How the Gospel Must Affect Our Prayer Lives: Asking for Wisdom (James 1:5)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

How the Gospel Must Affect Our Prayer Lives: Asking for Wisdom

For the exegetes out there, have you ever wondered where the gospel is in the book of James? It seems veiled, if it is there at all, doesn't it? We know it must be there, because the half-biological brother of Jesus wrote the epistle. Certainly, Jesus' own brother wouldn't have gotten the gospel wrong. It is the lack of emphatic gospel themes and truths that probably led Martin Luther to refer to it as "a right strawy epistle."

As I was praying today, asking God for His divine direction in a multiplicity of areas, I found myself continually pummelled by either my conscience or by the devil. "You haven't been walking in the Spirit as you should. And you haven't been being filled with Him as you ought. So how can you possibly expect to get any direction from Him?" These were the kinds of thoughts filling my head as I tried to pray.

But the Spirit responded in utter clarity with the truth He inspired in James 1:5. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him." The joy that filled my soul upon reading that verse again was more immense than words can describe. Why?

First, the source of wisdom is God the Father, the One from whom "every good gift and ever perfect gift" comes down (1:17). James describes Him as "the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." This is the Person of the Godhead to whom Jesus Christ teaches us to pray, directing our requests (Matthew 6:9 ff). Why is this truth significant when asking for wisdom? Because James assumes that in our very approach to Him we are acknowledging that He is our God and we are His people. That is the faith with which we must approach God, according to Hebrews 11:6. If He has saved us, He has promised to keep us, and He will not change His mind about us. There will never be "any variation or shadow due to change" with regard to our relationship to Him. Therefore, we can approach Him whenever we need, regardless of the sin that is present in our lives.

Second, the way in which God the Father gives His wisdom to us "generously." The adverb refers to God's wholeheartedness. This too is a truth that rises up out of gospel soil. The reason God gives to us wholeheartedly and generously is because we are His children and He is our God. The unilateral covenant He struck with us by the death and resurrection of His dear Son means that if He has given His own Son, He will also graciously give us everything else (Romans 8:32)? It is because of Jesus that we have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). The wisdom which we need for direction in life is a spiritual blessing, and we've been granted it in Christ. Through "Jesus our Lord," God the Father's "divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises..." (2 Peter 1:3-4). The wisdom for decision making is included in "all things that pertain to life and godliness," and has been promised us in James 1:5, and it is a very great and precious promise. This means He will give it wholeheartedly, not niggardly, wishing He had never listened to your prayers or even saved you to begin with!

Third, God will hear your prayer for wisdom without taking into mind the depravity of your heart, the present sins with which you struggle, or the ways in which you have recently disobeyed Him. James says that He will give wisdom "to all without reproach." "To all" has reference to each and every believer, which includes you. And "without reproach" has reference to you, regardless of sin. The Greek noun for "reproach" refers to the justifiable charge laid on someone for something they've done wrong. Did you do wrong? Have you done wrong? You better believe it. But God doesn't not lay any charges upon you, hold them against you, and withhold His wisdom from your begging. Do you know why? Because the reproach, the justifiable charge which comes against your sin, has already been laid upon Jesus Christ. He has taken your reproach so that you would not have to. No one will bring a charge against you because of Jesus Christ. God has laid your sin upon Him, and you are now justified, declared righteous in His sight (Rom. 8:33). Jesus Christ acted as your substitute, taking your reproach upon Himself. And He now acts as your intercessor, taking your prayers to the Father and presenting them with His righteousness, because we have none of our own to offer (Rom. 8:34). Nothing will ever be able to separate us from God's love, and His answering our prayers for wisdom...not even our own sin and reproach.

Jesus Christ is "the source of your life...whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). He is the channel of that wisdom for which you pray, that wisdom which James commands us to ask God for. Make boasting a part of your prayer time, boasting out loud in what Jesus has done in your behalf to make God's precious promise of wisdom available to you in unlimited fashion, regardless of your present and particular struggles with sin. Delight in what He has done for you as your substitute, and treasure what He does with your prayers as your intercessor. In so doing, it will be in this way that you are asking "in faith, with no doubting." Do not doubt what God has done in your behalf through His Son, and doubt no more about what He has promised to give you, especially when He has already given you His most precious gift!

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