The Prayer of the Wise.

The Prayer of the Wise.

Read Proverbs 1:28-33; 2:1-5, 15:8; 29; 28:9.

“The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” (15:29).

The book of Proverbs has long been admired for its practical insight into the daily grind of life. At the core of the book is the search for wisdom. However, the wisdom that it presents is not the wisdom to merely make the right choices but the ability to make the right choices in the context of one’s relationship with God and his order. For the sage in Proverbs, wisdom is only attained when one recognizes the moral order that God has established to govern all creation and then live within the confines of this moral symmetry. Thus, the wise and the fool are not ultimately determined by the ability to make good decisions but by their relationship with God. The fool is the one who denies God and ultimately rejects God’s moral law in pursuit of their self-made morality. For the wise, wisdom is grounded in the person of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (1:7). Consequently, it is not surprising that Proverbs teaches the necessity of prayer and draws the readers' attention to the characteristics of effective prayer.

In Proverbs, we find wisdom personified as a Virtuous Woman calling in the streets for people to follow her. This personification of Wisdom would be ultimately realized in the person of Christ. He came not only as a prophet, priest, and king but also as the ultimate expression of the person of wisdom. However, for us, Wisdom is to be pursued with diligence and tenacity. The desire for knowledge becomes our ultimate pursuit and is the cornerstone of our prayer.

From the very beginning, we find two individuals contrasted: The wise and the fool. The wise are the ones who make the pursuit of godly wisdom the cornerstone of their life. In verses 2:1-5, the father encourages his son to make his ultimate goal in life to be the quest of attaining wisdom. This begins with the prayer for discernment and understanding (2:3). While most young people start their adult life by focusing upon their career and attaining wealth, the father challenges his son to focus his goals on achieving wisdom and understanding (2:4). Wisdom, rather than financial prosperity, is the basis of success in life (2:5).

However, the longing for wisdom can be derailed. Our pursuit of wisdom and successful living is thwarted from the start if we reject the fear of the Lord and the moral instruction he gives (1:28-33). The fool is not the one who just makes poor decisions; the fool is the one who rejects God’s moral order. As a result, all his religious practices, which he does to earn God’s favor, achieve the opposite. Instead of obtaining God’s delight and approval through his religious activities, they become an abomination to the Lord (15:8). The consequence is that their prayers become meaningless and ineffective (28:9).

This brings us back to the person of wisdom. The prayers of the wise, those who center their lives upon God and His moral law revealed in the Scriptures and undergirding all creation, become a delight to God. The contrast in terms is striking. The prayers of the wicked are that which causes horror and disgust in God, i.e., an abomination. But the prayers of the upright are a source of happiness and delight to God. The request for God to give us the wisdom to live in his moral law and the fear of him becomes the cornerstone for prayer. Instead of asking God for his blessings, begin by asking for wisdom, and then the blessings will follow.

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