A Prayer for Wisdom

1 Kings 3:1-15

August 1, 2004 | Brian Bill

Recently a survey was done with a group of kids.  This is how they responded to the question, “What do you think wisdom is?”

  • Rocky, age 9, said, “Wisdom is wearing a hat when feeding seagulls.”
  • 9-year-old Carol commented, “Never ask for anything that costs more than $5 when your parents are doing taxes.”
  • Nicholas, age 11, spoke from experience: “Never bug a pregnant mom.”
  • Kelly, age 10, has learned the dinner drill: “Don’t ever be too full for dessert.”
  • And, Heather, a seasoned teenager said, “When your dad is mad and asks you, ‘Do I look stupid?’ don’t answer him.”

The Bible is full of wise sayings.  One of my favorites is found in Proverbs 26:17: “Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.” It sounds like he learned that lesson the hard way!  While we can benefit from some of the wisdom that whirls around us, to be truly wise we need the wisdom that comes from above.  James 3:17: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  

So far in our series called, “Power Prayers,” we’ve learned how to pray by asking for boldness and to pray for limitless love.  This morning we’re going to focus on a request that always results in a “yes.”  Please turn in your Bibles to 1 Kings 3.  Solomon is the king of Israel and is known throughout the world as being the wisest guy who ever lived.  He is the author of most of the Proverbs, but is also somewhat of a tragic figure.  We get some insight into his character in the first four verses.

Solomon’s Situation

1. He was politically compromised (1). 

In order to extend his kingdom and be at peace with those around him, Solomon was adept at political compromise.  Look at verse 1: “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh King of Egypt and married his daughter.  He brought her to the City of David…” Israelite kings were forbidden from doing this because God was to be all they needed.  While this was a common practice back then, this alliance led to his heart becoming entangled.  One of the most heartbreaking verses in the Bible is found in 1 Kings 11:4: “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.”  By the way, the Bible is clear that a believer must not marry an unbeliever for this very reason (see 2 Corinthians 6:14).

2. He was personally conflicted (2-3). 

This political compromise led to Solomon becoming personally conflicted.  We see in verse 2 that the people were sacrificing on the “high places,” which is a reference to the sites where the Canaanites worshipped their gods.  This was not where worship was to take place for followers of God.  Deuteronomy 12:4-5: “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way.  But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling.  To that place you must go.”  

I want you to notice how conflicted Solomon was.  According to 1 Kings 3:3, he loved the Lord and demonstrated that love by walking according to the statutes of his father David.  That’s the good news.  But there’s more to Solomon.  He loved the Lord but notice the next two words: “except that.”  I think this describes a lot of us today.  We love the Lord except that we gossip.  We love the Lord except that we mistreat our spouse.  We love the Lord except that (fill in the blank).  I think most Christians have an “except that” in their lives as either a blind spot they can’t see or a fatal flaw that they are well too familiar with.

Solomon chose convenience over consecration when he worshipped on the “high places.”  He should have gone to Jerusalem where the Ark of the Covenant was, or to Gibeon where the Tabernacle was located.  

3. He was profoundly committed (4). 

Solomon was a bit of an enigma.  He loved the Lord and yet he compromised and he was conflicted.  Verse 4 shows us that he was also profoundly committed: “The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.”  He got this one right as he at least worshipped at the place where the Tabernacle was located.  And he killed a thousand cows in sacrifice to God.  Can you imagine how long this must have taken?  For Solomon to sacrifice this many animals shows how much he adored the Almighty.  The young man who was ruler over all Israel never forgot who the Ruler of the universe was.

I want you to notice that it was after Solomon had worshipped and sacrificed that God spoke to him.  Sometimes we wonder why God seem so far away and God says, “I’m not the one who moved.  Put me first by offering me the sacrifice of praise and then you’ll sense my presence once again and hear my voice as I speak to you through my Word.”  God then spoke to Solomon during the night in a dream.  

By the way, in the Bible God often communicated through dreams.  As someone has said, “God doesn’t just tuck us in and then tune us out.”  While dreams can be weird or meaningless, sometimes God gives us spiritual details while we’re dreaming.  Jacob dreamt of a stairway leading to heaven (Genesis 28:12); God appeared to Laban in a dream (Genesis 31:24); Joseph had his own dreams and interpreted the dreams of others (Genesis 37-41); Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2); the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:20) and was later warned in a dream to not go back to Herod (Matthew 2:12).  Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, preached that old men will dream dreams during the last days (Acts 2:17).  

Let me give a word of warning in this regard.  God still speaks today, and sometimes he does it through divine dreams, but he communicates primarily through the Bible.  We’re to check everything by the Word of God as 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says: “Test everything.  Hold on to the good.”

If God gave you a blank check, how would you fill it in?

God then asks Solomon the question that would literally change his life in verse 5: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”  How would you answer this question?  What is it that you really want?  What do you dream about or long for?  If God gave you a blank check, how would you fill it in?  Most of us would want good health or increased income or maybe more power.

That reminds me of the man who found a lamp and started to rub it.  Sure enough, out popped a genie.  The genie told him that he had three wishes.  The man couldn’t believe his good fortune so he thought for a moment and then said, “I’d like a house on the beach in Door County, Wisconsin.  Make it 20,000 square feet with a boat slip.”  Poof, he was in his new house.  The genie then said, what’s your next wish?  The man replied, “I’d like a black BMW, fully loaded with the best stereo system money can buy.”  Poof, the guy was suddenly driving the car.  As he was cruising down the highway, a commercial came on the radio and he started singing along, “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener…”  Poof! 

Solomon’s Prayer

Let’s look at Solomon’s prayer now and draw some lessons from it for our own lives.

1. Recall God’s work. 

When we come to verse 6, we see that Solomon began his answer to the Lord the right way by recalling God’s work: “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.”  He recalls God’s kindness and honors the memory of his own dad.  Solomon gives praise to God for the fact that he’s even sitting on the throne.  He knows it was not because of his might, but because of God’s mercy.  When you pray, first recall God’s work.

2. Recognize your own weaknesses. 

When you’re overwhelmed, tell Him about it

In verses 7-8, he calls himself both a servant and a child.  And he is overwhelmed with the task before him, recognizing his inadequacy and ineptitude: “But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.”  This is often a missing ingredient in our prayers.  We must own up for our own weaknesses, and remind ourselves that we are but servants of the true king, children of the Father, and we can do nothing apart from Him.  After recalling God’s work when you pray, own up to your own sinful thoughts, words and actions.  When you’re overwhelmed, tell Him about it.

3. Request God’s Wisdom. 

Remember that Solomon could have asked for anything at all.  Given all his options, there’s one request that stands head and shoulders above everything else.  What he asks for is startling in its simplicity.  Notice verse 9: “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?”  The phrase “discerning heart” can be translated, “a hearing heart.”  Solomon wanted a heart that hears from the Holy One so that he would have the ability to see issues clearly and distinguish between right and wrong.  In short, he wanted wisdom.

Friend, when’s the last time you asked God for wisdom?  James 1:5 says that all we need to do is request it and God will supply it: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  God loves to give generously and when he grants wisdom He doesn’t find fault with us.  But we must admit our lack of wisdom and ask for it.  Proverbs 8:1 personifies wisdom as calling out for people to take hold of her: “Does not wisdom call out?  Does not understanding raise her voice?”  Proverbs 4:7 provides a challenge to do whatever it takes to get it: “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” 

God’s Response

When Solomon’s request rises up to heaven, he receives two responses:

  • God is pleased.  Notice verse 10: “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.” The Message offers this paraphrase: “God, the Master, was delighted with Solomon’s response.” If you want to make God happy, ask Him for wisdom.
  • God provides.  In verses 11-15, God tells Solomon that He will grant him “a wise and discerning heart.”  Turn over to 1 Kings 4:29: “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.”  And because His heart was right in asking for that which pleased God, Solomon was given wisdom and much more than he dreamed of: riches, honor, and the possibility of a long life.  That reminds me of Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” This is a wonderful example of what happens when we put God’s purposes first as Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Solomon’s Reaction

When Solomon awoke from his divine dream, verse 15 tells us that he did a couple things right away.

  • He praised God.  Determined this time to do things the right way, Solomon journeyed to Jerusalem, where he stood before the Ark of the Covenant, and “sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings…”  
  • He partied with God’s people.  At the conclusion of the sacrifices, some of the meat was shared with the people as they fellowshipped and feasted together: “Then he gave a feast for all his court.”  Solomon worshipped God and he was in community with others.  Likewise, God wants us to praise Him and to party with people who praise Him.

A Split Decision

We don’t have the time this morning to fully explore an immediate example of Solomon’s wisdom, but let me just skim the surface.  Two prostitutes, who shared the same room, each had infant sons.  One night, one of the women woke up and discovered that her son was dead so she took her baby and put him in bed with the other mother, and she took the baby that was alive back to bed with her.  The next morning the mother awoke and discovered the dead baby but as she looked closely she knew it wasn’t her son.  The other woman declared that it was her son.  

This conflict worked its way up to Solomon.  There were no witnesses and no medical tests available in that day.  Verse 22 captures the dilemma: “The other woman said, ‘No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.’  But the first one insisted, ‘No!  The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.’  And so they argued before the king.’”  What would you do if you had to solve this case?  How would you resolve it?  I want you to notice two steps that we can take when we’re faced with making a tough decision and we need wisdom from on high.

1. Summarize the situation. 

Verse 23 tells us that Solomon listened to everything and then he put the whole problem into one sentence: “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’” When you’re in the middle of a difficult situation sometimes it feels so overwhelming because you can’t think straight.  When that happens, take some time to summarize what is happening.  This works well when you’re talking to someone who is in crisis.  Listen carefully and then try to put everything into your own words and reflect them back.

2. Secure the sword. 

In verse 24 Solomon asks for a sword and gives the order to cut the baby in two and give half to one woman and half to the other.  The real mother was filled with compassion and said, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby!  Don’t kill him.” The other woman was so bitter that she didn’t care if the baby was cut in two.  Solomon immediately knew who the real mother was and declared, “Give the living baby to the first woman.”  

Just as Solomon asked for a sword to help him decide; so too, we must consult the “sword of the Spirit,” which according to Ephesians 6:17, is the Word of God.  Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Psalm 119:130 describes what happens when we read and study Scripture: “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

After observing Solomon offer praise and throw a big party, the people heard about his wise decision regarding the two prostitutes.  1 Kings 3:28 says that “…they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.” The people knew that Solomon was smart but they also knew that the source of His wisdom was God Himself.  

Still Wanting Wisdom

Since I became the senior pastor here, I want you to know that I have asked God for wisdom from day one and am thankful for the times that I have received wisdom and sensed divine discernment.  Having said that, as I reflect on the past years, I also want to confess that many times I have operated in my own strength and relied on my own insight.  I ask your forgiveness for that.  The longer I serve as one of your pastors the more I become aware of my absolute and total depravity and my need to stay in touch and in tune with God at all times.  I am committed to pray for wisdom on a daily basis.  Would you pray that for me as well?

How about you?  Has it been awhile since you’ve asked God for the wisdom that comes from above?  Are you facing any tough decisions right now?  If you need prayer, I invite you to come down front right now.


The Bible is clear that the way to wisdom is to first fear God.  Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  We must honor Him for who He is and surrender to His supremacy.  As we prepare for communion, use this time to reaffirm that you are but a servant and a child before Him.  He’s God and you’re not.

There’s another way to find wisdom and that’s to focus on Jesus.  Colossians 2:2: “…That they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  If you’re here this morning and you don’t yet know Christ, then you need to come to Him in faith.  If you are already a believer, then rededicate yourself to Jesus and tell others about Him.  To know and love and follow Jesus is to own the treasure of ultimate and eternal happiness.  The command, “Get wisdom” ultimately means, “Come to Jesus.”  

Take some time right now to reaffirm your fear of God, determine to focus on Christ, and ask Him for wisdom every day.  Proverbs 3:13 says, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gets understanding.”

Distribution of Bread

Distribution of Cup

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