If God appeared and said to you, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5; 2 Chronicles 1:7), how would you respond? Many answers may come to mind; such as, healing physical or psychological infirmities for yourself or a loved one, financial stability, or a successful outcome in the realm of childrearing, friendship cultivation, and within a marriage relationship. Perhaps answers may fall under less weighty generalities and take on a more immediate request, like landing the job you’re applying for, landing the love you’ve been pursuing, or sailing through the flu season untouched. Solomon was lucky enough to have God offer him this grantable wish and as we’ve seen with the genie in a bottle, granting three wishes, God offered only one. In his reply, Solomon already showed great wisdom by asking, “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10). Solomon’s intent for desiring these was based on his reverence for the kingship he’d inherited after his father, David, and that he was humble enough to know that leading God’s chosen people was a worthy undertaking, so asking for “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9) pleased the Lord (1 Kings 3:10).
Why was the Lord pleased with Solomon’s answer? “God said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you’ (2 Chronicles 1:11). Clearly, God was so pleased due to the motivation for Solomon’s request, not just the request itself. To ask for wisdom and knowledge in regards to a particular topic, or pathway to follow in seeking answers to our questions, apparently to ask for these gifts when our heart’s desire is to discern and govern well under His decrees is supreme. We can most assuredly ask in prayer for specific grantings in our lives, but to do so with His will ultimately leading our requests is key to having our wishes granted by Him.
James speaks of this wisdom request in 1:5-7, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” So is James implying that we will surely be granted our prayer requests if only we have enough faith that God will fulfill them? As if we allow any doubt to seep in when asking God for our heart’s desire that this will cause our unstable and double-mindedness to ruin any chances we have of receiving what we ask for? Absolutely not, on both accounts. Many times, we can read Scripture verses and absentmindedly forget the first few words of a passage. Verse 5 says, specifically, that God will give you the wisdom you may lack when you ask. It doesn’t say that God will respond to specific prayer requests for healing, prosperity, or the myriad of other pleas we bring before Him; however, wisdom will provide through it all, answered and unanswered prayers. Perhaps this is why God will give us wisdom so generously when we ask for it, rather than specific prayer list items as we come to Him. It is with wisdom that we can tackle every detail of life, with assurance and perseverance, that His will is always being done.
We may not be kings or governing over God’s chosen people as Solomon had, but we are microcosms of this in one way or another. Unless we’re completely housebound, unable to participate in relationships outside of the one we have with ourself, we are confronted with dealing with others in a relational sense that always requires wisdom and knowledge as we proceed to make even the seemingly most trivial decisions. Parents, in disciplining and discipling your children; spouses, in living out your marriage as the Bible commands; workplace interrelations, whether you’re the lead or the underling; friendships, giving and receiving fierce accountability checks; in each dealing we have with another human being, we are responsible for pursuing increasing wisdom and knowledge, but with the sole focus being dependent completely on the wisdom and knowledge through Him, for Him, ultimately, to Him.
In everything, ask for wisdom. God will always answer that prayer. If we find ourselves complaining, unsettled, or discontent with however He deems to answer prayer pleas when we ask for particular requests, the wisdom has not been granted. Not because He is untrue in promising us generous bestowing of wisdom when we ask, but because our motivations aren’t lined up in Him, as Solomon’s request was. For if they were, no matter what disaster, trial, tribulation, challenge, or struggle came our way, we’d not be found distrusting Him, His plans, or His promises. If a genie in a bottle appeared, promising to grant three wishes, I’d decline. Satan made three attempts when he tried to challenge God’s will as he tempted Jesus while in the desert for forty days (Matthew 4:1-11); any desire worth attaining will be from Him alone. Our Creator and Father has communicated to us tirelessly through Scripture’s revealing of how pertinent wisdom is, so in asking for only wisdom, above riches, honor, long life, or defeat against enemies, is, in fact, the foundational component we need to deal with everything. Even when we experience prosperity in wealth, triumph over our enemies, abundance of life in years lived or trials kept minimal, these all still require wisdom to proceed with discernment, justice, and grace. Although wisdom seems like a lofty and unattainable goal, He, of course, provides us with the first step towards embracing it, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).