So what do I pray for? What should I pray for? What are the right things to pray for? Some thirty centuries ago a young man called Solomon was facing that kind of choice. He sat facing a whole range of possibilities; Incredible wealth. Power beyond what most of us can even dream of. Recognition, respect, adulation: he could have had it all. He was heir to the family fortune, named by his father as his successor, backed by some of the finest families of the nation, pushed by an ambitious mother.
But there were also some problems, some serious problems coming his way. For all the glamour, all the good looks, all the right connections and the powerful families, there were serious issues confronting Solomon. There was, for example, a half-brother drumming up rebellion against him. There were old wounds left unhealed from his father’s days, for David had not finished all the battles. More than that, there were the defiant, the disobedient, the disenchanted. How was Solomon going to reign and reign effectively with all this going on?
Everything he would want, right there for the taking, but at the same time, serious problems of management, of loyalty, of governing. What to pray for? What do you ask for at a time like that? What do you say to the Lord? Is it, “what about a brand new chariot” or is it something like, “Destroy my all enemies?” Or is it something else? Most of us know the story. Solomon opted for something else. Not riches and fame; not the crushing of the opposition. But something else — wisdom. Solomon prayed first for wisdom, for understanding and for discernment. “Give thy servant an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil.”
Wisdom, the gift of knowing what to do with your knowledge, your resources, your energies. Not more resources, not more energy or more time, but the wisdom to use what you have already.
What do we need to pray for? Maybe, pray for wisdom.
Now one of the issues in praying for wisdom is that we like Solomon wait so late to do it. We wait until we have tried everything else and then, in desperation, we ask for the Lord’s gift of wisdom.
Consider what had happened already and what King Solomon had done about it. Read the first two chapters of I Kings, though they are not an easy read! You will see how like Solomon most of us are; we will try everything to manage our own problems, even desperate measures, before we get down around to asking God for wisdom and guidance. The young king does everything humanly possible to do to secure his kingdom, but then finally he turns to the prayer for wisdom.
Listen to Solomon’s cry of desperation, “I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.” Lord, I’ve tried all I know to do, and the people still aren’t behind me, it is still not coming together; all my hard work and all my political manoeuvring and all my struggling: it’s not working. I really need your wisdom. But how true to human nature it is. How much I would rather pretend to be in charge, how much I would prefer to bulldoze ahead in my own way. We need to take notice of Solomon’s dilemma and start praying for wisdom and importantly recognising that praying for the right things need not necessarily come after we have got things into a mess!
An unknown, unnamed soldier during the terrible days of the American Civil war left behind his own prayer which went as follows:
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.