The Heart of Prayer

When Solomon reigned as king in Israel, he inherited a time of peace that David, his father, never enjoyed. As a result, he had the providential opportunity to focus on building projects—a focus shared by all ancient rulers during times of peace and plenty. However, while Solomon did erect a palace for himself, his main project, inherited from the wishes of his father David, remained building a temple for the LORD in Jerusalem. This he accomplished after many years of work by thousands of laborers. But when the time came to dedicate the temple, and after the LORD signified His acceptance of it by filling it with His glory, Solomon’s words captured the majesty of the occasion in a way both personally fitting and publicly significant. He acknowledged the wonder of the event (2 Chr. 6:1-2), explained all the background to the people (2 Chr. 6:3-11), and then, knelt before the altar of the LORD (2 Chr. 6:12-13) and offered a beautiful prayer, praising Yahweh (2 Chr. 6:14-15) and petitioning him personally and on behalf of the entire nation (2 Chr. 6:16-28). He would pray for others (2 Chr. 6:32-33), he would pray for victory (2 Chr. 6:34-35), and he would pray for mercy (2 Chr. 6:36-39), fully expecting the LORD to listen and bless (2 Chr. 6:40-42). But in 2 Chronicles 6:29-31, he uttered words that express the true heart of prayer when he said, “whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men), that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You gave to our fathers.” 

We often allow our prayer lives to become stale, if we maintain a prayer life at all. We thank God for our food, we mention a few things that matter to us, a few people that interest us, and then ask for forgiveness quickly before we close. But Solomon, by example, reminds us of the heart we should have each and every time we dare bow before the throne of God. Surely we should recognize the privilege it is to know that God listens and cares about what we feel and need. Surely it should awe us to know that God is ready to take on our burdens and grief as His own. Surely we should stop and consider the magnitude of what it means to ask boldly for forgiveness of the One whom we have offended so terribly because He longs to forgive. Surely it should mean something to us that God wants to bless us and that He knows us each personally. But then may we also learn that this privilege of coming before Him should be coupled with reverence, with a life lived in keeping with His Word, and a recognition of the blessings we already enjoy. Solomon saw these things and wanted Israel to see them too. We have so much more today available through Jesus Christ. Should our prayers then not contain even more fervor and humility? They will—if we have the heart of prayer.

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