What do you pray for

Based on: 1 Kings 3:5-12

You are walking down the street one day and you find an ancient looking oil lamp.  You pick it up and notice how dirty it is, so you rub it a little bit.  Out comes a genie to grant you your wish.  What would you wish for? Would you wish for power, fame, money, or would you wish for something to help you serve your Lord better?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is no such thing as genies in lamps.  Besides, if the genie was dumb enough or weak enough to get stuck in an old lamp would you really want to trust him to grant your wish?

Many have heard about King Solomon and his famous wisdom.  God gave Solomon the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted and Solomon asked for wisdom.  Unlike a genie in a lamp, God is real and was able to grant his request and made him the wisest man who ever lived.  Let’s look at this dialog between God and Solomon and if or how it applies to us.

Solomon had just become king and was in Gibeon to offer sacrifices to the Lord when the Lord came to him in a dream and simply said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” That leaves the door wide open, doesn’t it? The possibilities are endless.  What if God said that to you? Think about that for a moment.  If you are like me then a whole series of things run through your mind, each one is bigger than the last, as we realize just how much there is in this world that could be ours.

But what was Solomon’s response? First, Solomon was humbled by God’s offer.  Solomon recognized all the blessings that God had already given to Solomon’s father David.  Now God gave Solomon the throne of his father.  This is the first time in Israel’s history that the rule of the country passed from father to son, and now God was going to bless Solomon even more.  Solomon said, “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.”

Next, Solomon saw that God had placed him into a position that he could not handle on his own.  He knew that on his own he could not govern the people of Israel well.  He said, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.”  A more literal translation would be, “I don’t know if I’m coming or going.”  He was lost when it came to being king.  I think I know little bit about how he felt.  When God called me to be pastor here at St. John’s I could’ve said the same thing.

Solomon recognized God’s goodness and recognized his own inadequacy when it came to carrying out the work God gave him to do and so, out of a desire to serve his God, Solomon ask for the thing that would help him do the work God gave him to do.  Solomon said, “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?"

Solomon didn’t ask for money or power.  He didn’t ask for some selfish thing, but he asked for something that was in line with God’s will.  He ask for something that would benefit God’s kingdom.  Because of that, God granted his request.  Not only did God give him wisdom, but God also gave him power and wealth and many other things.

Now perhaps you’re thinking, “Pastor, that is a very nice story, but how does it apply to me? God hasn’t come to me and told me to ask him for whatever I want.”  And I would respond to you by saying that God has come to you as a believer and told you to ask.  Jesus says to you, “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:23).

God has given you a blank check.  He has said to you, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”  Now what is your response? Do you respond at all?  Too often that powerful tool called prayer gets put on the shelf and is not used.  Can you imagine someone finding a genie in a lamp and being offered anything he wants, but saying, “No, thank you”?  It wouldn’t happen, but that’s what we do when we fail to bring our requests to God.

Pray, dear Christian.  Pray and ask God to bless you.  God says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:3).  In a little while we will say a prayer and as always there will be a silent time for our own requests to God.  Use that time wisely.  You can already start thinking about what request you will make of God. 

When you pray, do you pray for things motivated by a selfish desire? Do you pray for things that serve you?  Why not follow Solomon’s example.  Recognize that God has placed you in a unique position in life.  Are you married or single? Are you a parent or a child? Are you an employee or an employer? Perhaps you are a pastor or teacher or an elected church officer or a church member.  Recognize that in all those areas God has given you work to do in his kingdom.  Also recognize that you need God’s help to do that work.  Ask God for all you need to do his work and he will give it to you.  It might be wisdom, love, patience, kindness, or any number of other things.  God will give it.

Solomon understood God’s grace because he had seen it before in the life of his father and in his own life.  We have also seen God’s grace before.  God has given us the greatest treasure we could possibly have and he gave it to us without our even asking for it.  He has given us eternal life through Jesus Christ.

We didn’t ask for it.  In fact, we couldn’t ask for it.  But God did it for us anyway.  He sent Jesus Christ into the world and Jesus asked for all the right things so that he could carry out God’s will perfectly for us.  Carrying out God’s will even meant that Jesus Christ had to die on the cross and suffer hell for our sins.  We didn’t ask him to do it, but we thank God that he did it.

Now that we have eternal life what about all these other worldly things that we can ask for? Really the things of this world are not a high priority, are they? When you look at the Lord’s prayer there is really only one statement that deals with our physical existence in this world, “Give us today our daily bread.” The rest of the Lord’s prayer deals with our relationship with God and eternal life.

Besides, this whole world is already yours.  Remember the second lesson for today from Romans Chapter 8, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  God uses the whole world for your good.  What else does that mean but that the whole world belongs to you?  When you own something don’t you, for the most part, use it to take care of yourself and those close to you? In the same way the whole world is your possession because God uses it to benefit you.  You couldn’t put the things of this world to a better use even if you tried.  When God said you will have eternal life then automatically everything in this world exists to bring you that one greatest treasure.  That is God’s promise.  Now, as you walk down the street you can say that lamppost belongs to me; that tree is mine, and that car, those houses, but also that pain, that sickness, that tragedy – those are also part of this world and they too serve for your eternal good.

(That may have been all little bit of a tangent, a sermon within a sermon, but don’t worry there’s no extra charge.)

God tells us to ask him for stuff.  When we ask for things in accordance with his will he will certainly give it.  When we say, “God forgive me for my selfish requests or the times I failed to come to you in prayer,” God will do it.  He will forgive you.  When we say, “God through your word strengthen my faith,” he will do it.  When we say, “God, take me to be with you in heaven,”   because of Jesus Christ, he will do it.  If we just simply say, “God, I need your blessing.” He will bless us even more than we can imagine.

Amen.

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