There are a number of very good books on the subject of discernment, the practice of actively seeking God’s will and the greater glory of God in the choices we make in our lives; the practice of intentionally becoming aware of who God is calling us. I just finished reading a wonderful book by Elizabeth Liebert titled The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making. The book is intended “for all serious Christians who desire that their decisions be a central part of the way they seek and respond to God.”
The books offers a number of prayer practices aimed at both formulating the issue for discernment and engaging in the discernment process. The practices use a variety of “leaping-off points” to lead into discernment, exploring the use of memory, intuition, body, imagination, reason and feelings. Finally, because all methods of discernment yield at best a tentative decision, the final chapter of the book is devoted to means of gaining confirmation of the result of our discernment process. The book draws heavily, but by no means exclusively, on Ignatian prayer practices.
The book brings out something that is very important for us to understand. Discerning God’s will is not about God handing us a pre-determined blueprint for our lives. If God’s will were a detailed plan for each person, discernment would not be an adult decision, but just an act of finding a pre-determined plan.
Instead it is a much more dynamic process. In Liebert’s words,
Since the universe relfects its maker, we can expect that God, too, is dynamic, ever-changing, continuously creating – not simply repeating what has already been created. And since we are created in the image of God, we are able to participate, with God, in the creation foour future. [Although we are limited], there exists in us a genuine ability to co-create with God our particular futures, as well as to contribute to the collective future of our communities, and indeed, of everything living on earth. We exercise this co-creative potential through our choices, limited though they may be.
Ignatius has a similar notion. He believes that at the deepest levels our desires and God’s desires for us coincide, which suggests an active process on our part in discerning God’s will. For Ignatius, finding God’s will is making best choices can in given set of circumstances – with who I am right now and what circumstances I have in which to make decision.
This book is a wonderful resource for both individual and group prayer.