One of the things I most enjoyed about reading through the Chronicles during my quiet time was studying the prayers of Israel and Judah’s great kings (e.g., David, Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, etc.). But the prayer that convicted me the most was that of Solomon, renowned as the wisest man ever to walk on the earth. His prayer is one of desperation, of humility, and of repentance—the three qualities of a prayer that God is sure to heed and answer. Over the next two weeks, then, in the form of a four-part composition, I will discuss the prayer passage-by-passage. The entire selection is found in Second Chronicles 6:12-42; today I’ll write about verses 12-21. But first, the background.
(Note: All Scriptural quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, NASB.)
The Context of the Prayer
After Solomon asked God for wisdom (Second Chronicles 1:8-10), God promised him great wealth.
“And God said to Solomon, ‘Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth, or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge, that you may rule My people, over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed, nor those who will come after you.'” ~Second Chronicles 1:11-12
Once in possession of his riches, “Solomon decided to build a house for the name of the LORD” (2:1), what we know today as Solomon’s temple.
“And the house which I am about to build will be great; for greater is our God than all the gods.” ~Second Chronicles 2:5
In the daunting process of building the greatest temple for the greatest (and only) God, Solomon enlisted thousands of men both inside and outside of Israel. For seven years, the king of Israel labored (First Kings 6:38), decorating the Lord’s holy place with gold, precious stones, fine linen, pomegranate chains, bronze, and everything else that would point to God’s beautiful holiness (Second Chronicles 3-5). After the completion of the temple, Solomon and the other leaders of Israel brought the ark inside the house of God, after which event “the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” (Second Chronicles 5:14) Solomon was then called upon to dedicate the temple in a prayer, facing “all the assembly of Israel” (6:3).
Summary of Passage
To begin his prayer, Solomon praises God for “keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Thy servants who walk before Thee with all their heart” (6:14), citing God’s fulfilled promise to David as proof of His goodness. After asking God to once again confirm His word to Solomon’s father (6:17), the new king humbles himself before the Lord, acknowledging that nothing can contain Him and asking God to look upon Israel, hear his prayer, and forgive them in spite of their flesh.
Application of Passage
Second Chronicles 6:12-21 serves as an introduction to Solomon’s prayer. Here we read of Solomon’s posture in prayer, his worship of God’s goodness, and his plea for God to listen, almost all of which should play a crucial role in the Christian’s prayer life.
Posture in Prayer:
“…he stood [on the bronze platform], knelt on his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven.” ~Second Chronicles 6:13b
I suppose I’ve never deemed posture as something crucial to the Christian walk, yet when I think of what posture can suggest, I believe the topic can bring up some key points to consider. For instance, when we are literally rushing all day, chasing vain and frivolous things without giving our actions a second thought, we tend to pray only when when something does not happen the way we believe it should. When we are too busy, our prayer is often a quick wish-me-luck and bless-so-and-so kind of utterance. But when we take the time to kneel in full sight of the way we’re supposed to live—that is, in front of the altar—and raise our hands up to God in broken desperation and genuine humility, prayer becomes a powerful thing. Although we need not physically kneel every time we pray, sometimes posture can be a significant help in keeping our minds clear and focused as we commune with the Father.
Praise in Prayer:
“And he said, ‘O LORD, the God of Israel, there is no god like Thee in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Thy servants who walk before Thee with all their heart[.]” ~Second Chronicles 6:14
Praising God in our prayers, whether for His attributes or for His intervening in a particular circumstance, is the best way to realize just how poor, unworthy, and desperate we are in comparison to His holiness. This is no different in Solomon’s prayer. He starts by praising God for His attributes (“there is no god like Thee”; “keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness”), then shifts over and thanks Him for manifesting those attributes in a particular situation (“who has kept with Your servant David, my father, that which You have promised him”—6:15). As he dwells upon the greatness of God, Solomon soon realizes his own greatly inferior position to Him (“But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built” —6:18). Thus, Solomon’s journey from praise to humility serves as a wonderful reminder to us—that when we sense we are becoming too wicked in our hearts, we must focus on His glory to do away with the sin.
Pleas in Prayer:
“Yet have regard to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Thy servant prays before Thee[.]” ~Second Chronicles 6:19
So Solomon’s posture helped lead him to his praise, which in turn leads his heart to be thawed with the sweet refining flames of humility. And because of that humble state of mind, Solomon is aware that there is nothing he can do to make God obliged to hear him. What is the creature in front of the Creator? No, Solomon knows he is undeserving; that cannot be the reason he pleads. He pleads out of desperation, out of the emptiness he feels without a watching, listening, and forgiving God. In fact, that is exactly what he asks for—
“that Your eye may be open toward this house day and night, toward the place of which You have said that You would put Your name there, to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place.” ~Second Chronicles 6:20
With a truly desperate heart and a mind focused on what matters, Solomon is now ready to present his true requests to the throne room.
January 9, 2018