Solomon is a king who is known for his wisdom, but he's also a very powerful pray-er, and we are blessed to have a number of his prayers recorded for us in Scripture. At the blessing of the Temple, he prays a rather lengthy prayer, including a number of groups and possible situations that could occur in Israel, mentioning each by name for perfect clarity about what he expects of his God - and his people.
And these prayers are things we can relate to. Most of us, anyway. They are prayers for sinners who turn away and then turn back. They are prayers for natural disasters and illnesses that come upon us. They are prayers for strangers and aliens living in the land. They are prayers for very human things that happen to all of us at one time or another, prayers for the people of God as they live their very human existence in a fallen world.
But the pattern that Solomon develops across his prayers, across this prayer in particular, is something that ought to make us pause for a minute and think about our own prayer.
Every time Solomon asks in his prayer for the Lord to ask, he always asks first for the Lord to hear.
The pattern is something like this, "When your people...and then turn to this Temple and pray to you...then hear them...then act." Every time. Hear them...then act. When they pray, hear them...then act.
Most of us would rather God just act. Wouldn't we?
That's what we pray. We don't pray for God to hear us first. We don't ask Him to listen. We don't want Him to pay attention or notice us or anything like that; we just want Him to act. To do what we're asking Him to do. To move on our behalf. To fix things. To make things better, to make things right. We want God to be moving all the time, to be working and redeeming and fixing and healing and atoning and defending and strengthening and loving...not many of our prayers any more ask Him to hear us.
It seems strange, I know. It's because we have a faith that tells us that God is always listening, that God always hears us. We have a faith that tells us that we don't even have to pray out loud because God can hear our "hearts," which means our thoughts, too. (Which always sounds strange to me, by the way, because I don't necessarily want God to be paying attention to all of my thoughts, but then I wonder how you're supposed to think in your heart that you want God to pay attention to the next ones...and He is supposed to hear that when He's not supposed to be listening to you, so that He knows to listen to you...do you get my point?)
But hearing is a fundamental part of God's relationship with us. It's what makes Him so different from all of the other gods that humans have had over the course of history. It's what makes Him unique. And it's what makes Him, fundamentally, the God that He claims to be - because He's told us it's all about relationship, all about love, and relationship rests on truly hearing and listening to one another. Communication.
Which means that when we pray for God to hear us, we're not just asking Him to listen and to pay attention to our words; we're asking for Him to be who He claims to be, to be the Lord who loves His people, to be the God in relationship with His creation. We're asking Him to be present in His whole heart, in our hearts, in the image of Him in whom we are created and to whom we are called to intimate wonder.
Hear us, Lord. Be wholly You. Be the fullness of who You are...and then act. Act out of that fullness. Act out of that goodness. Act out of that love.
It starts with hearing. Hear us, Lord.