I was rummaging around in the chest where I keep my childhood belongings when I came across a well-worn toy from my youth—The Magic 8 Ball. Maybe you had one too? Perhaps, like me and my grade-school friends, you used to ask this magic ball if a certain boy in your math class might someday ask you out on a date, and then squealed with delight when the fortune-telling ball revealed, “It is decidedly so.”
Perhaps your questions were a bit more mature in nature like; “Will I go to college?” “Will I get married?” “Should I say ‘Yes’ to that job opportunity?” Chances are, that Magic 8 Ball didn’t always get it right, and your reliance on such toys faded out soon enough along with acid-washed jeans and Bonnie Bell lip gloss. I, too, found the same flaws in the ball’s ability to direct me down the right path. That’s how my Magic 8 Ball found its way to the bottom of my chest.
I hadn’t lost the desire to gain direction and advice; I just figure the Magic 8 Ball might not be the way for me to get it.
So how does a person gain the ability to make right choices? I’ve noticed that a series of right business decisions can land a person that job they’ve always wanted. A couple of right decisions can heal a strained relationship or bring restoration to a difficult situation. In the same way, the choice to spew hate can cause relationships to end, and a couple of bad career choices can land you in the unemployment line.
When the Lord asked Solomon what he wanted from God, Solomon could have chosen riches or fame or the power to kill his enemies. He could have chosen to have the most beautiful woman on earth or the largest kingdom ever known. But instead, Solomon asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:12), and God granted him a wise and discerning heart.
“So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.
1 Kings 3:9-12
Thankfully, Solomon shared many of his wise sayings with us in the book of Proverbs.
This book of short truths tells us that people who have wisdom enjoy its benefits. The person who has wisdom, for example, is faithful and trusts in the Lord. The wise put God first and turn away from evil. The wise know right from wrong, they listen and learn. Wise people do what is right.
But Solomon isn’t the only person to receive wisdom. God is generous with his gifts of discernment. James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). This wisdom isn’t something we have to chase after or save money to purchase. Wisdom isn’t a resource a psychic can sell or a secret a horoscope can reveal. In fact, consulting these sources would likely be considered unwise. Rather, wisdom is something that we receive by drawing near to God and asking for it.
So I’ll put my Magic 8 Ball back in its spot at the bottom of my chest. I’ll remember fondly the wonder and excitement of childhood superstitions. But to receive true wisdom and guidance and advice for my life, I’ll turn my eyes back to the Word of God. And I’ll remember the words of wise King Solomon:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.
I was always a little nervous about praying out loud in a group. Even praying a dinner blessing would sometimes cause a bit of stress. I would worry that I was somehow doing it wrong. The words always sounded fine in my head but when they left my mouth they were somehow less than lovely. I wanted to take them back, to edit, and then put forth my prayer in perfect grammar and proper theology.
I have tried acronyms in order to craft the perfect prayer: P.R.A.I.S.E., ACTS, PRAY, P.R.A.Y.E.R. They are all wonderful tools and have brought great clarity to my prayer time. But for me, I find myself holding back. I find myself more concerned with the format than I do with the subject.
At least I know I’m not alone. Maybe you’ve struggled too? Jesus taught his disciples to pray. They wondered how to communicate with the God who loved them, so Jesus encouraged them to come to him whenever they felt a need. He wanted them to know that the door was always open.
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)
There have been other times in my life when I can’t seem to stop the words from spilling out. These prayers may not have any continuity. There is no structure. But these prayers are real as well. Read More