Not too long ago, I read a book -- a work of fiction -- that was about life at the turn of the 20th century. Near the end of the book, the protagonist's grandfather quite unexpectedly sounded forth about the passage in the gospels where Jesus said, "whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you." This grandfather's perception of this passage is a profound one; he said, in essence, that Jesus did not mean physical things, like riches, or even a roof over our head, or healing of a sick friend but that he meant spiritual gifts, like forbearance, or wisdom. I do not know the theological solidity of this point of view, but it is one that sits well with me.
I was reminded of this last week when I read about the young Solomon's petition. It strikes me that he does not ask for anything at all tangible -- not even healing of a sick friend or relative -- but he asks for a "listening heart" to help him guide God's people. What a simple and humble request this is, and yet it could change everything.
What if the grandfather is correct? What if instead of asking for the things I think will improve the world, like rain or even healing for a friend, what if I focus my prayer life on asking for the strengthening of spiritual gifts? I was thinking of the spiritual gifts I taught the girls in second grade: Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Every one of those gifts could use fertilizing in me.
I wonder what kind of difference I could make in the world if I concentrated my efforts on these things? It's worth finding out!