“Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
1 Kings 3:7-9
This is Solomon’s famous request that God give him wisdom. There are three things in this request that bear note for me today.
First, Solomon recognizes his limitations. He says that he is but a little child. The idea, I think, being that he is inadequate for the work set before him. But more, I think this is a recognition of his dependence, because a child is dependent on his parents to provide food, shelter, nurturing, moral guidance, and so on. An adult has passed out of the stage of dependence has become self-reliant. While there are children who become, by necessity, self-reliant, that is not the natural order of things. Solomon’s father, David, only recently ceded the throne to his son, so it is possible that Solomon feels, at this point, as if he is still riding on his father’s coattails.
Second, Solomon recognizes the magnitude of the task. He recognizes that these are God’s people who are a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. Just prior to this event, the book of Kings described Solomon consolidating his power base by executing potential enemies of the throne and his rule. He is likely a young man and has already had to mete out death to people who would otherwise have been dangerous to the kingdom. While the executions were just, that is unlikely to ease Solomon’s heart on the matter and he might be wondering whether or not he is going to be required to keep killing off potential threats inside the kingdom while defending against enemies outside. The task is behemoth and Solomon sees it as such.
Third, Solomon asks for what is needed. He could, as God notes in the verses that follow these, have asked for the lives of his enemies or a long life for himself or wealth or power or notoriety or any of dozens of possible things that a king might conceivably want or need. Instead, Solomon asks for an understanding heart to judge [God’s] people to discern between good and evil. Solomon’s need is understanding of what is right and wrong not just for himself but for the entire kingdom. He is not making decisions that only impact a single life or a single family, but the entire nation. In this, he sees the need for understanding and discernment. He can see difficult and nebulous decisions floating off in his future, so he asks to be able to see through the fog and to make the right call.
This, I think, gives me a model for how I should be praying in various situations. James tells me that I have not because I do not ask or because I ask with the wrong motives. Solomon was asking for wisdom so he could be the king that God wanted him to be and reign over God’s people in God’s way. That is the perfect motivation. Once I have my motivation squared away (a more difficult task than this sentence makes it seem), I need to assess the situation rightly. I need to realize my inadequacy to the task and my reliance on God. I need to rightly understand the task before me and to evaluate what is needed to accomplish this task in God’s way. Then I need to ask God for what is lacking in me that is needed to get God’s work done in God’s way. Yesterday, the task was keeping my head while every circumstance was conspiring to make me lose it. Circumstances won out because I did not take the necessary step back, evaluate the situation, and ask God for the peace that was needed in the midst of things. I allowed myself to be caught up in the madness of other people ratcheting up the urgency of a thing until I was also angry. And the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. I need to see my inadequacy and dependence on God, recognize the task for what it is, and come to God for the resources I lack. Only then will I get God’s work done in God’s way.