The other day during my morning run, I decided to pray for wisdom. Actually, I pray for wisdom a LOT. In fact, I pray for wisdom so often that the other day it occurred to me if I even still knew what wisdom was.
You know when you say a word over and over and over again like “broccoli” it simply doesn’t sound like the word anymore? The word loses some of its meaning? That’s what had happened to me with the word “wisdom.”
I stopped myself mid-prayer and thought: “What exactly am I asking for? What the heck IS wisdom?”
I realized that whenever I ask God for wisdom, often I’m in a complex, difficult, decision-making process and I simply want to know what’s best to DO. I’m asking God for some special insight or epiphany that can inform and strengthen my decision-making. But wisdom is not merely some miracle advice plummeting from the sky, although there’s a chance it may take that form from time to time. And wisdom is not only an epiphany or conclusion drawn in isolation.
Scripture has quite a lot to say about wisdom. There are entire books of the Bible known as Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes) which are dedicated to unpacking what wisdom looks like in suffering, wealth, depression, joy and every emotional state along the gradient of humanity’s existence.
Read that: wisdom is so complex, it took five books–including Psalms, the longest book in the Bible–for God to be like, “Yeah, I think that’s enough wisdom.”
One of my favorite descriptions of Wisdom is in Proverbs 1:20-23.
Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech:
“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.
Yeah, so…according to the Bible, wisdom is a WOMAN.
Not only is she a woman, she is a loud, assertive, opinionated woman who shows up to teach the men.
In short, Wisdom would not be allowed to preach or lead in many modern American churches.
Let THAT sink a little before we move on…
King Solomon knew the future was female because then he later caps off the entire book by extolling the virtues of his ideal woman: the legendary Proverbs 31 wife of noble character: you can read the entire description here, but she’s an artisan, a provider, a businesswoman, a horticulturist, a seamstress, physically strong and able, a wonderful wife/mom with adoring children.
In modern terms, this wise and noble woman would be the envy of all Millennials on Instagram — she’d have her handmade goods, locally home-grown and sourced produce, #hustle, #gymlife, #nofilter on display for all to see.
I suppose my misconception that wisdom is a miraculous epiphany is not entirely unfounded. After all, King Solomon himself pretty much received wisdom as a bolt of lightning out of the sky in 2 Chronicles 1:8-12 (NIV):
8 Solomon answered God, “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. 9 Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
11 God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions 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, 12 therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”
Perhaps this is why I–along with many Christians–often ask for wisdom with such expectation. There is biblical precedent. However, wisdom is never given out as an isolated request. The Bible also says in Proverbs 9:10:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Wisdom is always meant to be acquired in tandem with fear of the Lord. Knowledge and awareness of God is a pathway to wisdom and understanding. The word “fear” in our modern American context often has negative connotations, but “fear of the Lord” does not necessarily mean terrified–but an appropriate and proportional awe–(dare I say “worship”)– in relation to the infinite, all-powerful, divine God.
The New Testament takes this one step further in 1 Corinthians 1:9:
“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
Righteousness, holiness and redemption. More words for us to unpack.
We’ll explore these ideas some more in my next post, but until then: Do you ever pray for wisdom? And if so, why and how? And what is the nature of the wisdom you pray for?