A couple in their sixties is walking along the beach when they spy an object hidden in the sand. They uncover it, knock the sand off, and identify it as an old, old lamp. Before they know it—POOF! —a genie appears to grant them three wishes.
They would like to travel the world they tell him and POOF!—the tickets are in their hands. They’ll need some money and POOF!—the cash is in their hands. They can’t really decide what to ask for with their last request and then the husband says, “I’d like my wife to be thirty years younger than me,” and POOF!—he’s turned into a ninety-year-old!
Of course, genies don’t really exist even though Christians sometimes treat God like one when it comes to prayer. The real lesson to learn from this story though is that we really need to think about what we ask of God.
Solomon has taken the throne of Israel. He has gone to Gibeon and offered up sacrifices to the Lord when God appears to him in a dream and tells him, “Ask whatever you want Me to give you,” (1 Kings 3:5). This is as close to a genie request as we’ll find in the Scripture. In light of that, it’s instructive to notice how Solomon responds to this.
He begins by expressing his appreciation to God for all that He has done for his father, David, and for him (v. 6). Gratitude is always appropriate. Then, he acknowledges the magnitude of the responsibility of being ruler over Israel and what a great personal challenge this represents in terms of his current skill set. (Humility never hurts either). With this is mind, he asks God for “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong,” (v. 9).
It’s a great request and God is pleased with it (v. 10)! He praises Solomon because he did not ask for self-directed things (wealth, long life, the death of his enemies), but for something that would enable him to serve others. Remembering that God prepared David for the kingship by having him serve in Saul’s court and his son now asks for something related to helping others, we see the linkage between kingship and service reaffirmed. Those who sit on the throne are to understand that power is used for service not status.
And it all started with prayer. It not only makes a difference that we pray but what we choose to pray about. How proud is God of our prayers? Do we think about what we ask Him for or do we just ask without thinking? Here are some “wise” prayer areas the Scripture directs us toward:
- the knowledge of His will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives (Colossians 1:9-10),
- that we will be wise in the way we act toward those who don’t know the Lord (Colossians 4:5-6),
- wisdom in handling trials we or others face (James 1:5ff).
Let’s pray wisely!