Prayer in Good Times and Bad

















OCTOBER  3, 2010



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“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


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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



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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

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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

4New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA, Zonderman, 2000),1355

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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

Bible theology.

Now, what questions or comments do you have?










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A Bibliography

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



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