The Beginning of Wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    God’s praise endures forever.” – Psalm 111:10

A few years ago I began adding something new to my prayers every evening. Instead of asking for things to work out the way I wanted, or for nothing to go wrong, I began to pray instead for wisdom. That one small change to my prayer life has made a tremendous difference in my life.

Back then I had been reading the story of Solomon in Scripture, and I had been struck that when God asked Solomon what he wanted, he hadn’t asked for wealth, or power, or success. Instead, he just wanted wisdom. And, Scripture tells us, God was so impressed with Solomon’s request that God gave him all the things he hadn’t asked for as well.

In the Serenity Prayer we pray for the “serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It’s that last line that’s the kicker. Knowing what we can change, and what we cannot, is crucial to our spiritual life. Wisdom helps us to decide between acceptance, and action. It either moves us to peace, or prods us to change the world. 

The Psalm tells us that wisdom is rooted in the “fear of the Lord.” We’re not talking about the kind of fear here that makes us cower from God’s judgment. Instead, it’s a kind of awe that opens our soul up to something greater than we could ever imagine. When we turn to face God, and find ourselves unable to comprehend the magnitude of what we encounter, that’s when we realize that we could never ask for any gift as profound as wisdom. 

I do not think that I am wise. Not yet, at least. But I do believe that my path has become clearer these past years. I know a little more about what I’m supposed to do in my day to day life. At the end of the day, that’s possibly the greatest gift that prayer has ever given to me.


God, if I may only have one thing, then please grant me wisdom. Amen. 

dd-emilyheath.jpgAbout the Author
Emily C. Heath is the Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter (New Hampshire) and the author most recently of Courageous Faith: How to Rise and Resist in a Time of Fear.