I used to have real trouble with James 1:6-8:
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (NIV)
I thought, "How can I not have even a tiny bit of doubt about answers to prayer, when I've prayed for healing for 40 years and I'm still sick?" Then I went and asked a Pastor Tim Hawks about it. He showed me that I'd been reading that passage out of context. He reminded me of verse 5:
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. (NIV)
James wasn't saying that God is a "wish granter," but only if you say the magic words "just so." He was saying that God is the source of wisdom, and that an honest request for wisdom is a prayer God answers favorably without reservation.
I grew up in small towns all over Texas. Texas is a very diverse state, and I lived in communities that were homogenously white; 80% Hispanic; 30% Czech, 30% Hispanic, and 30% Polish; and diversely-ethnic-but-fairly-Cajun. I saw racial tension and prejudice here and there, but for the most part, people just got along. In the 80's, when I was learning how to treat people, I was taught that we should be "colorblind." A person's heritage shouldn't have an impact on how you love them, I was told. Furthermore, I have literally no racial heritage. My family tree goes back to my great grandparents, and I have no sense of identity with any culture besides "generic, white, middle-class America."
A little over a year ago, I made a new friend - an African American. To be clear, since we have a lot of white South Africans in our congregation, my new friend is black. In casual conversation about a movie, I said, "I dunno... race doesn't matter to me. I just see 'people,' and I try to be kind to whomever I meet."
My new friend looked surprised and a little dismayed, "But no! My race is part of who I am! My heritage matters, and the diversity should be something to celebrate, not ignore."
Now it was my turn to be shocked. I had literally never been told that a colorblind attitude is its own sort of prejudice. Through further, daily interaction with my friend, I realized that my deeply ingrained attitude might have been alienating all along. Out of frustration and confusion, I asked, "God, I am at a loss. How do I continue in this friendship without daily offenses? Give me wisdom!"
As you know, I read more-or-less constantly. I've read 18 books since I prayed that prayer, and of those, seven have been full of insight about African American culture, perspective, and daily experience. I assure you - this little "reading plan" was not chosen for this purpose. A first lady's memoir, a ghost story, a scientific biography/history, a young adult poetry novel, a young adult graphic novel, and a historical mystery came across from as many recommendation sources.
Now, our country is in the midst of yet another racially charged upheaval. We have one about every 10 years, but until this year, I had virtually no perspective on the deep-seated hurt behind these events. I'm not saying that I'm "all wise" now, but my ability to empathize with my friend is far greater than it was even just two months ago.
Jesus said, “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" (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV).
I asked for wisdom, and God met me where I was, through a medium I was already taking in. If I'd been watching dozens of movies or TV shows during this time, I have no doubt that he'd have been equally faithful using those means.
If you're caught in a place where your answer to every question or issue is, "I don't know," or "I just don't get it," you have an infinite resource full of wisdom and grace. Go to the Father and ask, without wavering, "God give me wisdom!" He will meet you where you are.