Today's First Reading comes from 1 Kings chapter 3. Solomon has recently become the king of Israel after the death of his father, David. He is still quite young, but he has already made his kingdom secure by outsmarting and eliminating his rivals. Solomon does not, however, feel completely secure within himself. He still doubts his abilities and his wisdom.
One night God appears to Solomon in a dream and tells the king to ask Him for something. Solomon can ask for anything he wants. God gives him no direction, no suggestions, not event a hint. The king can choose power, wealth, fame, honor, glory, material possessions, wives, success in war, a long life for himself, the lives of his enemies, anything.
What would you request if you were in Solomon's place?
Solomon probably takes a moment to weigh his options, but soon he answers God in a rather surprising way. First, he recognizes how he got to be king in the first place. God was responsible for that, Solomon knows. God is the One Who made sure that he followed his father to the throne.
Where has God placed you at this moment in your life? Why do you think He wants you here?
Second, the king expresses his self-doubt. I'm young, he tells God, and I don't always know how to act. Now here's some humility coming from this powerful king. He understands his weak points, and he realizes that he needs help.
Are you a humble person? Why or why not?
Third, Solomon articulates his position in relation to God. He is God's servant, placed in the midst of God's chosen people to lead in God's name and according to God's will. This is a gargantuan task, for as Solomon says, the people are so many that they cannot be counted. While Solomon is probably exaggerating a bit here, he is clearly overwhelmed by his role as God's representative.
How do you represent God in various areas of your life?
Considering all of these realizations, Solomon knows exactly what he needs to ask for from God. Give me, please, he says, an understanding heart. Based on the various meanings of the Hebrew word for “understanding,” this heart is a heart that listens carefully to everything around it, that comprehends the interior nature of events and people, that discerns right from wrong, that is obedient to God's law, and that witnesses to and proclaims what is right.
Do you have an understanding heart?
Why does Solomon want this understanding heart? He longs to be able to judge the people rightly and know right from wrong. He wants to know God's objective moral law and then apply that law to the moral choices he must make each and every day. What's more, as king, he must also evaluate other people's moral choices.
Do you know and accept God's objective moral law? How do you apply it in your daily life?
Solomon ends his prayer with a question: “For who is able to govern this vast people of Yours?” He is implying, of course, that while he has been called to do so, there is no way he can rule Israel on his own. The people are God's people. Solomon must be God's king and allow God to rule through him. Having an understanding heart, which is a gift directly from God, is one of the ways in which Solomon can accomplish his overwhelming task.
How is God working through you?
God is pleased with Solomon's request. In a way, Solomon has passed a test. He has asked for the right thing. Rejecting worldly treasures and power, he has zeroed in on exactly what God had been hoping he would choose. Because Solomon has done this, God grants his prayer. He gives him the longed for understanding heart, a wise heart, a heart unlike anyone else's, but God doesn't stop there. He gives Solomon everything else besides, everything that he didn't ask for: wealth, honor, and, if Solomon walks in His ways, a long life.
Do you trust God to give you everything you need?
When Solomon wakes up, the first thing he does is travel to Jerusalem and worship God before the ark of the covenant. This is an expression of trust and gratitude for God's great work in his life and for the gifts God has lavished on him.
How do you worship God? Is your worship from the heart or merely a routine?
Spend some time this week rereading Solomon's prayer and God's response, meditating on the reflection questions, and asking God for your heart's desire.