I need to clarify something before we go on. When we speak of knowing the will of God, we commonly think of that which God does not promise to reveal and, usually, does not reveal. God does not reveal His secret or hidden purposes (Deuteronomy 29:29). What He does reveal is that kind of life or character which pleases Him.
Thus, we see already that there are different meanings attached to the word will. In the Bible, one is that of the sovereign or efficacious will of God. This will is beyond anything we can fully know on earth. Indeed, it provides the origin of all things and orders them. God’s will is absolute. It is unlimited. It is determined only by God Himself. God does not need to consult anyone in formulating His plans, and He does not need help from anyone in carrying them out. God’s will is independent. It is fixed. It does not need to adapt to changing circumstances. It is omnipotent. This is the sense in John 6:40, in which Jesus says, “This is the will of My Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life.”
Another meaning of will in Scripture is the disposition of God, or, what pleases Him. In the Lord’s Prayer is the petition which says, “Thy will be done.” This does not refer to the sovereign or efficacious will of God for, if that were the case, there would be no need to pray for it. God’s will, in that sense, will be done whether we pray for it or not. In the Lord’s Prayer, the request is, rather, that what pleases God might be increasingly realized in our lives and in the lives of others.
So, when we speak of wanting to know God’s will, are we asking to know God’s hidden councils, those which are the expression of His sovereign will, or are we seeking to know what pleases Him? If it is the former, we are doomed to frustration. We will not learn God’s hidden councils for the simple reason that they are hidden. If we are seeking to know what pleases God, much can be said, for God has revealed that to us. “God wills our righteousness. God wills our obedience. And the law of God clearly reflects something of His will in the perceptive sense, the sense of His disposition.” (Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable Theology, p. 476)