When life’s direction is shrouded in uncertainty, we sometimes wish God would speak audibly and directly about what is pleasing to him.
A message in our inbox, a text to our phone, a voice in the stillness—then we’d know God’s will precisely for the coming weeks and months. Then we could be like the angels alluded to by Jesus in the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, those holy servants receiving God’s directives and “doing his will in heaven” so willingly and faithfully (Ps 103:20–21).
Getting messages straight from the Lord on his heavenly throne would be simple: “My child, I want you to do this. Make these plans. This is the decision that is right.” That’s divine instruction to which we could happily submit—but would we? Or perhaps we wish God would give a detailed map for our life, something like following the gentle promptings of your GPS: “In 300 meters, turn right. Make a U-turn when possible.”
Yet this won’t happen, for the excellent reason that God wants us to trust in him. We prefer to have everything sorted out and our lives planned in six or twelve-month increments. But God’s direction is often given merely from day to day. He might shine only enough light to show the next small step that we need to take—the next opportunity, the next duty—and nothing more (Ps 119:105).
In this regard, the Father’s daily provision of guidance is comparable to the Lord’s Prayer petition about our daily bread. When it comes to our bodily needs, God promises to give enough food and drink to sustain us, one day at a time (1 Tim 6:8). We might have access to much more than this, but his promise is for today.
The same is true for our knowledge of God’s will, for the Lord often gives immediate instruction, a daily directive, and nothing more: “My child, this is your assignment for today. Don’t worry about next month, or what you have to do next year. This is my will for what you need to do, right now.”
God does this because he is teaching us not to forecast and fret about the future.
Surely God our Father is also preventing us from getting too comfortable, from starting to coast carelessly because we know exactly what the road ahead is like.
And most importantly, God wants us to keep returning to him in prayer for wisdom and direction. He wants us to be dependent on his guidance, each new day: “Father, what’s the next thing? On this new day, with its many challenges and opportunities, show me how I can serve you faithfully.” As James exhorts, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (1:5).
We might be conflicted and confused, but when asking God for wisdom we can be confident that he’ll answer, like David was confident in Psalm 25. When he wrote this Psalm, he was in a tight spot, and he could have despaired and given up, he could’ve done the first (sinful) thing that came to mind.
But he begins with a confession of faith: “O my God, in you I trust” (v. 2). Before he says anything else, David confesses that God will never abandon those who belong to him. This is the powerful way to begin our daily prayer for direction: “O my God, in you I trust.”
In that trusting spirit, David offers in verse 4-5 a marvelous prayer to know God’s will:
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
David doesn’t ask to see a heavenly sign or to hear a quiet whisper in the night. Rather, he asks for knowledge, teaching, and meaningful insight into God’s Word.
Whenever Scripture speaks of God’s “ways” like David does here, it’s referring to the ways of his covenant law (Deut 10:12; Josh 22:5). And whenever Scripture speaks of God’s “paths,” it’s describing those routes for life that are traced out in the Word (Ps 119:35). In his present turmoil David asks to see the abiding truths of Scripture that he needs to act on: “Show me these ways.” Scripture is where David expects to learn God’s good will.
We pray Psalm 25 with David: “Father, teach me your paths.” The verb “teach” is well-chosen, because it implies that we need to learn. Whether at school or taking up a new skill in the workshop, all learning takes attention and exertion. So with God’s will: it requires study to learn what pleases God in the countless moments of life. And if we want to find God’s will, we should look in Scripture, the place where thousands upon thousands of his words are written down for our “training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).
When we saturate our minds with the Lord’s Word, we begin to think in the Lord’s ways. Our bad alignment is being corrected, and we’re becoming increasingly oriented toward God and his purposes.
As our minds and instincts are gradually shaped by Scripture, we learn more of God’s will, until we can start to say, “This is what God wants—he told me in his Word. I know that he wants me to dismiss these worries and these bitter thoughts. I know that he wants me to use my gifts with excellence. He wants me to be faithful to my wife/husband and to serve my family and to contribute to Christ’s church. In the end, this is not a hard decision, because I know that God always wants me to put him first.”
So we ask God to keep teaching us. Humbly acknowledge to God that what you want doesn’t matter—then search the Scriptures to learn what God wants, asking for a spirit of strength and submission to put it into practice.
He’ll surely shine enough light.