1 Kings 3:5-9
Praying for a Discerning Mind
Why are wisdom and understanding such valuable gifts?
Letters to the “Dear Abby” advice column were written to Abigail Van Buren, the pen name for Pauline Phillips, who started answering personal questions in 1956 and died in 2013. She was a trusted advisor to tens of millions, and did not hesitate to offer saucy words of wisdom.
When a young woman wondered whether she had gone too far in a 21st birthday celebration with her boyfriend, Abby was a truth-teller:
Dear Abby: I usually don’t go in much for drinking, but I had three martinis. During dinner we split a bottle of wine. After dinner we had two brandies. Did I do wrong?
Abby’s response: Probably.
Abby could be down-to-earth, honest, funny, and wise. She dealt with marital issues, relationship difficulties, medical questions, and sex problems. People wrote letters to her saying, “You changed my life,” which reminded her of the importance of her work. But she always maintained a sense of humor:
Dear Abby: I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can’t afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Have you any suggestions? -- M. J. B. in Oakland, Calif.
Dear M. J. B.: Yes. Run for a public office.
Abby chose her pen name from the biblical passage in which David says to Abigail, “Bless the Lord God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! And bless you and your good judgment” (1 Samuel 25:32-33).
David’s son Solomon was also a person of good judgment. When God appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask whatever you wish, and I’ll give it to you” (1 Kings 3:5), Solomon did not ask for wealth or power or prestige. Instead, he said, “Please give your servant a discerning mind in order to govern your people and to distinguish good from evil” (verse 9). He knew that wisdom and understanding of good and evil would be needed if he was going to be an effective leader.
These gifts are still important, and we see them in people who are having a positive impact on the world. Wisdom and understanding are found in the auto mechanic who analyzes problems with uncommon intelligence; the grandmother who knows the truth about what makes people tick; the elementary school teacher who can both instruct and inspire her students; the counselor who shows real knowledge about the workings of human relationships; the attorney with a passion for justice; the high-school student who resists peer pressure; and the entrepreneur who finds that she or he can do well by doing good.
Yes, a discerning mind is still more valuable than wealth or power or prestige. With God’s gifts of wisdom and understanding, we can truly change the world for the better.
Give me the gift of wisdom, Lord, so that I can do your work in the world. Amen.