Why people ask for something is at least as important as what they ask for. It is not wrong in and of itself to ask for a rifle for Christmas (any ‘Amens’ from card-carrying NRA folks?). If the reason, however, one wants the rifle is to go to the local shopping center and start picking folks off as they get out of their vehicles then obviously this is wrong.
Such is the case in 1 Samuel 8 with the requests of the Israelites for a king. Indeed one of the things we saw at the end of the book of Judges was that the lack of a king was one of the major problems that led to the moral decadence in the land (see meditation for August 7). Moses himself even writes favorably about a time in which the Israelites will have a king (see Deut. 17:14-18). So why does the request by the Israelites for a king elicit the displeasure of Samuel and the Lord (v.6-9)?
The answer to that question is simple: Motive. It was not the request that was the problem but the reason for the request that displeased God and His prophet. Read the request again from the people:
“…appoint for us a king do judge us like all the nations.” (v.5-emphasis mine)
The reason the request was displeasing to God is because the people wanted to be like the world. They did not want a king to govern their hearts into more faithful obedience to Yahweh. They just saw the “stability” of what other nations had and they lusted after it. They desired worldly status more than privileged position as God’s special people.
I sure am glad that kind of silly praying was only for the Old Testament times…wait a minute, was it?