Day 151: Ask What I Shall Give You (1 Kings 3-4)

5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” . . .
. . . 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:5,9)

The Bible demands and rewards careful reading. It’s tempting to approach Scripture with what you think you already know about it. It’s the “I’ve heard this story a million times” syndrome. Today was one of those days when I was surprised by something that isn’t in the text that I had always thought was there. See if you noticed it too.

At Gibeon, God spoke to Solomon in a dream. As a side note, did you know that Solomon is the only king of Israel God ever spoke to in a dream? There is a definite connection between worship and hearing from God. When believers participate in worship, they put themselves in a position to more readily hear from God.

God appears to Solomon and says to him, “Ask what I shall give you.”

And in the Hebrew, that is all God says. Notice that the text doesn’t say God promised to give Solomon whatever he asked for. Unfortunately, there are several English translations that have added that phrase. I know I gave a shout out to The Living Bible a few days ago in a blog post just a few days ago, (See A Mom Who Taught Me to Love God’s Word), but here, the Living Bible paraphrase is just bad:

The Lord appeared to him in a dream that night and told him to ask for anything he wanted, and it would be given to him!

No He didn’t! And bless your heart, Living Bible, but the exclamation point at the end somehow makes it worse. It’s like the paraphrase is saying, Can you believe it? You’ve found the greatest vending machine in the Universe! You just put your coin in, pull the knob, and it will be given you!

No. A thousand times no.

There’s actually two assumptions to deal with here. Not only did God not promise to give Solomon what he requested, but He also did not invite Solomon to ask for whatever Solomon wanted. Look at what the verse says, and not what we wished it said:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”

God was inviting Solomon to express what he needed most as a king. There is a huge difference between “What do you want?” and “What do you need?”

Rather than begin with a wish list, Solomon replied by praising God for His great and faithful love—first to his father David and then to Solomon himself. Solomon then acknowledged his own shortcomings and inadequacy (v. 7); followed by the overwhelming nature of the task. Only then did he make his request:

9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

Solomon concluded his request by once again acknowledging his own inability to accomplish such a great task on his own.

We should never see this passage—or anything else in Scripture—as a formula for getting what you ask for in prayer. However, verses 6-9 do serve as a great pattern for us to follow as we make our own requests to God.

  • Begin with praise for God’s character and His love toward you.
  • Humbly admit your need and agree with God that you are powerless to meet that need on your own.
  • And make sure what you are asking for is aligned with what God has already expressed to be His sovereign will.

Look at verse 10:

 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.

Can you imagine what a joy it would be to know that God was pleased by what you requested in prayer? We can experience that joy on a regular basis when our requests are in accordance with God’s will. In this case, God desired for His people to be led by a wise and discerning king, so He delighted in doing what Solomon had asked.

God doesn’t merely delight in giving good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11); God delights in His children! God so delighted in Solomon that He even gave him what he didn’t ask for: riches and honor (v 13); and a long life (v 14). This is a great example of the truth of Ephesians 3:20-21; that God is able to give us even more than we ask or think!

Day 144: I am Prayer (Psalm 109:4)

Through the Bible Reading: Psalm 108-110


109 Be not silent, O God of my praise!
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
    speaking against me with lying tongues.
3 They encircle me with words of hate,
    and attack me without cause.
4 In return for my love they accuse me,
    but I give myself to prayer.

Psalm 109:1-4

In Psalm 109:4, David writes “I give myself to prayer.” The ESV points out that in Hebrew, it says, “But I am prayer.” Wow.

People ask you all the time, “How are you?” What is your answer?

  • I’m good.
  • I’m fine.
  • I’m okay.
  • I’m busy.
  • I’m stressed.
  • I’m tired.
  • I’m worried.

And the list goes on. On any given day, we are happy, stressed, anxious, exhausted, confident, quiet, sad, lonely, depressed, discouraged, hopeful, excited, optimistic, pessimistic, half-empty, half-full. And it changes throughout the day. Our answer is the mercury in the thermometer.

Of course, most people don’t say any of those. The standard answer is the superficial one: How are you? Fine. Everything is fine.

How many people would you freak out today if, when they asked you, “How are you?” you had the same answer the Psalmist had:

I am prayer.

It sounds weird, doesn’t it? That someone asks you for an emotion, or an attitude, or a state of mind, and you respond with an action. But the truth is, we define ourselves by what we do all the time: I’m a parent. I’m a teacher. I’m an accountant. I’m a pastor.

So why not, “I am prayer”? God, how I’d love to be defined by that one thing!

Imagine that each day was a blank page with “I am _____________” at the top of the page, and “I was ______________.”  What if, at the beginning of the day, I filled in the blank with what I hoped to be defined by for that day?

I am prayer.

And what If, at the end of each day, I filled in the blank with one action that defined me for that day? I’m afraid “prayer” wouldn’t  complete the sentence very often. “I was pride” would be there pretty often.  So would “I was anxiety.”

Lord, I begin today with a desire to be defined by prayer. Please reduce me to only those actions that bring glory to you. And if, at the end of today, the blank gets filled in by something else, thank you that tomorrow is a new journal page.

A Blind Man Was Begging

blind-man

Yesterday at First Baptist Prattville, our pastor, Travis Coleman, preached about “What spiritual sight will do for you.” Although his text was Matthew’s version of the story (Matthew 20:29-34), I’m a little partial to Luke’s version (Luke 18:35-42). Here’s what struck me about the passage:

35 As He [Jesus] drew near Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. [Luke 18:35 HCSB]

 

Admit there’s a problem.

Even before Jesus showed up, this guy knew how to beg. Maybe that was all he knew. What a difference there is between “a blind man was begging” and, say, “a rich man was driving.” Or, “a smart man was teaching.” “A blind man was begging” tells me that he knew what his problem was, and he knew to ask for help. Often, I miss one or both of these things. I’m not willing to admit there’s a problem. And when others see I’m struggling, I will tend to blow them off and say, “No… I’m good.”

38 So he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Then those in front told him to keep quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” [Luke 18:38-39 HCSB]

Be Persistent.

The blind man was persistent. When told to quit, he shouted more. What keeps me from being so persistent? Pride? Fear of being embarrassed? Or worse, fear of being ignored? Am I afraid others are too busy to help? Is that my biggest fear when asking God for help?

40 Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him. When he drew near, He asked him, 41 “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” [Luke 18:40-41 HCSB]

Be Specific.

Finally, the guy was specific. His petition wasn’t some vague request that God would bless him. It was, “Lord, I want to see!” Am I specific in what I ask of God? Do I hold back from telling Him exactly what I need so that if I don’t get it, I’ve given God a loophole? I’m afraid that characterizes a lot of my prayer. And maybe vague requests yield vague results.

So, some takeaways for today. What can I learn from this blind man begging?

  1. Know what’s wrong with you.
  2. Humble yourself to ask for help.
  3. Don’t stop asking for help.
  4. Be specific about the kind of help you need.
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