Want things to go your way? Become wise.

What I pray for

A lot of the time, I pray about things that I want God to change.  X situation isn't going well.  That Y person is being difficult.  God, if my life was more like Z, everything will be so much easier!  And of course, there is nothing wrong with praying for our needs, wants, and desires.  God encourages, and even commands it.  It is our privilege to do so as children who have been adopted and made holy by the blood of the Lamb.

However, as I read through James, I was convicted.  So often, my prayers reveal my selfish and sinful heart.  My desires are divided and are at war within me.  I desire, but I do not have.  I covet and do not attain.  James calls this reasoning "earthly, unspiritual, [and] demonic."  Yikes.

An Alternative

But how can I combat such attitudes?  Well, certainly the answer isn't to stop praying.  Instead, I can pray for wisdom, which God gives "generously and without reproach."  And what is this wisdom that God gives?

Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

While our desires are described as warring factions, wisdom is characterized by peace and gentleness.  While I am given to discontent and mixed motives, wisdom is characterized by reason and sincerity.  While my spirituality may become stagnant, wisdom produces mercy and good fruit.

The source

How do we cultivate wisdom?  Proverbs 4:7 is kind of hillarious because it says, "The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight."  Well thanks, Solomon, or whoever wrote that.  Real helpful.  James is a bit more descriptive when he says that God will give us wisdom if we ask in faith.  Still, I think there is more we can do in our pursuit of wisdom.

What is the ultimate display of God's wisdom?  His peace, gentleness, and mercy?  The cross.  In God's wisdom, he chose that the cross would be the time and the place where he displayed his character and showed us who he is.  Likewise, as we become students of the cross, we become students of his wisdom.  The more we understand and appreciate the cross, the more we understand our peace with God and will become quicker to make peace with others.  The more we understand God's gentleness and mercy, the more we ourselves will become gentle and merciful.  And the more we understand the work of God in us, the more good works will be produced by us.

It is this process that makes us wise.  Friendship with the world is emnity with God, but if we become humble students of the cross and seek God's wisdom, God will give us grace.