A friend recently remarked that nearly every time I pray with my team or with others in partnership, I ask for wisdom. I hadn’t noticed the habit until he mentioned it. But he’s right. I’m constantly asking God for wisdom—for myself and for others.

Which got me thinking, Why do I pray this way? What exactly am I asking God for?

The Bible-minded run right to Solomon, which makes sense, since the king of Israel was affirmed by the Lord for desiring discernment. The Lord not only blessed Solomon with wisdom but also granted him the wealth and power he hadn’t requested.

The proverbs of Solomon link wisdom to the fear of the Lord, and in the New Testament, the brother of Jesus reminds us heavenly wisdom leads to good conduct and works done in gentleness (James 3:13). It is “pure, . . . peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense” (v. 17, CSB).

Why We Need Wisdom Today

It’s not hard to see why we need wisdom these days. In his forthcoming book Digital Liturgies, Samuel James defines the essence of wisdom as “living in light of reality” and then shows how the online world can undermine wisdom by cutting us off from the world as it truly is:

“Because wisdom is a submission to God’s good and given reality, our immersion in computer and internet existence is a crisis of spiritual formation. Our digital environments dislocate us, training us to believe and feel and communicate in certain ways that our given, embodied, physical environments do not. The more immersive and ambient the technology, the more extreme this effect.”

We’re experiencing an epistemological crisis, wondering what’s true and how we know it to be so. Everything in our world pushes us away from cultivating habits that lead to wisdom and reflection. No wonder, then, we must pray for God to be generous with wisdom from above. We sense our need because we recognize not all the choices we make will be clear-cut or black-and-white or easily discernible decisions of faithfulness.

Patterns of Wisdom

In Uncommon Unity, Richard Lints says wisdom starts with realizing “God has made the world with certain patterns and that our flourishing rests in embracing those patterns and resisting the lure of running contrary to those patterns.” We must see things as they are. The wise don’t chafe against limitation or try to remake the world in humanity’s image. We’re to joyfully submit to the God-given patterns in creation and then seek faithfulness within finite constraints.

Of course, the acknowledgment of creational goodness must be held together with an understanding of the fall—the world isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Biblical wisdom is “able to distinguish between the goodness of the created order and the brokenness of the created order, neither naively accepting the brokenness nor becoming cynical about the loss of goodness in the world.”

We don’t simply accept the world as it is, shrugging off injustice or succumbing to fate. To be wise is to differentiate what’s good from what’s fallen, sometimes even in the same person or pattern—rarely relegating something to one category or another completely but recognizing the complexity of a broken world in need of redemption.

The wise are usually wise everywhere, no matter the differences on the surface. They’re able to distinguish between superficial cultural elements and deep-rooted differences. They can spot underlying unity when it exists, and they also identify foundational fault lines.

Prayer and Practice

Wisdom comes through prayer and practice. “It is a learned habit,” Lints writes, “but there is no mechanical means to acquire it. . . . It is confidently humble and able to glean insights from a variety of diverse sources.”

Unfortunately, too much that passes under the banner of “discernment” these days is a narrow focus on discerning what might be bad in something. A broader and fuller understanding of discernment enables us also to discern what’s good, without adopting an openness to everything in a person or position.

The irony of casting everyone into categories of “good” or “bad” is that you no longer need to practice discernment. You wave away anyone in the “bad” category or adopt uncritically whatever comes from the “good” category. True wisdom requires us to look for truth wherever it may be found, to sift everything through the Scriptures, and to celebrate God’s goodness when we see it refracted, even through broken or shattered image-bearers.

Perhaps the greatest area of need today is wisdom combined with patience. The wise don’t rush to judgment but recognize “when a fuller story is needed to fill out the account.” We need more cold takes instead of hot ones. The wise acknowledge the need to know how the past influences the present, and they seek to interpret someone’s words or actions in the context of their circumstances, trying to understand the narrative within which someone makes sense of the world.

Need of the Hour

In the end, we pray for wisdom because we have no hope of gaining wisdom on our own. Lints writes,

“We gain wisdom when we abandon hope in ourselves and learn the habits of being interwoven with others, and especially being accepted by the Lord of the universe because of this strange reality we call grace.”

Wisdom points us to the Lord, the One who gives generously and helps us better interpret our present circumstances and guide the people whom God has placed in our path.

So . . . with Solomon, and following the instruction of James, let’s keep praying for wisdom. Lord knows we need it today.

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