Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands to heaven. He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David.
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive. (New Revised Standard Version)
I grew up in rural Iowa, a place with lots of gravel roads. In the seasons of Spring and Fall, the thawing and re-freezing lead to some impressive ruts in those roads. It’s difficult to avoid them since they nearly dominate the driving space.
With our prayers, there are seasons of life where we can slip into ruts – times where focused wrestling in prayer is set aside by just going along with the rut of prayer with the same lifeless words and phrases. There are Christians who pray wonderful prayers… over and over again with almost no thought to it, continually saying the same things anytime they pray.
In today’s Old Testament lesson, we have a prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the Lord’s temple. The two aspects of this prayer that jump out to me are:
- Solomon reminded God of divine promises to the covenant people.
- Solomon reminded God of who God is.
Solomon, as the wisest person to ever live, did not believe that somehow God forgot about promises made or had some sort of divine dementia about theology proper. Instead, Solomon prayed with the kind of prayer that God delights to hear.
God enjoys hearing us pray. The Lord likes it when we pray according to the promises given us. God adores when we pray with a focused understanding of whom we are praying to.
So, then, in our prayers, it is good to emulate the example of King Solomon. Know the promises of God contained in Holy Scripture and pray they will be confirmed in our lives, families, churches, and world.
Also, pray with the intention of declaring God’s inherent nature, attributes, and character. Acknowledge the basic trait of God’s steadfast love. Believers serve a big God whose hugeness is continually above all things, and whose work is always continuing according to divine decrees and words.
One way of moving our prayers out of the ruts of familiar language and thoughts is to journal them. Writing our prayers can become for us an act of worship as we slow down enough to craft a response to God that is thoughtful and connects us with him beyond the rote and routine.
In its simplest definition prayer is a conversation between the one who is praying and the one to whom those prayers is directed. So, whenever we craft a written or spoken prayer, it’s good to get out of a rut by:
- Using language and words that are meaningful to you.
- Making your intentions clear by stating exactly what you need or want.
- Taking your time and not rushing.
- Lighting candles, burning incense, or creating a special sacred space for prayer.
Thank you Lord God for the opportunity of prayer and worship. Thank you that I can put aside uncertainties of this world and rest and rely upon the certainties of your good promises. Thank you that we can bring to your feet all the hurts and fears that trouble us and leave them there knowing that your strength and assurance are all that we require. May all your people find peace, healing, wholeness, and joy in your presence, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit exist as one God, now and forever. Amen.