Solomon the King is in the temple at it’s dedication, in front of a great congregation of Elders, Priests, Levites and Israelites, alternately kneeling or standing upon a brass platform. His arms are outstretched towards God, and He is praying.
The prayer consists of an acknowledgement of the Faithfulness and Omnipresence of God, and that no man made temple could ever truly contain Him. He then supplicates that the House He had built for God’s Name, be one of prayer, that God would ever be attentive to it or to anyone who ever turns toward the temple to pray.
Next Solomon requests that God would hear prayers in seven different circumstances.
- If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house:Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness. (1 Kings 8:31-32)
This is a request by Solomon that God protect the sanctity of every oath sworn before the altar, that all who swear falsely would be exposed and punished, and that those who do swear oaths in good faith would be vindicated. Kiel and Delitsch say that this applies to situations such as in Exodus 22;6-12.
2. When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers. ( 1Kings 8:33-34)
This is a direct prayer for the reversal of the curse of the Law of God as recorded in Deuteronomy 28:25, and 28:48.
The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth… (Deuteronomy 28:25)
Solomon prays that in the future occasions, “When…”, (not “if”) Israel is slain before the enemy, if she turns back to God and prays for forgiveness, that God would hear, and forgive the sin of Israel. Notice he even anticipated the future exiles in this prayer, because He prays that Israel would be brought again back into the land.
3. When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.( I Kings 8 :35-36)
Solomon knew that the Holy Land was morally sensitive, due to the Covenant of God. When the people went into idolatry, the curses of the Law would come upon them, one of those curses being drought. (Deuteronomy 28:24) The heavens would be shut up, not giving rain, as a sign of the Divine displeasure.
Notice , He makes the temple itself the focal point, “…if they pray towards this place…”. Solomon prayed that the people would turn towards the Temple, the place where God has set his name, the focal point on earth of all prayers, the place of mercy, atonement, sacrifice, the forgiveness of sin, and of intercession. God would be attentive , and forgive sin and even teach them the right way there.
4. If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers. (1 Kings 8:37-40)
Here also the curses of Deuteronomy become the burden of Solomon’s heart, as if He knew they were inevitable because surely the people would defect from God and suffer them. The Plagues are called “strokes upon the heart” in the prayer for they would be divine chastisement.
He prays that whether it be an individual or the whole nation united in prayer, that all would realize that these plagues which came upon them are reflections of the inner plague of the heart, which everyman shares in, ie sin, and that that very realization would turn each one towards the Holy House in prayer and supplication.
5. Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name’s sake; (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; Hear thou in heaven 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, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name. (I Kings 8:41-43)
In this fifth request Solomon prays that foreigners would come and pray and that the God of Israel would hear and answer their prayers. The fulfillment of the original promise that the seed of Abraham would one day bless every family on the earth is anticipated here. This house would be a house of prayer for all nations. Solomon asks that God would hear foreigners , so that they might come to know him, and to fear Him.
6) If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name: Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. ;( I Kings 8:44-45)
This prayer request anticipates times when the armies of Israel are sent out away from home, on military expeditions ordained of God. Let those far from home who turn in prayer towards the city Jerusalem and towards the Holy House, be heard, and let their cause be blessed of the LORD.
7) If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, (I Kings 8:46-49)
This is a different situation , for here Solomon anticipates that because of sin, God would deliver the covenant people into captivity and far, far away from Jerusalem and the Holy House. This is a prayer that even in exile, those captives who turn towards the city and the Holy House and pray from the heart, supplications and prayers of repentance, May God hear from heaven and respect those prayers and supplications.
Notice that Solomon here, by the Holy Spirit anticipates the very words of the prayers, “We have sinned, done perversely, and committed wickedness…”. Here we have them praying about the whole range of human evil, Sin(missing the mark), Perversion( (distortion of the rightful use), and wickedness, which is transgression and rebellion against the LORD. Even from a far land, let them turn and pray and May God hear them!
Solomon is again drawing much from Moses and particularly the covenant curses and promises, in this scenario. The last request is almost an echo in prayer of Deuteronomy 4:27-30;
And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (Deuteronomy 4:27-30)
This prayer is more than a prayer, for as in the later chapters of Deuteronomy, it is a prophecy of the future of Israel. Everyone of these scenarios would play out before the end of the books of Kings, and Israel would have been given hope in advance, as long as she remembered these supplications and the instruction which they contained, that in those circumstances of they turn towards the House and all it stands for and truly seek the LORD, would find mercy, and help in the name of the LORD.
2 Chronicles tells us that the prayer that day was dramatically affirmed by the LORD, before Solomon and all of the people, in a demonstration comparable to Sinai, or to Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal.
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.And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.( 2 Chronicles 7:1-3)