There is a program on CBC Radio 1 called The Age of Persuasion. It is a good program and it tells of how people in the advertising industry use different techniques to convince us we need to have this or that product. They tell us our lives are unfulfilled if we don’t possess or use the particular product they are pushing. Those involved in the business of persuasion know that the root desires of every person are the pride of power, the accumulation of money and the experience of pleasure.
Young Solomon just succeeded his father David as king. He faced a daunting task and needed all the help he could get. In this famous dream God tells this young, inexperienced king, ‘ask what I should give you.’ In other words ‘whatever you want I will give you.’ We might imagine God’s surprise when young Solomon didn’t ask for long life, wealth or victory over his enemies. Solomon makes a humble request for an understanding mind, the ability to discern good from evil. Other translations of this passage have Solomon asking for a heart with a skill to listen and understand.
For the people of Solomon’s time the heart was not the centre of emotions but the centre of the intellect. Solomon was asking for sensitivity and openness to God so that as king he would govern the people as God would govern: with a justice guided by a loving mercy. Solomon’s greatest wish was to know what was right and be able to do it. Solomon’s pearl of great price, what he wanted more than anything else was a heart with the skill to listen and to understand the needs of others. God saw this higher wisdom in Solomon and Solomon’s wish was granted.
What is your pearl of great price? What is it that you would be willing to give up everything in exchange for it? What is it that you would give anything in the world to possess? I wonder if each one of us could ask God for an understanding heart, a heart with the skill to listen and to understand the needs of others. What a difference that would make in all our relationships if we were blessed with the skill to listen to and understand the needs of others, especially those closest to us.
How often have we heard the words, ‘you’re not listening,’ ‘you don’t understand,’ ‘you don’t know what I’m going through,’ ‘you don’t know the pressures I’m under,’ and so many other variations of these complaints and grievances. How often do we make the effort to understand the anxieties and the loneliness of our elderly? When was the last time you asked your spouse of a son or daughter; ‘how are things going,’ ‘how was you day,’ ‘how are things at work?’
How often do we take the time to listen to the anxiety, the uncertainty even the fear of young sons and daughters who have finished college or university and can’t find a job? Do we pray for an understanding heart, a heart with the skill to listen to and understand the needs of sons and daughters who won’t listen, who are so self – centred and insist on doing their own thing? Do we have an understanding heart when we read in the newspaper stories of the homeless or men, women and children living in bed bug infested homes? Do we have hearts that think about and sympathize with families and the elderly living through this heat wave without the relief of air conditioning?
If we were asked to ask for anything we want, what would it be? Probably we’d ask for health, job security, peace in the family. The list could go on and on but all these things would be given us if we had the wisdom to ask, “Give me a heart with a skill to listen, a heart to understand.” Gifted with such wisdom we would have the strength to say “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change and the wisdom to know the difference.”