If You Could Ask for Anything…
What was the last thing you prayed for? Not the underhanded, softball toss kind of prayer. But the searing heat, the fastball prayer. The plea for something great, something immediate, something amazing. What did that one sound like? What did you ask for?
Jesus challenges us to aim high in our prayers. “Ask and receive. Seek and find. Knock and doors open.”
You could argue he’s paraphrasing God’s words to Israel’s third ruler: King Solomon. Apparently, Solomon has a divine vision early on in his career.
1 Kings 3:5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
Solomon already has status and wealth and influence. But it’s not uncommon for those who already have much to ask for more. Solomon doesn’t do this. He doesn’t ask for military might or material assets. Understanding that he gets one guaranteed answer, he calls his shot with care. Listen to what he says,
“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1Kings 3:7, 9)
He starts with “I’m a little child,” not “I am the supreme ruler.”
He continues with “I don’t know my way around. I’m flying blind here and I need help.”
Because I’m small and lost (even though I’m wealthy and influential), give me an understanding heart.
This is a curious statement. Typically, we’d ask for an understanding mind. In our world, the brain is where we process abstract thought, where we pursue understanding. But Solomon asks for an understanding heart. He wants the center of feeling and passion to be informed by spiritual perspective.
The right heart compels people to govern well. When a leader’s heart is tender, open and fully engaged, she knows and responds to the needs of those she is responsible for. The heart of a leader beats for constituents first; it puts aside striving and ego for the good of the team, the mission, the cause.
And an understanding heart knows the difference between right and wrong. In every situation, in every conflict, in every set of ethical challenges a solid leader can see the best option and choose it.
Of all the many things Solomon could have had, he asks for integrity and compassion. And to reward him for his humility and his purity of heart, God grants his request and throws in everything else too. When in doubt, ask God for strength of character, it is the difference maker in the lives of leaders.