Prayer For Divine Teaching
James Smith, 1859
"Teach me what I do not know." Job 34:32
"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me!" Psalm 25:4-5
By nature we are all ignorant of spiritual things. We know nothing that we ought to know. By grace we are prepared and disposed to learn. But if we are to learn anything effectually—we must have a divine teacher. Man may teach the head—but God alone can teach the heart. And, blessed be his holy name, he has undertaken to teach us, for it is declared in his holy word, "All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace." Isaiah 54:13.
One proof that the Lord is teaching us is, that we discover our ignorance, are humbled on account of it, and become very anxious to learn. Then as Elihu says, we cry unto him, "Teach me what I do not know."
We know comparatively little at present. Little compared with what is to be known. Little compared with what some of the Lord's people know. Little in compare with what we are capable of knowing. We cannot give ourselves spiritual wisdom—but God can, and if we ask him in faith—he will.
Our knowledge and happiness are closely connected—for we cannot enjoy what we do not know.
Our knowledge and our usefulness are closely connected too; therefore if we wish to be useful, we must pray to be taught. For our encouragement, God has promised to teach, saying, "I will teach you and instruct you in the way which you shall go; I will guide you with my eye." Psalm 32:8. He has ever been the teacher of his people, and is still willing to teach even lost sinners. "Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in the way." How condescending in God, to become the teacher of his creatures—his simplest creatures! What love he displays in doing so, and how sweetly he thus manifests his paternal relation!
Let us, therefore, conscious, that at present we see but little of the glory of the law, or the grace of the gospel—of the character of God, or the scheme of salvation—of the work of the Savior, or the heavenly kingdom prepared—of the operations of the Spirit, or the privilege of the saints—daily put up this prayer, "Teach me what I do not know."
This is God's way, he teaches gratuitously—but he will be inquired of. It is our duty therefore to sit at his feet, and plead for instruction. Nor should we only pray—but make use of all the means within our reach, expecting that our heavenly Father will teach us through them.
Divine teaching is effectual teaching. When God teaches us—we know, we feel confident, and cannot be turned away from what he has taught us.
It is practical teaching, for while it enlightens the head it sanctifies the heart; and sanctifying the heart, it reforms and improves the life. O to be taught of God!
Beloved, here is an example for our imitation, and in all our difficulties and trials, in all our sufferings and sorrows, let us seek to ascertain God's design, and submit to his will —and when at a loss to know why we are tried, or the end the Lord has in view, let us earnestly pray, "Teach me what I do not know."
Let us also be ready at all times to confess our ignorance, desiring further instruction, in order that we may more fully know the Lord, and the things that are freely given to us of God—so this inspired prayer will suit us, "Teach me what I do not know."
What a pointed reproof is here given to some of us, who fancying that we now much, make it manifest that we know nothing yet as we ought to know—and therefore need to be taught, by a discovery of our utter ignorance, the necessity of continually crying, "Teach me what I do not know." Let then, the time past of our lives suffice that we have been willing to live in ignorance, or have too much depended on the teaching of men; and henceforth, let each one seek for himself, and also endeavor to stir up his brethren to seek each for himself a more thorough and experimental acquaintance with divine things, crying from the depths of the heart, "Teach me what I do not know."