Question: I have to give a talk about three topics: praying for wisdom, discernment and laying on hands. I'm having a problem with the word wisdom. I understand that prudence and understanding and knowledge all fall in with wisdom. But could you give me some information on all three topics?
Response: Wisdom is a hard one - to my mind it is all about knowing what the truth is. You can't do what is right until you know what is right (i.e., have wisdom). But knowing and doing are not necessarily the same thing.
Discernment in biblical terms refers to applying wisdom to actual life wherein we are called to evaluate situations and make decisions where the facts are not known as well as we should like and where biblical truth speaks to general principles but we are being asked to apply these to concrete situations. The better we know the Bible and what it teaches in detail, the easier this process becomes (Heb.5:14). The Holy Spirit also has a large role to play in this process (Gal.5:16-26), so that the closer we are walking with God, the more effective is our discernment - we are to be "as wise as serpents" (a good picture of applied wisdom = discernment: Matt.10:16).
There is also a spiritual gift "discerning of spirits" (1Cor.12:10), which may explain why you are also addressing "laying on of hands". In the early pre-canon Church, while the apostles were still in charge of the Church (and at times dispensed the Spirit by "laying on hands": cf. Acts 8:14-19), there were a number of gifts given to help the Church get started, but which at present (though perhaps not forever) are not being given (cf. 1Cor.13:8-10; Heb.2:3-4), and this is most likely one of them. The gift of "discerning of spirits" apparently helped protect the early Church from infiltration by false teachers and potential persecutors.
Please see the following links:
Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Growth
The gift of healing.
More on: Spiritual Gifts; Hats & Hair; the Age of Accountability.
Are Miraculous Gifts Operational Today?
The Gift of Tongues: Part 2
The Gift of Tongues: Part 1
Yours in Christ,