You’ve undoubtedly heard of a gold rush. What you’ve never heard of is a gold maybe-later. Proverbs says that finding wisdom will make us richer than finding gold or silver but, truth be told, I’ve treated one of the most sure-fire ways of getting wisdom-rich as ho-hum; maybe later.
I’m talking about prayer. We all pray for wisdom from time to time, but we may not realize that the very process of praying biblically imparts wisdom to us. Prayer isn’t only a postal system between God and his people. Prayer is God-guided thinking, and that produces wisdom in us.
Take the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus not only tells us how to pray but when we align our prayers with his we grow wise in the things of God. We think differently. Our values and perspectives change.
When I was a young pastor, I tried very hard to pray for a lot of important things. I had different lists for every day. But I learned that I couldn’t pray that way. Reciting all those names and needs to God felt kind of lifeless, like I was delivering the mail. I’m grateful for people who can pray that way, including some who have me on their list, but I found myself gradually praying for fewer things and spending more time thinking while I prayed.
I taught a seminary class for a while where students each brought a ministry case study to class and I’d help them think through how to respond. Prayer has done that for me, as I’m sure it has for you. We don’t just ask God to help us, say, to preach better or to bring unity among our leaders. We think as we pray. We mull it over. The Spirit might bring Scripture to mind or help us reframe the issue more accurately. As we process our requests with God, we are getting rich. We are becoming wise.
We pray to gain access to wisdom and revelation, like people with passwords to God’s own treasury. Paul prayed:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Eph. 1:17)
For those who do not know our Father, wisdom at its best is their thoughtful blend of life experience and knowledge. But the wisdom our Father gives us comes like breath, like fresh air. “The Spirit of wisdom and revelation” is not our own doing any more than Adam’s first breath. The wisdom of God is living and breathing. He not only comes in answer to prayer but in the process of prayer.
God’s wisdom doesn’t typically come like a bolt out of the blue. It’s more like a very enlightening conversation where holy insights dawn on us. We discover and understand holy treasures by reading and hearing Scripture but we internalize them in prayer, bringing our own daily case studies under our Father’s tutelage. That’s why some prayers can’t be rushed. God could instantly infuse us with wisdom and revelation but most of the time he favors conversation; prayer, in other words.
Every pastor I know wishes he or she prayed better. I often prayed out of sheer desperation. I’ve clumped into prayer, noisy and awkward, talking too much and listening too little. My mind has wandered a lot. But still God has listened, whispered, reshaped, bolstered, and refined what I prayed. Scripture synthesized with life. And despite how little I knew about treasure hunting I can now tell you: I am rich.
Be ye glad!
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Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.