Why You Shouldn’t Pray For Wisdom
The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom.
Prov. 4:7 emphatically declares, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.”
In what is known as the Old Testament Wisdom Literature, numerous passages contain the axiom, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10, Pr. 9:10).
In the New Testament, James urges his readers to seek godly wisdom as he states, “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).
If anything is clear from these passages (and many others), it’s that in the economy of God, wisdom carries an extremely high premium.
In 2 Chronicles, when prodded by God to ask for anything, Solomon asks not for wealth, honor, long life or new apple products, but only for one thing: wisdom. God gave it to him in abundance. It was said of Solomon that he was the wisest man who ever lived. Why? Because in the fear of the LORD, he sought wisdom from God.
The loud and clear message from Scripture is this: pray for wisdom.
Yet somewhere in the shadows of this voluminous illumination, a nagging question lurks. If Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, sought wisdom from God and was overflowingly accommodated, why did the sum total of his wisdom lead him to the continual refrain, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2)? Meaninglessness. Futility. This is the pot at the end of the rainbow of wisdom?
Being the wisest man who ever lived didn’t make Solomon the holiest. While his wisdom may have provided clarity and discernment in recognizing the right path, it didn’t enable him to take it. Solomon was a man who indulged in materialism, sexuality, drunkenness and workaholism. His wisdom allowed him to see these things as empty—but it didn’t keep him from returning to their wells.
This leads us to a brief observation regarding wisdom. The Bible clearly wants God’s people to have wisdom—not only to have it but to exercise it. This tells us that, while we may seek and gain great attributes of the faith, if we aren’t going to employ them for the glory of God and the sake of the Gospel, they will ultimately be of no use. Praying for specific means without the intention of using those means for God’s glory turns those means into an end. Any end other than God’s glory is an idol.
In light of this, I offer two reasons why you shouldn’t pray for wisdom:
Don’t pray for wisdom if…
1) …You’re not willing to use it for yourself.
I admit, when seeking to sharpen my mental prowess or accumulate knowledge, my initial and most compelling thought is often how someone else could use the information. I have great ideas about how other people should employ discipline and submit to God’s revealed will in the Scriptures. It is relatively easy for me to come to a biblical passage for wisdom in order to tell someone else how to live. However, if the first seat in front of my soapbox is not reserved for myself, my desire for wisdom is vanity.
Gaining wisdom, discernment and knowledge are all noble and right pursuits. But like Solomon, we can have all the understanding in the world, yet little application of it in our own lives. We must begin with the uncomfortable pursuit of not only allowing the Spirit to illuminate the dark places inside of us through wisdom but also to enter those areas with tools of refinement.
2) …You’re not willing to use it for others.
Another compelling reason to desire wisdom, insight and knowledge is that we like to see the world for what it is. I love how the Bible flags the mines and marks the arrows of the narrow road of righteousness in a dark and sinful world. Often, however, it is easy for me to be a consumer of those markers and not a participant in their purpose.
As previously stated, gaining wisdom, discernment and knowledge are all helpful on one’s journey, but one’s journey is not solitary. There are those behind and beside us that not only need to see the flags and arrows that mark the way before us but also need us to raise flags and post pointers ourselves.
We can gain wisdom by learning every apologetic argument, memorizing every word of Scripture, and being deeply moved by the compassion of Jesus. However, unless we are willing to engage talking points in an adversarial climate, share words of Scripture with others, and employ the compassion of Jesus in our own lives, our wisdom is meaningless.
We must not only be consumers of wisdom but recognize that God gives His understanding to be used among His people for His glory.
The Bible says we should pray for wisdom and that the fear of God is where we start. This is because we are not our own but belong to God. He bought and equips us to use us. If we desire His wisdom but don’t want Him to use it, we betray the fact that we really have no fear of the LORD.
May we not be gluttons of information or insight. Instead, may we be vessels of nourishment carrying the wisdom of God to the darkened world within and around us.