How do you know you are making good decisions, as an individual, as a church? Social psychologists say we rely on instinct and intuition more than we think. In fact if they are right, we “think” very little. Feelings, unconscious motivation and biases all strongly figure in our choices. Spiritual discernment is a spiritual practice that helps us bring these below-the-surface forces into the light and intentionally seek God’s input. The process of spiritual discernment involves: 1. Clearly identifying the question or concern. 2. Gathering information. 3. Listening to various opinions. 4. Placing the concern or question in prayer. 5. Surrendering control over the results and the need to control. 6. Imagining various scenarios and results. 7. Speaking with trusted loved ones. 8. Stopping the thinking and talking and going silent in the presence of God. Listening. 9. Making a choice and beginning to live with the decision. 10. Being open to the possibility a new decision might be required in the future.
Those who regularly practice spiritual discernment say they have a deepened sense of humility and knowing even though it may not be the easiest or most obvious decision.
Beginning of the meeting
Read the reflection above and then read the passage of scripture below. Ask the people to pay attention to what images and impressions come to mind as they read or hear these passages?
Matthew 4:12-25 New Revised Standard Version
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’ 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
Reflect on these questions for a few moments in silence, then turn to another person and discuss.
- Simon Peter and Andrew immediately left their nets and followed Jesus. Were there any signs of spiritual discernment in their decision?
- Of the 10 steps of spiritual discernment, which one(s) would be the most challenging to you? To your faith community?
- What important decisions do you and your church, face? Choose one and begin to try out the10-step process.
- Is there a decision you believe you or your church should be spiritually discerning at this time? Where is God’s call in this decision?
After a few minutes bring the small group discussion to a close and invite people to talk about their insights and reflections in the larger group.
by grace alone you call us
and accept us in your service.
Strengthen us by your Spirit,
and make us worthy of your call;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
End of the meeting
Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Good News has been known in your time together.