Praying for wisdom

Big words relating to interpreting the Bible and the study of *how* we determine what God wants us to do.

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Praying for wisdom

Post by JSM17 » Sat Jan 19, 2008 6:45 am

James 1:5
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

I have been studying the book of James for about a month now. It has taken me a month just to get through the first chapter. I am amazed at how much there is in this small letter.

I have notice many who use this verse as a way for them to pray for all kinds of wisdom, but I see James telling us to pray for a special wisdom dealing with certain issues.

What are your thoughts on how we should view this passage and should we be praying for wisdom that God has not called us to ask for, what is our motivation in asking for wisdom outside of this text?

I am under the deep conviction that we must take in account the context, but many do not, when using this verse.

Look forward to hearing everyones thoughts. flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power...

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Post by m273p15c » Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:21 pm

I agree that there are definite limitations on this promise. It was not intended to cover getting help on finishing one's G.E.D., graduating from college, discovering a new wonder drug, etc. The wisdom under discussion in this context is spiritual:
James wrote:My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)
The context first explains how "various trials" and sufferings actually help us. In what sense, physical or spiritual? Clearly, it is spiritual, because patience and faith are spiritual virtues. Therefore, the perfecting that is under consideration is also spiritual. Later in this same book, James condemns those who view God as a "genii with free wishes" to be spent any way they want:
James wrote:You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:3-4 )
Clearly, we are not promised an extensive assortment of carnal abilities, pleasures, or luxuries. God's desire is that we lack nothing - spiritually. Physically, we are only promised food and clothing - nothing more (Matthew 6:24-34).

Back to the original context, James 1:5 continues the thought of James 1:3-4 by explaining how we can receive wisdom, which may be required for some to appreciate how trials can be a blessing.

Since verse 6 expresses God's desire that we lack nothing, I would presume this promise extends to all forms of spiritual wisdom, whether it relates to trials, patience, or any other aspect of patience's perfecting work. Other verses also back up this idea, even if it is not directly taught in James 1:
Matthew wrote:And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:5-13)
Usually, Matthew's account is quoted to make this point (Matthew 7:7-11). However, I like this account because it shows both that God expects us to be persistent, and the promise extends to spiritual gifts ("give the Holy Spirit", not a new Corvette, for example).
Paul wrote:For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Paul's prayer, as substantially recorded here, gives us at least three points in regard to our question: One, it shows there is no limit to the spiritual wisdom we may seek and receive as it relates to the love of Christ and the divine nature, which we are to shoulder (II Peter 1:2-4). But, two, it also provides a model for how and what to pray. Third, it provides strong encouragement to know that by inspiration, an extremely "righteous man" prayed for us to have this spiritual benefit (James 5:16).

Lastly, I would confess there is some knowledge that pertains to the spiritual world, for which we are not to seek (Deuteronomy 29:29; Psalm 131:1; 139:6). This knowledge is exempt from James' promise, because it does not pertain to our spiritual perfection. For example, we do not need to know how God does all the wonderful things that He does to know what we need to do. Neither, do we need to know the eternal fate of a loved one to know what we need to do. This knowledge is not ultimately relevant to us (Romans 14:4, 12; John 21:21-22). We can be spiritually mature and complete without knowing these things; therefore, such wisdom is exempt from the promise of James 1:5.

P.S., have you ever noticed that the bulk of the Psalms are worded like prayers, especially Psalm 119?
May God help us to love truth sincerely and supremely (II Thessalonians 2:11-12)

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