Can We Pray for Wisdom?
What does it mean to pray?
Does it mean we speak or pour out the
thoughts of our heart, and god just listens? Does he not
Or does god only respond to certain
things? How do you know you have an answer, as opposed to
heartburn? Or can you even know?
If James 1:5 means we can pray for
"wisdom", and it will be given us, what is wisdom, and how
can it be given to us?
The word "wisdom" is translated from
the Greek work "sophia", and means "the capacity to
understand and function accordingly...Wisdom that God
imparts to those who are close to God...Good judgment in the
face of human and specifically Christian demands (practical)wisdom...James
1:5" (BDAG, pg 934). Liddell and Scott say: "1. Properly
cleverness or skill...2. Skill in matters of common life,
sound judgment, intelligence, practical wisdom, etc...3.
learning, wisdom... 4. Among the Jews, "The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of Wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7 LXX)" L&S, pp
1621-2. Interestingly, the Hebrew version of Prov. 1:7 says
"Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge". The Jews
thus showing a dynamic equivalence in their understanding of
"wisdom" and "knowledge".
In the Old Testament, which James'
audience would be very familiar with, we learn this in
Proverbs 2:6 "For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth
cometh knowledge and understanding." The American Heritage
Dictionary gives 4 definitions, either of the following 2
would apply: "1. The ability to discern or judge what is
true, right, or lasting; insight. 2. Common sense; good
judgment: “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do
desperate things” (Henry David Thoreau)."
So now, let's substitute the
definition for the word, and see if we can get some clarity
on what it is we can ask God for which we lack, and which he
in turn gives liberally:
"But if anyone is deficient in wisdom
[The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or
lasting; insight.Common sense; good judgment] he should ask
God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and
it will be given to him." (NET Bible)
So if I need the ability to discern
what is true, I can ask God, and he will liberally give that
ability to me.
Strangely, though there is no place in
the Bible that says "don't pray" for anything, the one thing
anti-Mormons feel God is incapable of accurately giving a
person "the ability to discern or judge what is true, right,
or lasting; insight" is the truthfulness of the Book of
We likewise often hear anti-Mormons
say there is no command to pray about the Bible. This is
not entirely true, at least for receiving a spiritual
witness of the Bible. As the two disciples walked with
Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus discussed scripture with
them. The proof of its truthfulness was plainly experienced
by the disciples, which Luke wrote as a sign post for
recognizing truth for all of us: Lk 24:32 "They said to each
other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was
speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the
scriptures to us?”"
How we can expect to "know" the
truthfulness of the scriptures, according to the Bible, is a
burning in the heart or other tangible spiritual
manifestation. Elijah heard the still small voice (1 Kings
19:12). Paul taught we all can be "led by the Spirit"
(Romans 8:14, 26; Gal 5:18). I suppose we can accept the
anti-Mormon claim there is no wisdom in asking God for "the
ability to discern or judge what is true" when it comes to
spiritual things, but that would actually prove they are not
Biblical in their approach.