Lord, Give Us Wisdom!

By Mark D. Roberts

April 16, 2024

The Gift of Wisdom

Scripture — James 1:5 (NRSV)

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.


In the original Greek language, James 1:5 refers to God as “the giving God.” Because God gives graciously, generously, and ungrudgingly, we are encouraged by God for all that we need . . . including wisdom. In fact, we should be free to shout out, “Lord, give us wisdom” whenever we need it!

Today’s devotion is part of the series The Gift of Wisdom.


In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began a new series I’m calling “The Gift of Wisdom.” I’m doing this series for several reasons. First, wisdom is this quarter’s theme for the De Pree Center and I am committed to developing our themes in my devotional writing. Second, in a few weeks we’ll be featuring a wonderful new book, The Wise Leader, by Uli Chi, one of our core Life for Leaders writers. Reading an advance copy of Uli’s book sparked my interest in doing some devotions on wisdom to complement his book. Third and most important, I believe we have a desperate need in our world today for wisdom. The leaders I talk with feel this way, not only as they observe what’s going on in our society, but also as they struggle with their organizational and personal challenges. Just about everyone I know would say, “Yes, I need wisdom.” Plus, for the record, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Oh, I think I have all the wisdom I need.”

**Yesterday’s devotion **focused on James 1:5, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” I talked about how wisdom is a gift from God, a gift that God is glad to give. Therefore, we are encouraged to “ask God” for the wisdom we need.

Today I want to add to my reflections on James 1:5 with a comment about language and a pertinent illustration.

The comment about language focuses on the Greek words behind the English phrase, “Ask God, who gives to all generous and ungrudgingly.” That NRSV translation is fine, though it masks something fascinating in the original language. A word-by-word translation would read, “If any of you lacks wisdom, ask the giving God [who gives] to all generously and ungrudgingly.” Notice that in the original Greek, James 1:5 refers to God as “the giving God.” This simple phrasing reminds us of something fundamental about God’s gracious nature. It also encourages us to pray for the wisdom we need, confident that the One to whom we pray is “the giving God.”

The illustration I want to share comes from my work with the H.E. Butt Foundation in Texas. You see, when I think of praying for wisdom, I hear a distinctive voice echoing in my head. It’s the Texas-accented baritone voice of Howard E. Butt, Jr. I’ve mentioned Howard before in these devotions, talking about my work with him from 2007 to 2015. Howard, the founder of Laity Lodge, was a brilliant theologian, writer, strategist, and leader. But he was also someone who was profoundly aware of his own lack of wisdom (even though Howard was one of the wisest men I ever knew).

During my years working with and for Howard, I met with him in leadership meetings and one-on-one meetings dozens and dozens of times. Often, we faced challenges for which there were no easy answers. Always opening and closing our meetings with prayer, we regularly asked for God’s guidance. But it was also a common occurrence, when we were dealing with a particularly complicated issue, for Howard to interject loudly, “Lord, give us wisdom!” This happened at least 50 times during my years with Howard. He was someone who took James 1:5 seriously and literally: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God.” And so he did, loudly, confidently, and spontaneously.

As I think back on those short prayers, I’m struck by what they conveyed in addition to the obvious desire for God’s wisdom. Howard taught us by his example that you don’t have to pray only during officially sanctioned times devoted to prayer. If God is present, listening, and active at all times, then a spontaneous “Lord, give us wisdom” makes perfect sense.

I am also struck by the implicit humility revealed in Howard’s prayers. When I worked with him, he was in his 80s, a man of notable wisdom, influence, and honor. He was the sort of person who might have acted as if he always had all the answers. (He certainly had plenty of them!) But by crying out “Lord, give us wisdom,” Howard was admitting to his team that he didn’t have sufficient wisdom. He was humbling himself before God in our presence. What a marvelous picture of humble, godly, and indeed, wise leadership!


What difference does it make if we know God as “the giving God”?

Have you ever known someone who prayed spontaneously even in the middle of a conversation? If so, what was that like for you? Would you ever do something like this? If so, why? If not, why not?

Where do you need God’s wisdom today?


The next time you’re in a meeting and sense a need for God’s wisdom, take a moment to ask for it. Of course, it may be best to do this silently, depending on the context. But whether you’re praying silently or out loud, ask God for the gift of wisdom.


Gracious God, thank you for being “the giving God.” You give so much to us, beginning with mortal life and eternal life. Your generosity knows no bounds. Thank you.

Help us to cry out to you for wisdom. Sometimes we’ll do this out loud. Sometimes we’ll do it silently. But no matter the volume of our prayers, may we turn to you in humility and openness, asking for the wisdom that you alone can supply.

Yes, Lord, give us wisdom! Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Rx for Chronic Wisdom Deficiency Syndrome (CWDS).

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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