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Lot’s of history here. King David takes over. He sees Bathsheba which leads to him sending her husband to die. He marries Bathsheba, and they have a son named Solomon. Solomon inherits the kingdom from his father, King David. Solomon is known for his wisdom, and most people know the story about him offering to cut the baby in half. However, for this week, I want to learn from the prayers of Solomon.
Within these chapters, we find two prayers given by Solomon; one is a vision and one is a dedicatory prayer for the temple. We know that Solomon is wise, and there are a great many things we can learn from him and his prayers. Let’s talk about just a couple.
Before I go on, I think it’s important to reiterate the purpose of prayer so that we can fully appreciate Solomon’s pleadings with the Lord. Prayer is not really about thanking the Lord for our blessings and then receiving blessings we need or want; those are secondary purposes that lead to an end. Prayer is actually supposed to be about communicating with the Lord and aligning our will with His. Thanking the Lord often reminds us of His power and wisdom and prepares our hearts to accept His wishes for us. Asking the Lord for what we need gives an opportunity to show forth both faith and humility. All of these ingredients can work to help us accept His will.
A vision of the Lord
Early on in his reign, Solomon receives a dream from the Lord. In this dream, the Lord appears to him.
1 Kings 3:5 In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
Now this is not a traditional prayer. Solomon wasn’t kneeling and beginning with “Dear Heavenly Father.” However, despite its lack of traditional sayings, I feel like this vision was much closer to what prayer is meant to be – a two-way communication that helps us adopt the Lord’s will. Solomon was literally having a conversation with Christ.
I don’t know what Solomon said in his prayer over breakfast that morning or what he asked for when he was getting ready for bed that night. However, if I had been in Solomon’s shoes, I imagine my prayers would have been relatively unextraordinary because that’s how my prayers are in my life at this point in time (or at least most of the time, sometimes I do a pretty good job). Maybe I would have vaguely prayed for my people and their problems. I might have been filled with fear at the prospect of trying to help them solve their problems. When the dream of the Savior came along later that night, I imagine that my conversation would have shifted significantly. It probably would have reflected something closer to Solomon’s prayer.
I do not often have visions of the Savior…but! I do believe that His telepathy has an impressive range so despite the fact that He’s not in front of me, I believe that He listens and hears me. Somehow. Though a grand majority of my prayers are pretty “meh”, my good ones do change me. What’s more? My good prayers change me in the same ways that I imagine I would change if I were literally standing in front of Him. Rather than focusing on my fears and insecurities, I would probably be feeling His power and ability. I’m sure I would feel an immense amount of love, and you can’t help but change when you realize the power you have behind you because of the Savior. I imagine that many of my fears would have slipped away, and I would have been able to think more clearly about what I truly needed in my life. Maybe that would have meant praying for a spiritual gift like Solomon. Maybe I would have prayed for something different; I’m not sure on specifics. However, what I do know is that imagining Christ in front of me would have enabled me to pray for the things that Heavenly Father wanted me to pray for.
Now let’s go back to the purpose of prayer one more time. It’s about changing our will to be like His. I imagine that a lot of Heavenly Father’s thoughts and purposes are placed on the most eternal things. That doesn’t mean He begrudges us asking for help in the small things. In Alma 33, we learn that we can pray about everything in our lives; He wants us to pray about everything. However, praying is not about asking for every little thing. I imagine it looks less like “asking” and more like counseling with the Lord. We speak with Him about how we want to proceed, what would be helpful, etc. He guides us as a loving parent would. If we are praying as though we are truly speaking with Him face to face, I imagine that those day-to-day things shift. They’re placed into their proper place amongst priorities, or we receive some inkling that the Lord is aware and will provide. We are quieted and can become content with His will for our lives. We feel a desire to have His will and advice take precedence.
We probably do not often stand in front of the Lord when we pray as Solomon did in his dream, but we can pray as though we are in that situation because we might as well be. He listens and hears us, and He’s extremely willing to speak to us even if it looks different than how He spoke to Solomon. As we practice speaking and hearing and as we come to know Him better, our conversations will start to reflect Solomon’s dream-prayer. How and what we pray for will change because we will change.
Praying for what’s possible
There is another element that occurs when we pray in the way that Heavenly Father intended us to. The second prayer given by Solomon in these chapters includes the following verse.
1 Kings 8:33-34
33 When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house:
34 Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers.
When we are praying to align our will with God’s, we will find ourselves asking for things that the Lord is willing to grant. For example, if this had been a fairly typical prayer, we might have found Solomon asking the Lord to protect the Israelites from their enemies. However, if we look deeper, we know that the Lord protects His people when they listen to Him. Solomon prayed and asked the Lord to forgive His people when they return to the Lord. This is something that the Lord can actually grant.
Now you may find yourself asking, then why pray for forgiveness? The Lord has already promised a million times to forgive us as we draw closer to Him. It kinda seems silly to pray that the Lord will bring about His own will. “Hey Heavenly Father! Remember how you said you would forgive us if we repent? Well…yeah, please do that.” It may seem redundant. But. It only seems redundant when we’re looking at prayer wrong. Prayer isn’t about changing His will or bringing about new blessings; prayer is about changing us. It’s a repentance tool, a tool that changes our heart to reflect Heavenly Father’s.
In The Book of Mormon, Enos finds himself praying for the Lamanites. He prays that they will find the gospel if the Nephites are ever destroyed. The Lord essentially answers with, “Yeah your fathers asked for that too. I will be doing that.” But something inside me whispers that Enos was inspired to pray about this. How would Enos have known about the future genocide of his people? There was no reason why he should know that would occur, but he prayed for the Lamanites to find the gospel if the Nephites were wiped out. The Lord inspired Enos to pray for the same things that others have already prayed for…so what’s the point? The point was to teach Enos. There are so many things Enos could learn when praying for his enemies.
Modern example. I find myself busy a lot, and I also find myself forgetting that my family is the most important thing to focus on in this life. One day, I found myself praying that my children would feel how much I loved them even though I was always off trying to get stuff done. Then I kinda laughed at myself because I felt like Heavenly Father was laughing at my ridiculous request. “Please help me do what I want but let my kids magically believe they’re my priority.” The Lord wasn’t going to grant that, and so I found myself praying that I would remember my priorities and choose how I spent my time according to those priorities. I prayed for something the Lord was willing to grant, and I changed. I repented. I was reminded to focus on the most important things.
It is so easy to forget that prayer has nothing to do with thanking and asking for blessings, or in the very least, it has very little to do with that. Prayer is a tool for repentance; it’s a tool for us to change. We speak with Him as if He were standing before us, and the Holy Ghost teaches us as we speak.
I’m grateful for prayer. I’m grateful for how it’s changed me and for how close I feel to heaven when I use it correctly. I’m grateful that He forgives me and sticks by me even though 98% of my prayers don’t reflect what I know about prayer. I’m grateful that because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, I can change through prayer.