Over the course of two short days, four friends shared extra hard things with me. I wanted to help—I wanted to relieve their burden, share their trouble, or offer something that could ease their pain. But I was at a loss as to how to respond practically. The usual offering of, “Oh, I’ll pray,” felt trite, almost as if I was brushing off their hardship. I wanted a meaty offering, filling as a pot roast delivered straight to the front porch of my hurting friends’ souls. And moreover, I wanted God to show up tangibly—for him to show himself as the one who shopped for the roast, cooked it to perfection, and delivered it right to their doorstep—the Ultimate Provider for hurting souls.

I don’t rest easy in the spot of not knowing what to do, so I began to do what I often do, which is ask God how to pray. It wasn’t long before I found the Lord leading me to pray in the same way for all four friends—and that was to ask him for wisdom. The circumstances hardly seemed coincidental, and God’s leading made me curious—beyond the passages that are quick to spring to memory, where in Scripture are we told to pray for wisdom? Why does God want us to pray for it? And what does it do for us to ask for it?

The Where’s of Wisdom

James 1:5 is the likely first passage that comes to mind—the promise that God will give wisdom generously and without judgment to all who ask. We find a beautiful description of God’s wisdom later in James 3:17, where James tells us it embodies attributes reminiscent of the fruits of the spirit, plus impartiality and sincerity. In Romans 11:33, we learn that God possesses it boundlessly, without end and to unfathomable depths. From the Old Testament, a few stand-outs are in Daniel 12:1-3, where we learn that the righteous will forever shine with it—a resulting gift of their deliverance—and Job 12:13, where we see that it abides with God. King Solomon’s Proverbs and David’s Psalms are chock full of references to it and reflections on it—essentially it’s everywhere. Thematically, God’s abundance in wisdom and our need for it are laced throughout Scripture.

The Why’s of Wisdom

The plethora of wisdom references and passages is in itself instructive. Once again, I am reminded that I lack what God possesses, and he possesses it in excess and purity. My wisdom is not enough. It’s short-sighted, prone to whim, emotionally responsive, and even unpredictable. One day I can think one path wise and another foolish, and the very next day realize my thinking was entirely flawed and even backwards. I know a wise and discerning pastor who reads a chapter of Proverbs every day, beginning over again each month. He is intentional and discerning—God’s Word has not returned void. Perhaps my requests for wisdom on behalf of my friends will also not return void? I’m banking on it, and continuing to return to the throne to request it for them and for myself.

The What’s of Wisdom

To ask for wisdom is to submit to God’s abundance and our lack, his will and our inability to see the big picture. It’s to ask him to share what he has in overflow, and to trust that our Daddy will not give a rock when we ask for bread (Matt. 7:9). God’s wisdom reorients our hearts to his sovereignty and our shortsightedness. It recasts our requests in light of his larger story.

What else can we ask for with such assuredness that we are praying in God’s will? Lord, give us health. God, bless us with financial security. Lord, please make ____ happen. Substitute in wisdom for any of those requests and you’re sure to get what you ask for. And I’m guessing asking for it will help the rest of the above (good and valid!) prayer requests to settle into their proper place in our heart. Not that we wouldn’t pray them, but that we might have a very different response if the answer was silence, not now, or even no.

I’m still praying wisdom for my friends—and let’s be real, I’m still praying wisdom for myself in so very many circumstances. But these passages have made me feel safe in doing so, like this place of lack is a secure and abiding spot to be.

About the Author:

Holly Mackle

Holly Mackle is the curator of the mom humor collaboration Same Here, Sisterfriend, Mostly True Tales of Misadventures in Motherhood, author of the family Advent devotional Little Hearts, Prepare Him Room, and editor at engagingmotherhood.com. She is the wife of a handsome, mama of two flower-sneaking bitties, and a fairly decent gardener and hopefully better humorist for joegardener.com. She spends most of her free time explaining to her two young girls why their hair will not do exactly what Queen Elsa’s does.