At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this, your great people?”
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and 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, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 1 Kings 3:5-12 (NRSV)
(Jesus said): “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10 (NRSV)
King Solomon was considered to be the wisest human being who ever lived. Yet his greatest act of wisdom was in his request to God when he became king of Israel. He asked for understanding and discernment. He did not ask for the things that human nature normally craves.
If God told us He would give us anything we asked for, most of us would automatically think of a few things. Wealth, the heads of our enemies, prestige, an attractive appearance, power, longevity, etc. come to mind almost as knee jerk reactions. The more altruistic and gentle of us might ask for family harmony or world peace, or even for knowledge, but how many of us would go straight to asking for understanding and discernment?
Knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom. Knowledge is a component of wisdom, but knowledge without understanding and discernment is simply a set of memorized facts.
God hears and answers our prayers- especially those that underscore His will for us. When we admit our inadequacy and ignorance (as Solomon did) and ask for God to supply us with understanding and discernment, He gives those things to us, generously.
The most difficult petition in the Lord’s Prayer is, “Thy will be done.” It is human nature to think that what we believe and know is best, but many times we do not have the wisdom to step back and consider every side of a situation. It is more difficult, albeit much more wise, to put our pride and illusions of superiority aside and ask, search and knock on God’s door. He will answer our questions and supply our needs far more abundantly and completely than we can dream of doing on our own.