Updated: May 19, 2021
I don’t know about you, but I found today’s Bible prayer really difficult to get my head around. I have spent a lot of time reading and re-reading it to try and get some insight into it.
If you have a copy of The Message version of the Bible or have access to it on a phone app, I really recommend that you read it again in that version. I found it quite helpful.
What is the context for this prayer?
Solomon has built the temple in Jerusalem as desired by his father King David. The nation is gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion.
And God’s presence has been seen in the temple in the form of a cloud - like that seen by Moses and the Israelites when they left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea.
What did I find good about this prayer?
Firstly Solomon positions himself for prayer. He kneels in front of the altar with his hands open to Heaven. Initially it says that Solomon stood but evidently not for long because at the end of the prayer it says he stood up, he had been on his knees. The King of Israel, kneeling before the King of all creation. Solomon adopted a posture of humility and openness.
Secondly Solomon intercedes for Israel’s future sins - Solomon recognises that everyone sins and knows that sin will cause all manner of consequences for the Israelites. Solomon asks that when the Israelites confess their sins, turn from their sinful ways and look again, towards the Temple, towards God, that he would use those occasions to teach them, to bring justice, to rescue them and to show them mercy.
What do I find difficult about this prayer?
I found a lot of it difficult to understand. For example I got stuck at v31 and 32 about neighbours taking oaths. I think it is about making the temple a proper place to swear by, so that when one person does wrong to another person, they can swear by the temple to put it right. I’m told that it formed part of the Jewish legal system, (see Exodus 22:10-11.) This covered the situation if the owner of an animal asked a neighbour to look after it and then it died, was injured, or stolen. The neighbour would take an oath that he had not harmed the animal and the owner would have to accept this, without any requirement to make good the loss. The basis behind the judicial oath was that God could exert punishment if the neighbour swore a false oath.
What does this prayer tell me about God?
Solomon knows that the Temple is a representation for God’s home on earth, he begins his prayer by reminding the Israelites about who it is they built the temple for. He says “Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built.”
God is vast. We are small. But God hears our prayers.
Solomon also reminds us that God keeps his promises and that God is merciful.
What does this prayer tell me about me?
We have already mentioned that Solomon recognised that we all sin. And when we sin, it indicates a turning away from God. This is why, in his prayer, Solomon asks God to forgive and save the Israelites when they pray towards the temple. It’s when they turn away from their wrongdoing and turn back and look upon God that he will forgive them.
And it is the same for us. When we sin, we need to turn away from whatever we are doing wrong, turn back to God and ask for his forgiveness. We don’t have to look to the temple anymore, since Jesus died for us, instead, we need to look to the cross and remember what Jesus did there. In fact, that is what repent means, it means to think differently, it is a turnaround in our thinking.
So what do I need to go and do about it?
Well, I think, for me, and it might be different for you.
I need to ready myself when I pray. Like Solomon, I need to remember whose presence I am in and position myself in humility and openness.
I also need to be aware of my sin and know that I am sinning because I have turned away from God. At those times I need to turn back to God, look remember what happened on the cross, confess my sin and accept God’s forgiveness.