I'm a bit confused on a seeming "contradiction" on how to obtain wisdom from God.

James 1:5-6 ESV 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.

This has been my staple how-to-get-wisdom verse for a while. Then I read these passages in Proverbs:

Proverbs 8:17 ESV I [wisdom] love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Proverbs 2:1-6 ESV My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

They seem to say we need to do a bit more than just ask; that we need to also seek diligently--or is that the same as asking? I'm not exactly sure.

  • I don't see a difference between asking and seeking, except that one is a bit more specific than the other. Are you suggesting that these verses contradict each other?
    – Flimzy
    Aug 8, 2014 at 12:06
  • Seek God to ask your questions in faith.... There, problem solved! Or not...
    – Zoe
    Aug 8, 2014 at 12:12
  • @Flimzy Maybe contradict isn't the best word--but they just seem different, especially James 1 vs Proverbs 2. One says to "just ask" and the other says to strain, seek, search, all diligently. I can't honestly say they read as the same thing to me.
    – LCIII
    Aug 8, 2014 at 12:33
  • The seem to me as synonymous. One perhaps expounds further on the topic than the other, but I don't see any contradiction or meaningful difference at all.
    – Flimzy
    Aug 8, 2014 at 12:50
  • @Flimzy I figured some people would see it that way. I just think the wording of each section is different enough that we can't count it as trivially the same. It'd be nice to see an answer give a reason why they're the same (or different).
    – LCIII
    Aug 8, 2014 at 12:54

2 Answers 2


We ask when we have the desire.

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4, NIV)

Psalms tells us that God will give us the desires of our heart. Simply asking without any sincere desire will not be successful. Only a sincere request is granted.

And we should ask according to His will. We can't ask whatever we want. God gives only what we need and He answers according to His divine wisdom and will. And James 1:5 you posted confirms that it is the will of God to give wisdom to His children.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14-15, NIV)

"Seeking" implies "effort": We also need to apply our own effort when we want something. One cannot simply pass examination by only praying but not studying.

Ask, seek and knock

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7, NIV)

Asking, seeking and knocking are the ways to a successful prayer. First, we need to ask God - and ask according to His will. Second, we need to seek for it or give effort from our side. We seek only when we have the desire. Third, we need to have a sincere desire to keep on knocking on the doors of Heaven.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary (Matthew 7:7)

Prayer is the appointed means for obtaining what we need. Pray; pray often; make a business of prayer, and be serious and earnest in it. Ask, as a beggar asks alms. Ask, as a traveller asks the way. Seek, as for a thing of value that we have lost; or as the merchantman that seeks goodly pearls. Knock, as he that desires to enter into the house knocks at the door. Sin has shut and barred the door against us; by prayer we knock. Whatever you pray for, according to the promise, shall be given you...

So, if you desire to have wisdom, ask to God, seek for it, knock on the doors of Heaven and God will give you wisdom beyond measure.


the answer is--- yes. We do both. We ask God to give us wisdom; all wisdom comes from Him. We could live for eighty years and not get true biblical wisdom if we don't ask God.

But we have to seek it, too. We won't be sleeping one morning and 60 lbs of wisdom come crashing through the roof and wake us up. We have to do things to seek wisdom; praying, reading the Bible, talking with His servants.

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