I’ve noticed myself doing this a heap of times recently. It’s my turn to give a prayer request amongst friends and, having explained whatever the issue is, the words then come out of my mouth as if by clockwork: “yeah, so please pray for wisdom.”
Of course, that’s no biggy in itself. In fact, God wants us to ask him for the gift of wisdom. James’ letter in the New Testament makes that crystal clear:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
No question about it: it’s great to want to be wise. And by wise I don’t mean ‘intelligent’ or ‘knowing lots of stuff’, but the kind of wisdom the Bible holds up as precious. In fact, there’s a whole chunk of the Bible known as ‘wisdom literature’ because of the way it champions the importance of ‘being wise’. The big headline there is that wisdom is defined in relation to God: “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (e.g. Psalm 110:; Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). The wise person is the person who gets who the God of the Bible truly is, and lives a life shaped by their relationship with that God.
But a conversation with a friend the other week helped me see that often I can articulate a desire for wisdom, but I’m not expecting God to actually be using others to speak wisdom into my life.
It might be there’s some tricky situation where I’m not sure how to handle the situation. Or I’m being faced with a significant decision, and I’m at least wanting to acknowledge that I should try and make a wise choice. My prayer request shows I’m recognising I’m in need of wisdom. But I’m just not geared up to the fact that God might use others to actually encourage and direct me in that situation.
Does that resonate with you?
You ask people to pray for you, but you’ve absolutely zero expectation that someone will pipe up and actually share something that could be a blessing to you in that situation.
And that’s crazy, because the Christian life is intrinsically community-focused. I need other people to help me keep going in the Christian life and to help me know how to live. God’s designed it that way. That’s one of the reasons why God gives us the church. And so if I’ve got friends who are seeking to be saturated with Scripture and love Jesus and in whom God’s Spirit is at work, then why on earth don’t I expect them to have something valid to speak into my situation?
It’s like we live our spiritual lives in our own little pods, all the while existing side-by-side with each other, yet having very little input into each other’s decisions and situations. I’m surrounded by so much wisdom-potential all around me, and yet I act like I’m effectively a lone ranger.
Of course, if I put this into practice, then it may not be particularly comfortable. In a sense it’s much safer to ask someone to pray for wisdom, than to actually invite them to confront and challenge you with wisdom that’s spoken to you face-to-face. For a start it’s a lot harder to ignore. After all, they’re going to see you again next week and ask you how it’s going. And – yikes! – it might involve actual change.
So, a couple of action points:
- Next time I’m minded to ask friends to “pray for wisdom,” I’m going to try and also ask them for their wisdom too. Some people will presumably need more encouragement to open up than others. Perhaps it might mean creating a separate and longer opportunity for that to happen over a drink, once someone’s given it some thought. But in our politically correct culture, I should probably assume that if this is going to work I’m going to need to go out of my way to encourage people to speak wisdom into my life.
- Next time a friend asks me to “pray for wisdom” for them, I’m going to also consider whether God would have me say anything to them in that situation. That could be sharing something with them there and then, or looking to catch up with them at some other point. It may be considering a Bible truth to encourage them with. It may be sharing something God’s taught me through as I’ve gone through a similar experience. It may ‘just’ be affirming them in their desire to be God-centred in that tough situation.
What do you think? Recognise yourself doing the same? Do you find it easy to take the initiative and speak into the life of a friend? When was the last time you involved others in a decision you were making?