The exercise of discernment presupposes a number of essential conditions: First, that the discernment we seek would come from God, from the source of Truth, and not from lesser sources. Second, that we are willing to submit ourselves to a wiser guide than our own instincts (even while recognizing that God can speak through our instincts). Third, that hearing the voice of God depends necessarily upon a relationship with God.
This last point is crucial, for God cannot be manipulated. God is always seeking to reveal the divine heart and the divine intent. But only those who want God’s self more than God’s wisdom can access the wisdom. God is, if nothing else, relational. So, in the context of your relationship with God, here is a deeply practical process to discern God’s leading.
The Question: name your question or issue first.
- Ask God to lead you to know whether the question you’re holding is the root question or a peripheral one.
- My question is:
1. Prayer of Indifference
- The prayer of indifference is a request to let go of all your vested interests in the decision and an abandonment to the good will of God. It’s a declaration that all I want is what God wants—nothing less, nothing more, nothing else. It’s a statement of radical trust. Voice your prayer for indifference here.
Mention any specific attachments to the outcome that you’d like to release.
2. Prayer for Wisdom
- “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” – Jas 1:5
- Write your own prayer for wisdom here.
3. Prayer of Quiet Trust
- “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” – Ps. 131
- Give words to your prayer of quiet trust here.
Noticing without Judging
- The Basics.
- What circumstances bear upon this decision?
- What general biblical truth affects this decision?
- What advice have you been offered?
- What elements of your faith tradition seem relevant in this situation?
- Direction & Calling. How does each choice fit with the overall direction and calling of God on my life?
- Desire. If Jesus were to ask me, “What do you want me to do for you?” what would I say?
- Consolation & Desolation. Which choice/direction brings the deepest sense of life, inner peace, and freedom? Which choice/direction drains the life?
- Scripture. Is there a particular passage that God is bringing to me relative to this discernment issue? What is it saying?
- Life of Christ. How does the redemptive purpose of Christ’s ministry inform this situation? What is consistent with the heart and mind of Jesus?
- Character Growth. What direction will nurture the fruit of the Spirit in me, particularly the fruit of love? What does love call for? What is God’s emphasis right now in my character development…and how does that speak into this discernment question?
- Step Forward, Step Back. Looking back, what direction prioritizes that which has been deeply true for me? Looking ahead and imagining myself on my death-bed, which choice would I have wished to make?
- Council in Community. How is this situation influenced by others’ observations of who I am and what God is doing in my life? How willing am I to open up every facet of this decision to a trusted spiritual friend for wisdom and insight?
- Who is my/our community right now?
- Their discernment?
- Make a choice (interiorly) and walk around “as if” you had made the choice. Observations?
- Internal: List interior movements that feel like a confirmation to a particular direction.
- External: List exterior movements that seem to affirm or point a particular direction.
What’s the first step? And when do I need to take this step?