How to Grow Wisdom

  • 23 November 2017
  • Keith Reed

Michelangelo's Creation of AdamThe alarm on my phone goes off every afternoon at 1:05, serving as my daily reminder to pray for wisdom. This idea came from Mark Wessner, MB Seminary President, who chose the time because of its closeness to James 1:5 which says, "If anyone lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all and without finding fault, and it will be given to you." 

If you want to become wiser, praying to receive wisdom is the logical first step. But there are additional ways we can develop wisdom and help others do the same. Here are some suggestions for growing greater wisdom in your life. 

Pray for Wisdom

Asking for wisdom is the very foundation of wisdom. Praying for wisdom is an honest confession that greater insight and perspective is needed before being able to act with proper understanding. This request requires humility and earnestness and shows reverence for God from whom wisdom flows.

The wisest people I know are the same people who continually ask God for wisdom. And yet, those who need wisdom the most are the ones who despise it (Proverbs 1:7). This contrast goes beyond irony―it is the distinguishing mark between the foolish and the wise. The wise look beyond themselves but the eyes of the foolish see only themselves.

Key verses: James 1:5; 1 Kings 3; Proverbs 1:7
Possible next step: remind yourself to pray for wisdom by setting an alarm for 1:05.  

Study the Bible

Wisdom flows from God's character and represents His knowledge and understanding. We encounter wisdom when we encounter God. Reading and meditating on God's Word allows us to soak in God's thoughts so His perspective becomes our own.

The author of Proverbs 8 chooses to personify wisdom as the person of Lady Wisdom*. She raises her voice over the streets and invites people to listen to her instructions. Her words hold more value than choice gold or rare jewels (vv. 10-11). The implication of Lady Wisdom's call is to listen attentively. We do this by reading God's Word because God is the source of all wisdom.

Key verses: Proverbs 9:10, 3:5-6
Possible next step: develop a plan for reading or memorizing a portion of Scripture (click here for practical ways to memorize a passage). 

Walk with the Wise

Rubbing shoulders with wise people will have a tremendous impact on your development. It's not a flawless formula, but as your mind absorbs the understanding that others exude, you increase your likelihood of acting in similar ways. 

Any time spent with wise people is helpful, but you can maximize this impact even further by asking questions and allowing them to speak into your life. In addition, study their actions and use of time so that you can adopt similar practices into your own life. 

Key verse: Proverbs 13:20
Possible next step: pursue a coaching relationship with another trusted person. 

Slow down

Hurry is often an enemy to wisdom. Lady Wisdom may be calling, but fools ran past her in pursuit of something else. When we don't slow down, discernment becomes blurry and understanding is easily missed. 

Solitude, silence, and fasting are spiritual disciplines that incubate wisdom. Each replaces a mode of activity with intentional abstinence. This provides us with a means to reflect on our situation and to listen to how God would have us respond. 

Key verse: Mark 1:35
Possible next steps: schedule a prayer retreat; experiment with life journaling; schedule a time to fast.  

Keith Reed is the Associate Director of MinistryLift at MB Seminary

* Pierre Gilbert, PhD, Associate Professor of Bible and Theology at MB Seminary, explains why the author refers to Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 8. "In order to market Yahweh wisdom, the teachers use a broad range of rhetorical strategies, one of which is to compare wisdom to a precious commodity to be acquired at all costs (cf. 8:11). One of the techniques used is to describe this commodity as most ancient, originating from God himself, and wielded by God to construct the universe (cf. 8:27-31). The metaphor of wisdom as a commodity in this case is powerful, for if it was adequate to build the amazing universe in which we live, surely it will be adequate to enable us to live a good and productive life."