We weren't big enough for a regular weekly Bible study last week, but I was asked an interesting question about 1 Corinthians 3:20. If "the Lord knows the thoughts of the wise are futile," then what happens to our prayers for wisdom? Why ask for what is futile?
The distinction we need to make here is between the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God. In the previous verse, it says that God "catches the wise in their craftiness." Craftiness is a good term for human wisdom, for its goal is to circumvent the healthy limits of human life to gain some particular power or prestige. The crafty person manipulates situations for his own good rather than working within the situations to achieve God's intended good. Now God cannot be manipulated, so he catches the crafty, those who are humanly wise, and reveals the futility of their scheming.
The wisdom of God, however, seeks to accomplish God's purposes within the situations he has given us. It starts not with a desire for self aggrandizement but with a deep concern for God's character and purposes, described in the book of Proverbs as "the fear of the Lord," which, we are told, is the beginning of wisdom. This kind of wisdom looks at things not from the perspective of how they can make us happy (as Eve looked at the fruit of the tree in Eden), but how they can satisfy God. One person looks at a jar of perfume and sees how it can satisfy God by being poured out in love on Jesus' feet, another sees it as a vehicle for gaining some spiritual brownie points by selling it and giving to the poor (while perhaps taking a cut off of the proceeds for himself - John 12:1-6).
So if we pray for wisdom, God will not hear us if we are only asking for better skill at manipulating situations for our own benefit. However, if we are asking God to help us to see things better from His perspective so that we can better accomplish His purposes, we can expect Him to honor His own promise to give abundantly to those who ask for wisdom (James 1:5). By giving us this kind of wisdom, God equips us to do what He most wants done, so we should ask eagerly and then spend freely of what He gives for His glory.