PRAYER IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD
OBST 590-B01 OLD TESTAMENT INTRODUCTION
OCTOBER 3, 2010
“There are no atheists in foxholes!” is a famous and interesting quote, often credited to
William T. Cummings who served in the siege of Bataan in World War II, but also used often to
express a common conception that in time of trouble, everyone, regardless of
their everyday personal beliefs, calls out to God. Ben Bernanke, one of our country’s most
prominent economic leaders recently used these words to help express concern about our
current economic crisis1. My favorite use of this clever quote is by Major General Bradford
Steele in the television show M*A*S*H. I think all of us would agree that even those with a
very surface level belief in God cry out to him, pray to him when in trouble.
Today, I’d like to visit with you on the use of prayer in another setting, one just as
appropriate as in times of trouble. I’d like to speak for a few minutes on prayer in good times.
Did God intend that we only use prayer as a way of asking him for things we need or when we
are in trouble? Did he also intend it as a way to express other things? More importantly does
he expects us to pray to him about other things, about the good times, not just the bad?
My passage for today is I Kings 8:22-26. Let’s read it together. I’m using the New
American Standard Bible.
“Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of
Israel and spread out his hands toward Heaven. He said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, there is no
God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing
lovingkindness to your servants who walk before You with all their heart, who have kept with
Your servant, my father David, that which you have promised him, saying, “You shall not lack
1Peter Baker, “A Professor and a Banker Bury Old Dogma on Markets”, New York Times 21 September, 2008, Sec A1, p.1
a man to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way to walk before Me
as you have walked. Now therefore, O God of Israel, let Your word, I pray, be confirmed, which
you have spoken to Your servant, my father, David.”
Solomon stood before the alter at the temple, in front of everyone, spread out his hands,
acknowledged God’s power thanked him for answering a very important prayer
from the life of his father and in his own life. He did it is some detail, not just with a “thank you
for all of your blessings” sort of approach. Is this a type of prayer that God expects from each of
Let’s briefly look at this passage a little deeper, study some of its detail and see if we can
answer that question.
What type of passage is this? When studying different Bible passages, it is useful to
classify them as to type, sometimes called genre. Just like there are genres of music like
classical, country, Christian or rock and roll, there are genres in the books and passages of the
Some books are called law, some wisdom, some prophesy, some psalms, some
gospel and some history. History is sometimes called narrative. What is your favorite book
of the Bible and how would you classify it? Classifying Psalms is pretty easy. What about your
Kings is classified as historical or narrative genre. This simply means that this book is
intended to give us an historical record of events. These books often have narration by a main
character just like what we see from Solomon here. Other books of the Bible usually classified
as historical or narrative are Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2
Samuels, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ester and Jonah.
I Kings 8 as a whole is a summary of Solomon’s dedication of the Temple. After years
of work and struggle, the grand Temple of God is finally finished, the Ark of the Covenant is put
in a place of honor in the temple and Solomon in our focus verses, is thanking God for all
his blessings and hand of guidance in getting the temple built and finished. In verses prior to
those we’re examining, God’s presence filled the temple in the form of a cloud and the priests
had to stop the service because they couldn’t see what they were doing! It’s a very exciting
book of the Bible. I encourage you to read it after our time together! As you read it, think of it
as an historical, narrative account of an actual event.
Solomon wasn’t in a foxhole on this day, fearing for his life. This was probably one of
the happiest days of his life. And in the middle of it all, he stopped and took the time to
acknowledge God, in detail, for the prayers he had answered. It this a model for all of us?
Was Solomon someone to be copied and whose life and actions we should copy as
Godly? What do you think of when you think of Solomon? King Solomon widely regarded as
the King of Wisdom. As Paul House wrote, in what’s becoming one my favorite books on Bible
Study, Old Testament Theology, “Solomon the man of wisdom, for it is primarily as a wise man
that the canon (the Bible) chooses to remember him”2. Who among us doesn’t want to be wise?
Now, for sure Solomon was far from perfect. Toward the end of his life he stops paying
close attention to the detail of his kingdom and softens in his approach to strictly following
God’s ways. But overall, he is one of our best models for the life of wisdom that I think we all
2 Paul House, Old Testament Theology (Chicago, InterVarsity Press, 1998), 253
strive to live.
By the way, don’t let the title of House’s book, Old Testament Theology, scare you away.
It’s book by book analysis of the Old Testament in very readable form. You should try it. I
found an article of his while researching a project that led me to his book. He went college just
a few miles from here in Southwest Missouri so I thought he would be a interesting author to try.
He turns out to be a writer with a very common sense, easy style. Many books on the theology
of the Bible are anything but easy-to-ready. You should try this one.
So, Solomon was wise. He is a worthy figure to understand and try to copy in our own
lives. From this passage, what did he do that was worth copying? I think there are at least three
things he did we can copy in our own behavior, things we can apply to our lives and behavior.
First, he publicly praised God. “In this excellent prayer, Solomon does as we should do
in every prayer; he gives glory to God!”3 Since he was King, doing this was pretty easy and
everyone pretty much had to pay attention. Not so simple for you and me but the application is
the same. It could be singing in Church on Sunday morning, listening to Christian music in the
presence of others or acknowledging God in the workplace when you describe some good event
or happening in your life. Solomon’s praise was big and ellabroate. Ours could be much
simplier and just as effective.
Second, he acknowledged God’s power and uniqueness. His praise was very much like
one that would come later from Jesus’s prayer “hallowed be your name.”4 The simple act of
acknowledging God here by Solomon is later repeated by Jesus in his model of prayer to God.
3”Solomon’s Prayer”. IVP New Testament Commentaries. (Accessed on 30 September, 2010). Available from www.biblegateway.com
4New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA, Zonderman, 2000),1355
Lastly, Solomon details a promise of God and his keeping of that promise. In our lives, it
could be a biblical promise or a prayer offered. It is certainly a way of honoring those who
honor you by taking the time to detail their work and how it specifically impacted you.
Solomon’s words and actions were deliberate and specific. He was wise in both.
So, in review, what have we learned today about prayer in good times and Kings and Solomon as well?
We’ve learned that books of the Bible have types, called genres. Kings is historical
narrative. I Kings 8 is about the dedication of the famous Solomon’s Temple. Solomon, a
successful and wise King, purposefully took the occasion to thank God in detail for answering a
very important prayer. Solomon’s actions and words may be a good pattern for us to learn from
and to follow. Based on Solomon’s actions and words, it is logical to believe that praising God
in the good times, not just in times of trouble, is a an activity he would honor. He certainly
continued to honor Solomon the rest of his life after this day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our time together today, visiting with Solomon and his wisdom, as
expressed in his prayers and actions as he dedicated God’s Temple in I Kings 8. I also hoped
you’ve enjoyed our quick walk through biblical genres and picked up the bug to read a book on
Now, what questions or comments do you have?
Baker, Peter, “A Professor and a Banker Bury Old Dogma on Markets”, New York Times 2008
House, Paul, Old Testament Theology, InterVarsity Press 1968
New American Standard Bible, Zonderman, 2000
”Solomon’s Prayer.” IVP New Testament Commentaries. Available from www.biblegateway.com