God desires a relationship with us and calls us to nurture a life of prayer so that we can speak and listen to him. The summons to pray should not be taken lightly. It lies at the heart of our vocation as children of God. It is the means by which we come to understand and learn the ways of God.
As we labor to pray, we are helped by the example and encouragement of others.
In its teachings on prayer, the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a small collection of holy ones who are known for their lives of prayer. In the Old Testament, the Catechism gives attention to Abraham, Moses, Hannah, and the broader era of King David.
In his day, David wanted to build the Temple, but was restricted from doing so by God. The king had blood on his hands and God did not want him to build his dwelling place. Instead, the honor of constructing the Temple was given to King Solomon. The Catechism records: “The Temple of Jerusalem, the house of prayer that David wanted to build, will be the work of his son, Solomon.”
And so, in the spirit of his father, Solomon stands as a man of prayer. He is called to pray for himself, but also for God’s people. As king, he is blessed to led God’s people in the consecration of the Temple. The Catechism notes: “The prayer at the dedication of the Temple relies on God’s promise and covenant, on the active presence of his name among his People, recalling his mighty deeds at the Exodus.”
We can glean many lessons from the prayer life of King Solomon.
Solomon’s prayer encapsulates the words and deeds of God. It shows a profound awareness and gratitude for the revelation of God and a deep love for the covenant God made with his people.
Such a prayer reminds us that our prayer is never a singular action. It is contained within a living relationship and expressed within the context of a familial covenant. When we pray, we – the People of God – are praying. No believer is alone. Whether in person or in spirit, the person in prayer is a person united with others in the covenant of God.
The Catechism describes Solomon’s prayer: “The king lifts his hands toward heaven…”.
Solomon shows us that when we pray, our whole selves should be involved. Prayer is not simply an action of the soul, but also an action of the body. As we are made in the image of God – body and soul – so both the body and soul should be engaged as we turn in prayer before God. At times, this might involve lifting our hands, swaying, kneeling, prostrating, bowing, and other gestures that involve our bodies in prayer.
As a man who sought wisdom, Solomon knew he could not only pray for himself. As king and as a member of God’s covenant, he was bound to pray for others. This is a compelling lesson to us, especially as we live in a society that praises individualism.
The Catechism tells us: “[Solomon] begs the Lord, on his own behalf, on behalf of the entire people, and of the generations yet to come, for the forgiveness of their sins and for their daily needs, so that the nations may know that He is the only God and that the heart of his people may belong wholly and entirely to him.”
The prayer of Solomon shows us that the king is not stuck in any type of chronological snobbery. He prays for himself, for the people under his care, but also for the posterity to come. As a man of prayer, Solomon is not stuck in his age. He has an open heart and considers the generations to come.
As with Solomon, prayer can also expand our souls and broaden our own understanding. It shows us the past and the future. By praying, we learn about ourselves, the limits of our own age, and our obligations to posterity.
In these multiple ways, we can learn from the prayer of Solomon. He is one of many examples given to us by the Catechism. As we receive the models of prayer, our task is to discern their wisdom and see how such wisdom can be applied to our lives and make us a better people of prayer.
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