We have all been in situations where we desperately needed the wisdom of God. R.A. Torrey, on pages 164-168 of his book The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit gives some wonderful and practical advise on praying for wisdom according to James 1:5-7.
This passage not only promises God’s wisdom but tells us specifically just what to do to obtain it. There are really five steps stated or implied in the passage:
1. That we “lack wisdom.” We must be conscious of and fully admit our own inability to decide wisely. Here is where oftentimes we fail to receive God’s wisdom. We think we are able to decide for ourselves or at least we are not ready to admit our own utter inability to decide. There must be an entire renunciation of the wisdom of the flesh.
2. We must really desire to know God’s way and be willing at any cost to do God’s will. This is implied in the word “ask.” The asking must be sincere, and if we are not willing to do God’s will, whatever it may be, at any cost, the asking is not sincere. This is a point of fundamental importance. There is nothing that goes so far to make our minds clear in the discernment of the will of God as revealed by His Spirit as an absolutely surrendered will. Here we find the reason why men oftentimes do not know God’s will and have the Spirit’s guidance. They are not willing to do whatever the Spirit leads at any cost. It is he that “willeth to do His will” who shall know, not only of the doctrine, but he shall know his daily duty. Men oftentimes come to me and say, “I cannot find out the will of God,” but when I put to them the question, “Are you willing to do the will of God at any cost?” they admit that they are not. The way that is very obscure when we hold back from
an absolute surrender to God becomes as clear as day when we make that surrender.
3. We must definitely “ask” guidance. It is not enough to desire; it is not enough to be willing to obey; we must ask, definitely ask, God to show us the way.
4. We must confidently expect guidance. “Let him ask in faith nothing doubting,” There are many and many who cannot find the way, though they ask God to show it to them, simply because they have not the absolutely undoubting expectation that God will show them the way. God promises to show it if we expect it confidently. When you come to God in prayer to show you what to do, know for a certainty that He will show you. In what way He will show you, He does not tell, but He promises that He will show you and that is enough.
5. We must follow step by step as the guidance comes. As said before, just how it will come, no one can tell, but it will come. Oftentimes only a step will be made clear at a time; that is all we need to know—the next step. Many are in darkness because they do not know and cannot find what God would have them do next week, or next month or next year. A college man once came to me and told me that he was in great darkness about God’s guidance, that he had been seeking, to find the will of God and learn what his life’s work should be, but he could not find it. I asked him how far along he was in his college course. He said his sophomore year. I asked, “What is it you desire to know?” “What I shall do when I finish college.” “Do you know that you ought to go through college?”
“Yes.” This man not only knew what he ought to do next year but the year after but still he was in great perplexity because he did not know what he ought to do when these two years were ended. God delights to lead His children a step at a time. He leads us as He led the children of Israel. “And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents. And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not. And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed. And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses” (Num. ix. 17-23).
Many who have given themselves up to the leading
of the Holy Spirit get into a place of great bondage and are tortured because they have leadings which they fear may be from God but of which they are not sure. If they do not obey these leadings, they are fearful they have disobeyed God and sometimes fancy that they have grieved away the Holy Spirit, because they did not follow His leading. This is all unnecessary. Let us settle it in our minds that God’s guidance is clear guidance. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John i. 5). And any leading that is not perfectly clear is not from Him. That is, if our wills are absolutely surrendered to Him. Of course, the obscurity may arise from an unsurrendered will. But if our wills are absolutely surrendered to God, we have the right as God’s children to be sure that any guidance is from Him before we obey it. We have a right to go to our Father and say, “Heavenly Father, here I am. I desire above all things to do Thy will. Now make it clear to me, Thy child. If this thing that I have a leading to do is Thy will, I will do it, but make it clear as day if it be Thy will.” If it is His will, the heavenly Father will make it as clear as day. And you need not, and ought not to do that thing until He does make it clear, and you need not and ought not to condemn yourself because you did not do it. God does not want His children to be in a state of condemnation before Him. He wishes us to be free from all care, worry, anxiety and self-condemnation. Any earthly parent would make the way clear to his child that asked to know it and much more will our heavenly Father make it clear to us, and until He does make it clear,
we need have no fears that in not doing it, we are disobeying God. We have no right to dictate to God how He shall give His guidance—as, for example, by asking Him to shut up every way, or by asking Him to give a sign, or by guiding us in putting our finger on a text, or in any other way. It is ours to seek and to expect wisdom but it is not ours to dictate how it shall be given. The Holy Spirit divides to “each man severally as He will” (1 Cor. xii. 11).