By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
If God appeared to you in a dream and told you to ask for whatever you want him to give you, what would you choose? In the Bible, King Solomon encountered that awesome opportunity. He could have asked God for blessings like wealth and good health, to make his earthly life easier. But Solomon chose to pray for wisdom – which has eternal value – instead. God was pleased with Solomon’s prayer for wisdom, the Bible records. Here are 3 lessons from Solomon’s prayer for wisdom, and how to pray for wisdom in our own lives.
What Is Solomon's Prayer for Wisdom?
The Bible describes Solomon’s prayer for wisdom in 1 Kings 3:1-15. This passage tells us that Solomon “showed his love for the Lord” by living faithfully and worshiping (verse 3). One night, God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (verse 5). Solomon responds by describing how God has helped his father David and how much he needs God’s help now that he is succeeding his father as king. Then, in verse 9, Solomon asks God for wisdom: “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
God responds by granting Solomon’s request, and going above and beyond that, as well: “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honor – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.’”
In 1 Kings 4:29-30, the Bible tells us more about how God answered Solomon’s prayer for wisdom: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people…”.
3 Lessons from Solomon's Prayer for Wisdom
Here are 3 key lessons from Solomon’s prayer for wisdom that can give us spiritual wisdom, as well:
1. The importance of wisdom goes beyond just knowledge. Rather than information alone, Solomon asks for a discerning heart – wisdom – so he can distinguish between right and wrong. Achieving knowledge involves collecting facts. While that’s an important part of learning, it’s just the beginning of the learning process. The next, and even more important, step is applying knowledge to decisions day by day. That’s where wisdom comes in. Someone who is wise has more than just knowledge of information. A wise person has the discernment necessary for making the best decisions based on what they know. Ephesians 1:17 encourages asking God to “… give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” James 1:5 promises that God will generously give wisdom to those who ask: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Just like Solomon, we can ask God for wisdom and count on receiving it. Then we can perceive God’s guidance and make wise decisions based on that discernment.
2. Wisdom is more valuable than other pursuits. Solomon could have asked God for many other types of blessings, including wealth and good health. However, Solomon chose to ask for wisdom. Pursuing wisdom involves responding to God’s guidance by developing a strong and holy character. In order to do so, we must be disciplined, paying careful attention to the choices we make day by day. We must evaluate our decisions in light of whether they will lead us closer to God or farther away from him. We must carefully consider what we’re allowing into our minds. Are we dwelling on thoughts that are worth focusing on? Philippians 4:8 urges us: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” While we’re pursuing wisdom, we also should seek God’s guidance for how we’re using the resources he has given us, such as our time, energy, talents, and money. 1 Corinthians 10:23 encourages us to use our freedom wisely: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive.” God is pleased with Solomon’s choice to pursue wisdom over other pursuits. We can make that same choice ourselves.
3. Wonder motivates us to pursue wisdom. Solomon noticed and appreciated the wonder of God’s work in his life. In verse 6, Solomon thanks God for the “great kindness” that served as an awe-inspiring reminder of God’s love at work – in both David’s and Solomon’s lives: “… You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.” Being in awe of God’s wonder is the beginning of wisdom, the Bible tells us in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The “fear of the Lord” means being in awe of God and having reverence for him as a result. Pursuing God’s wonder is a powerful way of pursuing God’s wisdom, because of the strong connections between wonder and learning. My book Wake Up to Wonder describes research that shows how wonder drives meaningful learning. Encountering God’s wonder, and experiencing awe as a result, alerts us to the gaps in our existing wisdom and motivates us to learn more, research reveals. When we pay attention to our craving for wonder and seek it through relationships with God, we gain the motivation we need to pursue wisdom. By looking for awe-inspiring signs of God at work in our lives, we become excited to learn, which fuels a quest for wisdom. It’s easy for us to feel curious about learning something, but then not actually act on that curiosity. Pursuing wonder is what opens our minds and hearts to take the action required to grow in wisdom. When we’re looking for the wonder of how God is working in our lives, we naturally want to understand more of God’s wisdom.
How to Pray Solomon's Prayer for Wisdom over Our Own Lives
Here’s a prayer that is inspired by Solomon’s prayer. Feel free to personalize it anytime you need a fresh dose of God’s wisdom:
“Dear God, thank you for showing great kindness to me and my loved ones. I’m in awe of the wondrous ways you’re at work in our lives. As I walk with you in a relationship, I want to learn more from you and serve you well, day by day. I want more than just knowing information; I want to make the best decisions based on what I know. Please give me the discernment I need to grow in wisdom every day. As I seek your guidance, please help me to make wise decisions. May I lead others with the wisdom you give me, God. I want wisdom because you want that for me. Thank you for helping me focus on what has eternal value, and for generously blessing me with wisdom. I love you, God. Amen.”
Solomon’s prayer for wisdom shows us that God values wisdom and wants us to pursue it over earthly concerns that aren’t as important. We can develop wisdom by asking God to give us discernment. Through our relationships with God, we can focus on what has eternal value – wisdom – so we can live the best lives possible!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Orla
Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter.