READ: 1 Kings 8:22-30
(22-25) Before the entire congregation of Israel, Solomon took a position before the Altar, spread his hands out before heaven, and prayed,
O God, God of Israel, there is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who unswervingly keeps covenant with his servants and relentlessly loves them as they sincerely live in obedience to your way. You kept your word to David my father, your personal word. You did exactly what you promised–every detail. The proof is before us today!
Keep it up, God, O God of Israel! Continue to keep the promises you made to David my father when you said, “You’ll always have a descendant to represent my rule on Israel’s throne, on the condition that your sons are as careful to live obediently in my presence as you have.”
(26) O God of Israel, let all this happen; confirm and establish it!
(27-30) Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built. Even so, I’m bold to ask: Pay attention to these my prayers, both intercessory and personal, O God, my God. Listen to my prayers, energetic and devout, that I’m setting before you right now. Keep your eyes open to this Temple night and day, this place of which you said, “My name will be honored there,” and listen to the prayers that I pray at this place.
THINK: What’s your immediate reaction to Solomon’s candid prayer to God? Think about the statements Solomon makes and the things he asks God to do. Are they things you could let yourself ask of God? Or do they indicate a belief in qualities of God that you have not encountered or experienced? Which qualities?
I’m a sucker for adverbs; so, immediately, I latched on to the words unswervingly and relentlessly and sincerely. God unswervingly keeps covenant with those who sincerely obey him and he loves them relentlessly. When I read that, I wonder: “Really? What does that look like?” This time a year ago, I would’ve asked the same questions but they would’ve been asked rhetorically and sarcastically (see, 2 more adverbs). Now…I just want to see. We did sincerely obey God in our current situation. If the word of God says that God keeps unswervingly to the covenant He made and that He relentlessly loves those who are sincerely obedient, then why are we in this position? What covenant is He keeping when He lets injustice prevail? Of course, I realize that this is where the relentless love part comes into play. Because God loves us so relentlessly, He will not give up on us until we are perfected until the day of Christ Jesus. Everything is working toward that end, to include this situation we are in. I also know that the covenant He made, that He is keeping unswervingly, is the one that says that we will get to be with Him in paradise so long as we are sincerely obedient to His Way. Other than that, we are also guaranteed to suffer as Christ suffered because the world will hate us as it hated (and still hates) Him. And, he’s doing a pretty good job of keeping His end of the bargain on that one too.
Finally, the only other promise I know that God has made us, regarding our current situation He made to my mother and that had to do with taking care of me during this ordeal. Well…we’ve been cared for. Immensely! Even if it hasn’t looked like I wanted it to or prayed it would.
PRAY: Read Solomon’s prayer again, this time listening for what stands out to you as representing the lack of belief you noticed in yourself when you read the passage the first time. Explore your reaction more deeply, paying attention to what it tells you about yourself. Maybe you feel that you can bring to God only desires that are completely selfless, or perhaps you don’t trust that he “relentlessly loves” you. Share with God what you uncover.
Dear Heavenly Father, in a day and age when so much love we receive is conditional, it is often hard to believe that there is anyone out there who would love us just because. It is even harder to believe that someone would give their lives in return for what could be nothing. Your love is easy to doubt because we just don’t see it these days. Fathers leave. Marriages break apart. Nothing is permanent anymore. I know this is not the way you designed the world to be, but that’s how it is and it makes coming to you, in faith, very difficult. It’s much easier to believe a person we can see loves us because they are there to demonstrate it visibly and tangibly. So much of your love for us seems to be based on faith and sometimes we just want “proof” – and no, because we woke up today is often not proof enough. Because the sun rose in the east and set in the west, and there’s no real reason why is not proof enough. I realize that means that there are many things we take for granted, Lord. So many things. And yet…here we are. And unless Jesus returns in the middle of the night, I imagine that today is going to go pretty much like every other day in my life, with or without the bumps and bruises. With all this, it’s hard to feel like, or believe, that you would answer a prayer that is not completely selfless because we know that we have done nothing to deserve you answering any of our prayers. It’s much easier to have faith in your answering a prayer that is selfless than it is to believe you will answer a prayer that only seems to benefit ourselves because you don’t want your children to be self-seeking. So, Lord, my prayer, tonight, is that you would help us with our insecurities that drive us to feel like we have to justify everything we ask for that is just for ourselves. We will have what you give us, but, as a Father, as a Good Parent, you want your children to also ask for the things they want, as well as for the things they need. Help us to step out in faith and pray for those things, trusting that you will hear us and that you want to hear those prayers. Help us to ask and keep asking; to seek and keep seeking; and to knock and keep knocking. Lastly, Lord, please, pay attention to our prayers.
In Your Son’s Precious and Holy Name, I pray…Amen.
LIVE: Ignatius of Loyola once said, “Everything that one turns in the direction of God is prayer.” No matter what has arisen in you during this time – irritation, fear, desire, disinterest, lack of trust in God – it can all be prayer when shared with him; it’s all part of your conversation with God. Notice how Solomon lets his anxiety and insecurity spill into his prayer to God, and allow yourself to do the same.