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Sermon - 9 Pentecost (Church on the Beach)

A Sunday School teacher asked her class if any of them could define "prayer.” One little boy raised his hand and said, "Prayer is when we talk to God." "Very good", the teacher replied, "And when do we pray?” she asked. A little girl raised her hand and answered, "At bedtime and on Sunday - when the rates are lower." That dates this joke.

When the name of King Solomon is mentioned, we think, at once, of his legendary wisdom and a famous child custody case. His wealth exceeded billions in today's money. His military successes expanded his influence. Prelude to all this, however, is the incident related in today's lesson, a lesson about a prayer.

Solomon's father, David, had taken a handful of tribes and moulded them into a kingdom taking its place on the world stage. He was known as a man after God's own heart - a hard act to follow. But now he was dead and the task of rule fell to the 20-year-old Solomon. So, to prepare himself, he goes to the ancient shrine at Gibeon and there, God comes to him and says, "What shall I give you? Ask."

Think about that. The sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth puts an unlimited credit card in the hands of a 20 yr. old. Amazing. Now, think about this. He does exactly the same thing with each one of us. Luke 11.9 "Ask and it will be given to you." John 15.7 "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, what you ask will be done for you." These are not just promises for kings, these are for the ordinary believer and many say that this is what prayer is all about.

Ah, but while prayer is a wonderful thing, a source of strength and comfort, it's also the Achilles' Heel of religion because there's not one person, in or out of church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, who can claim 100% success in receiving and a story like Solomon's flies smack in the face of what so many have experienced. They ask, and do not receive.

And many try to explain this away by saying that it's a matter of how strong your faith is and whether you have doubts. But who doesn't have doubts? And how strong is strong? No good answers there.

So, let's look at Solomon's prayer experience more closely and see if we can find some clues as to why he received. First, notice who initiates the encounter - God, not Solomon. He shows up with his mind full of questions and concerns, but he waits for God to speak first.

But here’s where some people say that if God knows our minds why say anything to Him? Well, "why not" is because God gave us the gift of intelligent speech and he expects us to use it to communicate not only with each other but with Him.

“Our Father who art in heaven” likes to hear our voices say those words. It means we think He's listening. In other words, verbal prayer is an act of faith, and not only faith, it's an act of relationship. We talk to each other. Why not to God?

And Solomon shows us another aspect of prayer in the way he begins his response to God. He expresses thanks for past favours. Don't we all like to be thanked when we've done something good? Why should God be different? And, what has he done for us? The old phrase "count your blessings" isn't just a trite cliché; it's good advice. We can only be thankful if we remember what we got. And, as God keeps giving us things all the time, we need to thank Him all the time.

And finally, Solomon calls himself a "little child.” Not literally, of course, but that is his poetic way of saying he is awed by God. Are we? We live in a very cynical society. We’re fearless, but we have fears. We want respect, but don't give it. We want to be trusted, but we don't trust. Awe is in short supply, yet we need it to approach God.

And in his awe, Solomon doesn't ask for health, wealth, or victory, he asks for "an understanding mind", for wisdom. He doesn't ask for the benefits which will make him an important person, he asks for the quality which will make him a good servant - of God.

No wonder the text continues, "It pleased the Lord." It pleased the Lord. And Solomon got his wisdom - and his health, wealth, and victories, none of which he had requested, but which God knew he would need. So, here we have one prayer and a lifetime of effects.

How do we pray, then, to this God? The 20 yr. old Solomon shows us how - with thankfulness and humility asking for the things which will make us good servants. May we be open to his example and have the confidence to talk to God anytime, all the time. After all, with prayer, roaming charges do not apply.

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