If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
How many of you are going through trials of one kind or another? What would you say you need most at this time? Is it not wisdom? But how do you obtain wisdom? We shall find out wisdom comes through prayer. But what is most needful in prayer? Is not faith? Do you have faith in God? Then you will be well prepared to handle trials. For this life is like driving in the rough road – you find all sorts of things – potholes, trenches, stones, trees and bumps across the road and all without any warning. Sometimes there are sharp bends and corners. Then you encounter animals and people who may not be so accustomed to cars. You have to make judgments in split seconds and most often you have to heavily depend on reflex actions! This is the way Christian living is like here on earth! Are you prepared to take off?
1) Trials demand divine wisdom (v.5)
When you are faced with trials, you find yourself deficient in wisdom. Wisdom is the God-given and God-centered, and God-glorifying insight and discernment regarding the practical issues in life so that one is able to exercise ‘regulative discretion which sees and selects worthy ends, and the best means of attaining them’. Wisdom is more than knowledge, intellectual capacity and education – wisdom is the ability to apply all of these in order to bring glory to God and find eternal pleasure in God.
Unbelievers lack this wisdom. No unbeliever has wisdom. Therefore, the Bible is consistent that fools say in their hearts that there is no God (Psalm 14.1; 53:1). They embody the converse of wisdom and so Paul describes the natural person as one who does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14)! When they come across the trials of life, more often than not, they end with self-destructive methods like, depression, alcoholism, and sometimes suicide. This is because they lack wisdom and hope that come from God.
Christian should have this wisdom. When faced with trials do you find yourself both lacking in strength to be steadfast and patience, but also fail to know what to do? Helplessness is so obvious when under the weight of trials. But wisdom is better than strength (Ecc. 9:16). This is so true and so James addresses the lack of wisdom, because where there is wisdom, then strength will come along.
One of the things to show that trials of various kinds is what James has in mind (vv.2-4) is the use of the phrase ‘lacking in nothing’ in verse 4. One area that one under trial could be lacking is in wisdom. This is why he picks up the area of lack in verse 5, and the connecting conjunction is ‘But if…’ The point of this passage is very well supplied by John Blanchard;
“…man is deficient in wisdom; he simply does not have the necessary resources to cope with life’s problems and pressures. But God does and he is willing to give them continuously, generously, and graciously. Then what should man do in such a situation? The answer to that question is obvious and James supplies it: ‘he should ask.’”
Clearly James is saying here that whoever lacks wisdom should ask for it, and God will generously give it – it is as simple as that! If you find yourself unable to proceed for lack of wisdom in a difficult situation, all you need to do is ask. If your phone runs out of airtime credit, you simply reload and you are able to proceed with the conversation. When trials come your way, more often than not you will be faced with challenges, then please pray.
Many would think that they are well equipped to handle difficult and challenging circumstances until they actually get into those circumstances. Then one would know how difficult, overwhelming and overpowering some circumstances are. Sometimes you may even be tempted to sneer at the foolishness of those under trials. But remember that while under the weight of trials, wisdom is not automatically supplied – you have to ask for it.
It is now about two months since I lost my mother. Then I found myself swept off and out of my depths. I thank God for the prayers and support of the saints on our behalf. Thankfully, I had our Father in heaven who supplies both wisdom and grace. Trials are unbearable when one is subjected to them for a prolonged period of time demanding a good supply of heavenly wisdom. Growth in wisdom to deal with the challenges of this fallen world can only be obtained from the Sovereign God, who knows all things at all times in all places and circumstances.
2) Divine wisdom is available to you in trials when you pray (v.5)
One of the uses of trials then is to develop us to be more prayerful. James simply says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God…” Prayer substitutes man’s weakness with God’s strength, man’s emptiness with God’s fullness, man’s poverty with God’s wealth, man’s impotence with God’s omnipotence. Are you under the trials of life? Then you should and ought to pray. Never be too tired to pray for then you’d be overwhelmed!
Instead of being anxious pray. When you fix your eyes on the problem, you will fret, worry and be anxious. Instead the Biblical pattern is given in Philippians 4:5b-7
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).
Undoubtedly, prayer is God-appointed means and it is effective. Even when you pray in anxiety the Lord will listen and answer your prayers and give you peace that is beyond human comprehension to guard both your heart and mind.
And again James nails it in James 5:13
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.
The point is that suffering is one of the ways trials of many colours manifest themselves to us. They come to force us to go to God in prayer. To make us more prayerful.
What are the encouragements to pray when under trials? James writes, … let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
v Let Him ask God… and it will be given him
This is an echo of Christ’s words when He taught His disciples on prayer – Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mat 7:7-11).
The Sovereign God is the prayer-requiring, prayer-listening and prayer-answering God. James calls God here, literally, the giving-God! God being the very wellspring and fountain of true and genuine wisdom, when asked, He shall give this treasure. This is the way in which your accounts of wisdom will overflow with these great riches. Clearly if true wisdom comes from God through prayer, then the more one grows in prayerfulness the more he will be endowed with heavenly wisdom.
v God gives wisdom generously to those who ask
God does not only give wisdom in answer to prayer, but He gives generously or liberally or bountifully or with simplicity. This means that God gives with singleness of spirit, with no selfishness on His part. In this manner of giving, we are encouraged to pray for we know that when we pray we shall receive far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (Eph. 3:20).
Therefore, true and heavenly wisdom is easy to acquire because it comes from the most generous God! An example here would do. When Solomon asked God for wisdom, God gave him. This is part of what happened,
At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, "Ask what(ever) I shall give you."
“…Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?"
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days." 1Ki 3:5, 9-14.
The Lord is seen here to not only give the wisdom as asked by Solomon, but more than what he asked; far over and above. God gave him what he had not asked, both riches and honour. This is the giving-God, giving generously.
v God gives wisdom to all who ask
The other encouragement for prayer is that God gives without discrimination. He is a universal giver and so He gives to all! Remember that God gives to all life, and breath, and all things. He gives all food in due season (Ps. 145:15). He makes sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. His generosity is seen every day in providence. For God executes His decrees not only in creation, but also in providence.
But His generosity is also seen in grace in that He loved the wicked world so much that He sent His Son so that through Him those who believe will not perish but have eternal life. And so we can say,
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32).
All things include the heavenly wisdom, which is ours for the asking.
v God gives wisdom without reproach
This negatively encourages us further to prayer. Those who are beneficiaries of kindness can sometimes feel like they have become a burden to their benefactor by their frequency. God is giving a generous ruling to encourage us to keep on asking even when we ourselves are wearied by asking. Life in the rural areas is very simple. So a lady runs out of salt and without a second thought sends the son to the neighbours to borrow a bit since shops are far away. But then the second, she has forgotten again and now on the third day, it is past the market day. When the son goes the third time, the neighbour is already tired of this ‘thoughtless, careless, and poor neighbour. But even the boy himself would feel tired of his mother’s habit of borrowing. God is not like that, He gives generously to all without reproach.
God in His kindness and generosity gives without reproach of the past requests or misgivings or failures in the application of the wisdom given. Just as you cannot abuse the grace of God so you cannot abuse the kindness and generosity of God. His grace, kindness, and generosity will not run out or be depleted!
Remember the prodigal son? Look him up in Luke 15:11-32. When he came back, the father lavished on him wonderful reception, running towards him, embracing and kissing him with a thousand kisses, and slaughtering a fattened calf for him. It is remarkable that there was no rebuke from the father! The only thing the father did was to acknowledge that the son was dead and lost and now he is found alive. This demanded a celebration!
Therefore, let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
3) Prayer requires faith without doubting (v. 6-8)
When the bible speaks of praying in faith, it does not mean having faith in prayer. Rather it is having solid faith in God who is the Giver. For faith is not some salt added to give more flavor to prayer, faith is the essence of prayer. Furthermore faith means knowing the promises of God as revealed in His Word and trusting the Lord to be able and willing to deliver on every promise so that you pray accordingly. How are we to show our faith in prayer?
v To ask in faith is to pray without doubting
To pray without faith is to waste one’s breath and time. We know that without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb. 11:6).
Faith comprehends the sovereignty and omnipresence of God. Faith clings to the lovingkindness of God, His pardoning mercy, His willingness to listen to prayer, and His ability to answer prayers. True faith has to be directed on Christ, for He is the one by His eternal sacrifice who provided the unlimited access to the throne of God’s mercy. The tearing of the curtain into two from top to bottom is the remarkable reminder that we have confidence that our prayers are heard and will be answered if asked according to the will of God.
Our asking must coincide with the way in which God gives: He gives with singleness of intent; we must ask with singleness of intent. This is what the Lord taught – “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask in prayer.” (Matt. 21:22)
On the other hand to fail at the point of faith is to show oneself to be wavering as the waves of the sea. To be in doubt is to be double minded. We can present it this way, faith is our absolute confidence that He will give what we ask; doubting is our own inner uncertainty about whether we want him to give or not.
v To doubt is to be double-minded
A double-minded (or more literally a two-souled) person is one who while resolved to trust in God and depend on Him, based on His promises (this is the first mind as it were) but soon after the other mind tells him that the problems are too big for God and that the cables of promises are not dependable enough. Here is not a duplicitous person (with two faces) but a double-faced man who is facing both sides. He is a double agent serving two parallel or opposing camps and in doing so he is loyal to neither but himself. He is serving himself. Doubting here is the opposite of faith. But God clearly and categorically states, “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”
Do you have real faith that God will answer your prayers when you pray? By ‘faith’, I do not mean that you psych or convince yourself enough, against all odds and believe that God might do it and so do all you can to arm-twist Him to do it; nor do I mean positive confession where one overwhelms the Lord with the request and insists on it. I am not talking about what is called in our day the ‘power of the rhema word’. With this notion are too many people who are so disappointed with God because they wanted or ‘direly needed something’ and were so convinced that God would do it because they used all the necessary buzz words and did all that was there for them to do including giving as much money to the causes of God, but it did not happen.
Many are devastated because God has not answered many of their prayers although they do not know a single thing that they did not do. They bought the man of God the car he ‘needed’ and a big house he ‘needed’. They have enough faith to buy all the anointing oil he had for sale in order to receive the ‘double anointing’ and they even bought ‘spiritual brooms to sweep away curses’! Word of Faith teachers commonly called prosperity ‘gospel’ has left a good number of people tired with religion. They are left thinking that prayer does not work. Faith is no faith at all. Yet the problem is that they have contented themselves with something different from the biblical faith or prayer.
Rather I mean that true faith that is unwavering under trial. The example of the constituent faith of Abraham could be helpful here –
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." Rom 4:18-22.
v To lack faith in prayer is to prove to be unstable and lacking in maturity
A wavering or doubting prayer shows instability of character and displays spiritual immaturity. God relates to us in answer to our prayer when our lives reflect a basic spiritual integrity. One who will not satisfy himself with divine provision understands nothing of the character of God and the weakness of man to judge God. Such immaturity must not expect anything from God. We read, that … such a person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. Being a man divided at heart and in mind with one of his foot on the faith and the other on doubt is a denial of the very essence of salvation. I close by quoting John Chrysostom, the 4th century bishop of Constantinople about prayer,
The potency of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, it has bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases, dispelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of thunderbolt. There is an all-sufficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine which is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings!
Lord, we do not just need great wisdom for various trials we face; we need divine wisdom. We have just learnt that this demands that we ask and you will display your generosity to us – thank you. Give us the same singleness of mind in prayer as you have in giving. Yes Lord, along with the wisdom we need a great measure of faith – so please increase our faith as well. Keep us from doubts. Please grant us to pray than ever before. In Christ’s Name we pray. Amen!
 R. Johnstone, James, Geneva Bible Commentaries, (Edinburgh, Scotland, Banner of Truth Trust, 1871), p.36
 J. Blanchard, Truth For Life, (Darlington, Eng: EP, 1986), pp. 30
 Ibid, p. 32.
 ibid, p. 33
 D. Moo, The Letter of James, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), P. 60
 A. Motyer, BST The Message of James, (Leicester England, IVP, 1985), pp.40