It goes without saying that when we pray, we expect to get an answer, but I wonder, do we really? I’ve heard it said that prayer is supposed to be like having a conversation with God, and yet, I’m still amazed that the first time I prayed, God actually answered me.
When Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple, God answered him, but not until several years later. It says in 2 Chronicles 7:11-12, “Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD, and the kings house: and all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the house of the LORD, and in his own house, he prosperously affected. And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for a house of sacrifice.” It says in 2 Chronicles 8:1 that it took Solomon 20 years to build “the house of the LORD, and his own house,” so it appears God’s response came at least 13 years after Solomon prayed at the temple dedication (1 Kings 6:38 – 7:1).
The obvious question is, why did it take the LORD so long to respond? God operates outside of time, so from his perspective, there was no delay. His response came when the outcome had been decided. Because we have free will, our actions to a certain extent determine God’s responses to our prayers.
God’s response to Solomon contained an if/then statement. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Prayer alone does not get God’s attention. God looks for evidence of repentance in our actions before he intervenes. Even though Solomon prayed on his knees with his hands raised toward heaven, his actions demonstrated his real priorities. Solomon spent seven years building the house of the LORD, “But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years” (1 Kings 7:1).