“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:5-8 ESV
James makes it sound so simple–if you lack wisdom ask for it in faith and voila’–you got it. So why aren’t we wiser? When we’re stuck and we pray, why doesn’t this formula work as cleanly as this?
I can think of a few things we don’t always do to start with and then I’ll move to the opposite.
1. James 4:2-4 says that we have not because we ask not. And when we ask, we have selfish motives to spend on our own desires. We don’t pray and we’re self centered. In Joshua 9 the Gibeonites didn’t want to get wiped out by the Israelites so they dressed up like they were from a long way off and got them to sign a treaty. The Israelites, according to Joshua 9:14, “did not inquire of the Lord or ask counsel from Him.” One version calls it presumption, which the Hebrew defines as “seething pride.”
Seething pride is when we think we got it covered. We don’t think we need God, or we don’t think to ask Him.
2. We don’t know how to listen for God’s voice. Some Christians just don’t know that when they ask, God will answer. We’re not just praying some general rote prayer, like meal time grace. And we’re not leaving a message on God’s voicemail that He may or may not respond to. John 10:4-5 clearly teaches, “My sheep follow Me because they know my voice. They do not know the voice of strangers.” We don’t have to worry about being deceived if we get to know God’s voice.
He speaks first and foremost through His Word. That activates the Holy Spirit and keeps us grounded. People who get mystical or off in a ditch usually aren’t feeding on the Bible on a consistent basis. Others are students of the Bible, but think that listening for God’s voice is bogus. Then so is John 10.
3. We get spun around with anxiety, worry, self pity, doubt, fear and unproductive things. It’s easy to do in any given situation. So we need to go to God in the middle of the muck and call out for help, for peace, and for wisdom. Some people like the process of wallowing and don’t like to be called out. Jesus didn’t mince words when He said things like “O ye of little faith,” and told His disciples they had hard hearts. He even told Peter, “Get behind Me Satan.” We need to gently but firmly remind ourselves and each other of God’s call to ask in faith with nothing wavering.
What are the positives about getting wisdom?
1. Wisdom comes from having a hearing heart. You can go to school for knowledge or Google just about anything, but wisdom is gained from calling out to God on a regular basis. When Solomon was called to be king God gave him one request. In 1 Kings 3:9 it tells what Solomon asked for: “Give your servant an understanding mind, a hearing heart.”
2. In Proverbs 2 Solomon coached his readers to treasure up God’s commands, to call out for insight and to search for wisdom like silver and hidden treasures. Wisdom comes from a long obedience in the same direction. It is a quest that is much like mining for gold.
3. Wisdom comes through prayer. In Luke 11:1 the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” It doesn’t say “teach us how to pray,” but “teach us TO pray.” We try to figure things out on our own, or get advice from others, or something less efficient–but God says to pray. If you lack wisdom, ask for it.
We know this stuff, it’s just hard to do. And even when we do, life doesn’t always comply. Plus, God doesn’t work on our time schedule. And things that we think should be easy aren’t. But the promise still stands. If you lack wisdom, ask for it and God will give it. Don’t you wish you could just push the “Staples” easy button?