“May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.” — 1 Kings 8:29
Prayer in Judaism is defined as “the work of the heart,” which profoundly changes the nature of prayer from one of entreating God to an act that transforms who we are – not what God does. Our devotions are focused on different facets of prayer and what lessons we can learn about the power of our prayers.
At the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem, King Solomon offered a beautiful prayer and work of the heart that transformed the power of our prayers.
In 1 Kings, chapter 8, verse 27, Solomon began: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” Solomon recognized that God cannot be confined to a single structure; He is everywhere. So what would be the purpose of the Temple?
Solomon prayed that God would make Himself more present in the Temple than in any other place, and that He would listen more attentively to all who prayed there. This simple but heartfelt request is what has given rise to our houses of worship today — sacred places where people of faith can come together in corporate prayer.
Once the Temple was destroyed, the Jewish sages declared that houses of worship, or synagogues, would take its place. Because of Solomon’s prayer said thousands of years ago, we can be assured that if we go to a house of God, He will be more present there just as He was at the Temple. While some people don’t see the need to go to a synagogue or church, here is the biblical basis for why we should.
Solomon also gives us another treasure in his dedication prayer. This lengthy supplication contains the main elements for an ideal model for all prayer —that God be present in our lives; that we have a desire to do His will in everything; that we have the ability to obey His commands; that we receive help with our daily needs; and finally, that God’s kingdom will spread throughout the world. (Read 1 Kings 8:56–61.)
Solomon’s prayer is an example of liturgy that has informed and shaped many of our corporate prayers today. While worshipers often feel that liturgy is unnecessary, one need only to study Solomon’s prayer to see how the words of someone greater than ourselves can give us the tools we need to pray our most powerful prayers.
When Solomon dedicated the Temple, he initiated much more than an era that would last only 400 years. He gave us the very foundations for our sacred sanctuaries and our liturgy that have enriched our faith and served to keep us connected not only to the Master of the Universe, but to each other.