Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple
The Bible contains the record of many wonderful prayers. The prayers of Hannah (1 Samuel 1), Hezekiah (Isaiah 37), Daniel (Daniel 9) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1) spring readily to mind. All these prayers were offered at a time of challenge for the person praying, where the only one who could provide the way out was the Lord himself. Added to this top drawer of prayer warriors is Solomon, upon dedicating the Temple, recorded in 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 6 and following his prayer for wisdom and understanding on taking the throne of Israel, recorded in 1 Kings 3 and 2 Chronicles 1.
The context for Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple is a beautiful one with the glory of God falling just before his prayer and just after, and later with God coming to Solomon telling him how he was going to answer the prayer. What is so awesome about the prayer is it contains so many elements that those of us who are not part of the Covenant God had with Israel can identify with and apply in our own situations. For the purpose of this study, all quotes will be from 2 Chronicles.
The Temple was a big deal in Jewish worship and it was the centre of Israeli life and not only religious. While YHWH God does not live in a box (the Ark of the Covenant), for He inhabits all eternity, it is where He promises His special presence and where people turned as they sought to engage with Him. “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” 6:18.
Before Solomon prayed, we read: “So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God” 5:14. And afterward: “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house” 7:1.
His prayer was full of worship to an awesome (the word hardly cuts it) and covenant keeping God (recognising covenants made both to Moses and David). “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David” 6:4 and “O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heaven, nor in the earth; which keepest covenant, and shewest mercy unto thy servants, that walk before thee with all their hearts” 6:14.
His prayer was made in public and was full of reverence and humility. “And he stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands” 6:12. “Now therefore arise, O Lord God, into thy resting place, thou, and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness. O Lord God, turn not away the face of thine anointed: remember the mercies of David thy servant” 6:41,42.
His prayer was one of expectancy and based on the promises, which given the nature of God, he will surely keep and especially when it comes in response to the prayers of His praying people. “Have respect therefore to the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee: That thine eyes may be open upon this house day and night, upon the place whereof thou hast said that thou wouldest put thy name there; to hearken unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth toward this place” 6:19,20.
His prayer recognised the tendency of God’s people to sin but also the forgiving nature of God, even if He does punish. “Hearken therefore unto the supplications of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, which they shall make toward this place: hear thou from thy dwelling place, even from heaven; and when thou hearest, forgive” 6:21. “Then hear thou from heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, when thou hast taught them the good way, wherein they should walk; and send rain upon thy land, which thou hast given unto thy people for an inheritance” 6:27.
His prayer recognised God’s concern for truth and justice and that the Temple is the place where this could be appropriately administered. “If a man sin against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to make him swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house; Then hear thou from heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, by requiting the wicked, by recompensing his way upon his own head; and by justifying the righteous, by giving him according to his righteousness” 6:22,23
His prayer concerned the prayers of those who prayed after him in the Temple and combined a longing for the people’s welfare and God’s honour. “Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house: Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:) That they may fear thee, to walk in thy ways, so long as they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers” 6:29-31.
His prayer showed concerned the foreigner, especially those that want to know God and seek His will, including a concern for their welfare and God’s honour too: “Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name’s sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house; Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name” 6:32,33.
His prayer was prophetic, inasmuch it had a strong inkling of what would happen when the people of God turn from the Lord, including them being taken into exile but at the same time offering an escape when the people turned back to God, as was to happen. “If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near; Yet if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn and pray unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly; If they return to thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, whither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, and toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name: Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee” 6:36-39.
Following the sacrifice, that was then being offered, being consumed by fire sent from heaven and the glory coming down and filling the Temple, these were then followed by days of joy, sacrifice and celebration by the people, and at the end after they dispersed the Lord appeared again to Solomon, confirming He had heard his prayer and will do as he asked, but came with it with a stern warning. While God reaffirmed the covenant made with David, which ended in the furtherance of the Davidic line until the coming of Jesus, he is reminded of the consequences if the people break that covenant. God also confirmed the important role the Temple was to play from then onward. Part of God’s response is an often quoted and applied verse by God’s people today who rightly yearn for healing of their nation and revival. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually” 7:14-16.
Reading Solomon’s prayer, we are amazed at his deep worship of God and concern for the welfare of people he was to rule over and for future generations, and not forgetting the foreigner. There was a desire for God’s glory and an expectation that God will act. It serves as inspiration for us today as we approach our incomparable God.