What if I get sick… what if I fail the exam… what if I don’t get the job… what to do when there’s not enough money to pay bills… where to turn when relationships break down… how to cope when death knocks at the door?
The Bible does not have a clear-cut answer for each ‘if’ and ‘when’ of life. One thing it tells us – Do not worry about all these things. (See Matthew 6). Instead pray. Oh, but many of us pray. When? When life is hard and problems come, we get on our knees, we ask for prayers.
King Solomon said a prayer for all the ‘ifs’ and ‘whens’ he could ever imagine in his time. Read 1 Kings 8 and see how he prayed for the ‘If’ and ‘When’: all the ‘bad and sad’ harsh realities in life: sin (v.31,46), wars, conflicts (v.33), natural calamities (v.35), sickness (v.37) etc. Was he not the richest, wisest, most glorious king in the history of Israel? The Bible says there was peace and great prosperity during his reign. (1 King 4, 5:4) Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple he built for God. His prayer was not the typical ‘celebrative’ prayer.
Why ‘if’ and when ‘when’? ‘If’ means something ‘might’ or ‘might not’ happen. When is a matter of time – ‘when’ things happen. Regardless, Solomon prayed because he wanted God to be ‘present’ in his temple. He acknowledged that God is awesome, loving and kind; too big to be in the house he built (v.23,28). Solomon knew the realities of life and living life… of man’s sinful nature. He understood how nature works: drought, famine, sickness are part of life. Solomon realized man can only live and overcome these challenges by the hand of God. He grasped the importance of having God ‘hear from heaven’ (vv.30,32,34,36,39,43,45), ‘forgive’ (vv.30,34,36,39,50) and ‘maintain the cause’ (v.45,49) of the ‘pray-er’.
Today, we can pray like Solomon. We pray for the ‘ifs’ and ‘whens’ – for the not so good even in the midst of prosperity and blessings. It is not being pessimistic or fatalistic. We pray because we want God to be with us whatever we’re going thru. We pray because we need his forgiveness if and when we sin, when we make him sad, when we offend our neighbors. We pray because God alone can maintain our cause. He alone makes the impossible, possible.
We pray each of us knowing the affliction (sin) of our hearts:
God, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all our ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men, that we may fear You all the days of our life. (vv.39-40)
Lord, hear in heaven, make me Your dwelling place in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name. (v.43)