The Prayer of a Dangerous King: Reflections on 1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43

I am reminded of that most chilling scene from one of the Godfather movies where Michael Corleone, the new mob boss, is having his baby baptized in his church at the same moment a vendetta is being carried out against his enemies and rivals for power. The scene shifts back and forth between candles and the sweet cooing of the baby and a hail of bullets raining down on numerous victims. Exactly how is Solomon's prayer much different than that?

Exactly how are the prayers of my wife and me to be heard by God when they are uttered by us, the sinners? No, we have not murdered anyone like Corleone or Solomon, but we have acted cruelly at times, thoughtlessly at other times with one another, with our children, with our friends and students and colleagues. What hope do we have for forgiveness and reconciliation with God while two billion of God's children live in dire poverty while we live in comparative ease and splendor? It is quite easy to judge Solomon's prayer as the height of hypocrisy, uttered with unctuous piety, a piety that in no way pays for the horrors that have been perpetrated not long before. But what about us? How are we any less hypocritical?

Solomon's prayer alone cannot make him acceptable to his God. Only God can make him acceptable again. Only God can make my wife and me, struggling pastors and teachers that we are, listenable once again. It has nothing to do with the quality or length of our prayer and everything to do with the God who is listening.

Solomon did get at least one thing right in his prayer: "Will God really live on earth? Why, heaven and the very highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27). At the last, the temple is but a building and my prayers are but human words, laced with error and sin. We can only trust in the God whose "chesed is everlasting, whose truth is for all generations." Solomon was a very dangerous king, and so are we dangerous the minute we forget the source of all we have and are.

So a happy anniversary to me and Diana. After forty-six years together we are still seeking to rely on God rather than our so-called best selves to live lives of peace and hope and justice for all.

8/17/2015 4:00:00 AM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.