And God’s reply, “You have not asked for yourself long life or riches or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right. Indeed, I give you a wise and discerning mind.”
Reflecting on the nature of Solomon’s prayer, he begins with a statement of considerable humility, of being overwhelmed with the enormity of the responsibility he has inherited. He identifies as a servant, and then says, “ I am only a child - I do not know how to go out or come in - who can govern this your great people."
And Solomon’s plea, how do I navigate the waters between good and evil in this world?
How relevant is this for us today, in these times, as we live and participate in our secular world?
As we encounter the inherent tension between our own self interest and the greater good, between the secular and the spiritual
- of being understood and misunderstood
- of being faced with temptation
- of contending with demands and distractions in the face of feeling the need for rest, replenishment, time for reflection and communion.
Wisdom and discernment
Wisdom has been defined as the power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, insight, and understanding.
Discernment, to discern has been defined as to perceive or recognize, to make out clearly.
How do we discern? Unlike Solomon, seldom do we hear such a clear response from God, “Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind.”
How do we discern and apply wisdom in our spiritual lives?
Our course begins to be charted in Paul's letter to the Ephesians;
“Be careful how you live, make the most of time, understand what the will of the Lord is, give thanks to God and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are days, when to me, this is more easily said than done.
The distractions of the world and my self interest can compromise my conscious contact with God.
There have been times in my life when God has seemed so very large and so very distant and so very separated from my daily life, my daily struggles - my journey back, or my change in perception, or my change in being has so often been through prayer and meditation, however imperfect these attempts may be, by way of making the most of time, not taking passing moments for granted, by being open to try to understand what the will of the Lord is.
At one point in my life I spent a number of years sailing on ships. My main job was to provide navigation and be a lookout on watch. When standing watch at night it is very important to protect your night vision. In order to see in the dark, you benefit from the absence of light; too much light and the pupils of your eyes constrict. All of the lighting on the bridge of a ship at night has a red filter over it, so as not to compromise the watch standers night vision and ability to see in the dark. So, I remained able to read my navigation chart and maintain good night vision, due to the red filter over the light.
I met a man, a fellow mariner, who described to me, the role of Jesus, as that of the red filter over the light. I was able to see because of the red filter. I am able to access God through the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. The life of Jesus and his teaching provide the means by which I am able to attempt to understand the will of the Lord.
Through our application of discernment and wisdom we are able to achieve and embrace our conscious contact with God, enabling us to maintain an understanding mind, the ability to discern what is right, make the most of our time, give thanks, and partake of the living bread that came down from heaven.
There is a particular prayer (probably familiar to many of you) that has been of value in orienting people to live, not as unwise people but as wise.
God be in my head
And in my understanding
God be in mine eyes
And in my looking
God be in my mouth
And in my speaking
God be in my heart
And in my thinking
God be in mine end
And at my departing
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