard about the judgment the king had given, and they stood in awe of the king because they saw that God’s wisdom was in him to carry out justice. (1 Kings 3:28 CSB)
At the beginning of the lesson I asked what you would ask God if he came to you and said you could ask him anything. Here is the truth of the matter: God has done this for us. He has said that you can ask him anything. Listen to what Jesus said in his sermon.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7–11 ESV)
Jesus just told us to ask anything. What will you ask for? Listen to what James says we should do with the power of prayer before us.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5–8 ESV)
In short, pray like Solomon. Your best prayer is to pray like Solomon. Ask for wisdom. Ask to be a blessing to God’s people. Ask to be pleasing to God. Ask for ways to carry out God’s will. Do not ask for you. Ask for how you can be the answer for the needs of others. The result will be the same. Just as Solomon was granted for more than he asked for, Jesus told us the same thing.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:31–34 ESV)
Offer prayers that are pleasing to God. Jesus said that your heavenly Father knows what you need. So offer prayers beyond yourself. Offer your best prayer each day. Ask God make you a servant. Ask God to be an instrument in God’s hands. Ask God to make you a blessing to others. Ask God to let you be the answer to the needs and the prayers of others.