Friday, April 22, 2016

The Prayer for Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 
James 1:5
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3
Last fall, as I prepared to travel to Ethiopia with a national disability ministry, I met for prayer with fellow team members at the home of our team leader. At the conclusion of our time, the director of the local division of the ministry went around the circle of us gathered, prayed for us, and shared a passage of Scripture along with a word of exhortation for each of us. My passage was James 1:5. “I believe the Lord wants you to seek his wisdom, Michele.” Later that night in bed, I wondered if my behavior on a previous trip had somehow communicated a lack of wisdom. Had I expressed too often a doubting of my value to the team? But the more I pondered the message, the more I saw it as an invitation from the Lord more than a rebuke from my peers. I looked up other passages related to inquiring of the Lord and appealing to God for insight, and with all earnestness, I began to pray for godly wisdom. Those prayers soon expanded beyond concerns for the mission to personal concerns and petitions for wisdom for my husband and children. By the time I returned from the trip, the request for wisdom became a regular part of my prayers for others and myself.

Among the Scriptures that most encouraged me was Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Literally, hidden things means inaccessible things. Beyond the wisdom I needed for the upcoming mission, I thought of all that felt outside of my grasp at the moment: My second eldest, mildly on the autism spectrum, was about to turn 18 and graduate high school. How would we help him effectively transition to adulthood and higher education? His younger brother, more challenged, would follow closely behind. How would we find the community supports in our town to ensure he gains the life skills necessary for self-advocacy and independence? How could I overcome the grip of obesity and arthritis to have the energy to be engaged and effectively serve my family? I included these and other concerns in my appeals for wisdom.

I cannot say that I actively audited the results of my prayers. In fact, I know I didn’t. When the moment of desperation passed, I forgot them. But isn’t that our tendency: to pray, yet not really expect a response? What the past few months have taught me, however, is that the Lord not only hears this prayer but responds generously.

“Get wisdom, get insight,” Proverbs 4:5 commands, but what is it? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Proverbs 9:10 says, “and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Godly wisdom has to begin with my acknowledging and submitting to God as sovereign over all of life, and as the ultimate source of truth and the guidance and discernment I seek. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Philippians 1:9-11. Paul prays for the Philippian believers: “[May your love] abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” I believe this encapsulates wisdom. It is the practical application of God’s word in living out the Gospel. Godly wisdom enables the believer to conduct skillfully the affairs of life—from the way we relate to others to the priorities that guide our decisions and pursuits.

The older I get, and hopefully, the more mature I become, the more I am aware of how much I don’t know, how much I lack godly wisdom. Even after 25 years of walking with the Lord, my proclivity is to first lean on my own understanding when there are decisions, trivial or weighty, to be made. Calling upon the Lord for wisdom, the one who made us, and can best supply us, is a discipline I must continually and intentionally hone.

Acquiring the wisdom of God is not a passive pursuit, but rather it is prayer coupled with Spirit-enabled effort. Wisdom promises in Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” The word of God trains me towards wisdom. When I pray for wisdom, the Spirit gives clearer insight into the word of God so that I can understand the principles that must guide my practical decisions. Beyond Bible study, the prayer for wisdom has yielded answers through wise counsel, clarity on goals, insight into avenues I had not previously considered, more fruitful research, and better discernment regarding priorities and choices. And what of my health? I’ve lost half of the pesky extra pounds, and now have few symptoms of my arthritis!


The invitation to seek God’s wisdom is an invitation to his peace. Proverbs 3:17-18 say of wisdom, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.”

Lord, thank you that your steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in you. Your word says you instruct us and teach us in the way we should go, you counsel us and your eye is upon us. Therefore, by your grace, help us cultivate a habit of seeking your wisdom and counsel in all matters. Amen

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