1 Kings 3:5-14 Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today.
And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you.
I consider myself to be raised heathen. Church was something that happened occasionally when I visited my grandparents, and it involved waking up early, candles, funny clothes, singing, being trapped in a room full of kids I didn't know, graham crackers, and waiting. Waiting until we could leave and go have pancakes at grandma and grandad's house. So I have little foundation in the stories of the bible. They have not been the rich source of tradition that they have for others. I knew the hits: Moses and the plagues, Jesus and the empty tomb, Noah's ark, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, Jesus walking on water, Adam and Eve. Beyond that it was a weird jumble of riddles, murder ballads, lists of names, poems that didn't rhyme, and scolding.
This turns out to be both beneficial and detrimental as I have approached the Bible as an adult. I am free of preconceived interpretations and am able to bring all my critical faculties to bear when experiencing these words. But I am also free of the larger context that they live in, and have limited capacity for turning those critical faculties off. I think this is why I find myself drawn to the line "I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in," in Solomon's prayer. It is a reminder that my experience at MOTA has been one of initiation and surrender. The more time I spend with these stories the more deeply I feel my inexperience, the more I feel I must rely on an open-hearted surrender to the divine.
I am also impressed by the notion of Solomon humbling himself as he's about to assume the role of king. What a refreshing idea. What a contrast this is to the stereotype of a person in power in my head. Yet, if I bring this notion closer to home, I realize that we are all called to some position of power in one way or the other. Even if we're not the boss at work and don't have children we are responsible for, we still have to manage ourselves. We have to direct our course through all manner of decisions that have implications from the cellular level to the communal.
I take Solomon's prayer to be a reminder that our initiation is never complete, and that even when we are familiar with the terms we still have much to learn. I wonder how many in our community feel themselves to be on the outside looking in. Have you ever been put in a position of leadership and felt yourself humbled by the choices in front of you? Perhaps we can all recall Solomon and his ability to look at his new role as a child would.