H.B. Charles, Jr. on Praying for Wisdom

A man was given a tour of heaven in a dream. As the tour ended, he noted a particular building was skipped over. The angel warned that he did not want to see that building. This only heightened the man’s curiosity. The angel showed him. It was a building filled with beautifully wrapped presents. When the man asked what these were, the angel answered these were gifts God had prepared for his children that were never claimed in prayer.

If a building in heaven houses unclaimed gifts, many boxes would contain the unwanted gift of wisdom. When facing trials, we pray for provision, healing, strength, protection, intervention, miracles, deliverance, and many other things, besides wisdom.

Don’t ask how to get out of your trials.
Ask what to get out of your trials.
Pray for the unclaimed but precious gift of wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” This verse is a continuation of the previous paragraph. Verses 2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Then is seems James abruptly shifts to the subject of prayer. But the two passages are connected. The link is the word “lack.” Verse 4 says the purpose of girls is to become “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Verse 5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.”

It is God’s will for you to become a mature Christian that lacks no good thing. But we need to grow up. Our faith is still incomplete. We lack needed virtues for godly living. One of the things we lack is wisdom. God uses trials to expose our need for wisdom.

James 1:5-8 teaches that God freely provides wisdom to face life’s trials to those who come to him in believing prayer. Vance Havner said it well: “If you lack knowledge, go to school. If you lack wisdom, get on your knees!”

How do you access the wisdom you need to face life’s trials?

Ask God for Wisdom.

Verse 5 says, “If anyone of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

The Problem. Verse 5 begins: “If any of you lacks wisdom…” This conditional statement does not suggest some do not need wisdom. James states the fact in a way that requires each person to examine himself and be humble enough to confess the need for wisdom.

What is wisdom? In scripture, wisdom is not academic, philosophical, or intellectual. Wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom requires knowledge. But you can have knowledge and not be wise. You can be an “educated fool.” Our world is filled with them. We live in the most skilled, knowledgeable, and advanced generation ever. We also live in the most profane, violent, and hedonistic generation ever. We have knowledge. We lack wisdom.

Wisdom begins with a certain kind of knowledge. Psalms 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” This knowledge of God comes through God’s self-revelation of himself in scripture. The wisdom of God is found in the word of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the the incarnate wisdom of God. Colossians 2:3 says in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” When Adan and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they made fools of us all. But God sent his Son into the world to live a righteous life, die on the cross for our sins, and rise from the dead to give us new life. The gospel is able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ. But saving faith does not automatically produce perfect wisdom. Jesus is the answer. That does not mean you will not have to face life’s difficult questions. Proverbs 4:7 says, “Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”

The Prescription. God is the source of wisdom. To receive wisdom to face life’s trials, ask God for it. The prescription for wisdom is simple yet dynamic. You do not need time, experience, or education to be wise. The young, naive, and unlearned can ask God for wisdom.

The prescription is personal: “let him ask God.” You need godly people in your life to intercede for you. But there are things you need from God you will not receive from the intercession of others. You must ask God for yourself. If you need wisdom, you do not have to go to your pastor, visit a counselor, inform your prayer partners, read the experts, or go to your family and friends. The wisdom you need to face life’s trials is only a prayer away.

God gives. After commanding to us ask God for wisdom, James describes the character of God that makes him inclined to grant our request. God is a giving God. It is wrong to view God with clenched fists that must be pried open. God’s arms are outstretched. God’s hands are full, open, and ready to give. God’s pitcher is tilted toward his children to pour out blessings (Matthew 7:11).

God gives generously. The word “generously” means to be simple, single, or sincere. It is that which is pure. James uses the term to say God’s gifts are true gifts. Proverbs 23:1-3 says, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is set before you, and put a knife to you throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desires his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.” Sometimes a person’s generosity is not real generosity. That is not the case with God (Romans 11:35). God gives generously, liberally, purely, sincerely, and freely.

God gives generously to all. Divine generosity is nondiscriminatory. God does not play favorites. He is no respecter of persons. In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who kept going to the marketplace to hire workers. He hired workers early in the morning. he hired workers before the end of the workday. But he chose to pay them all the same things. The early birds grumbled against the landowner. The landowner responded, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me?” Indeed, God has the right to do what he wants. In his sovereign grace, he choose to be generous to all.

God gives generously to all without reproach. You may know people who could help in your time of need. But they are the last people you want to help because of the lecture you would hear when you ask for help. And you would never hear the end of it after they help. God will not chastise you for asking him for wisdom.

You do not have to worry God is too busy running the world to help you.
You do not have to worry God may mock you for not knowing how to face life’s trials.
You do not have to worry God will become irritated because you ask for the same thing.
The Promise. When Solomon became king of Israel, God signed a blank check and gave it to him. In 1 Kings 3:5, God said to Solomon, Ask what I shall give you.” What should you ask for if you had a guarantee that God would grant your request? In 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon asked, “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

Solomon asked for wisdom. This request so pleased God that he gave Solomon wisdom and threw in wealth, longevity, and success. The wisdom God gave Solomon was not an exclusive gift. God has signed a check and made it out to any believer in Christ who asks for wisdom. All you have to do is endorse it in prayer. Verse 5 says, “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 promises those who ask God will receive wisdom, not answers. All too often, answers become idols. We are like Job, who demanded to interrogate God about his suffering. When God finally took the witness stand, Job was interrogated with questions and never answered one of Job’s questions. Yet Job emerged with greater wisdom. This is how God words.

Wisdom is not a spiritual navigation system with turn-by-turn directions. It is spiritual alertness to see the potholes in the road, or the guy who darts in front of you, and respond in a way that does not ruin your Christian wisdom, dishonor the Lord, or discourage other believers.

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Source: Church Leaders