Practice Discernment

Christians believe we are not alone in the midst of uncertain insights and conflicting impulses. Discernment is the intentional practice by which a community or an individual seeks, recognizes, and intentionally takes part in the activity of God in concrete situations.

“Our decisions and our search for guidance take place in the active presence of a God who intimately cares about our life situations and who invites us to participate in the divine activities of healing and transformation.” — Frank Rogers, Jr.



What is your favorite scripture passage? Read it each day. How does it connect to the decisions you need to make this week? Ask God to show you as many connections as will help you see a way forward to make your decision(s).

Read and reflect on the scriptures from the worship service:

Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.

 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

12 But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; 13esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 15See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil. 23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.


The Ignatian Way to Make a Decision

1. Become aware of as many dimensions of the decision as possible. Investigate information sources; weigh pros and cons; consult with confidants.

2. Consider the negatives, the decision you feel least inclined to choose. Live with the idea for awhile. What feelings of consolation or desolation emerge? Feelings of consolation are those that give rise to life, love, peace, joy, creativity, and communion. These are harmonious with the Spirit, even when painful. Feelings of desolation give rise to despair, confusion, alienation, destructiveness, and discord.

3. Repeat the process of consideration with the side to which you were initially more attracted. Which choice gave rise to the deeper feelings of consolation?

4. Take action in order to complete the discernment process. Discernment rarely yields absolute certainty; rather action itself is part of the discernment process. Sometimes action reveals that a direction is misguided, in which case you need to repeat the discernment process.


Complete this sentence: “I know I’ve made a good choice when…” What actions lead to a good decision? How did you include God in the decision? Who did you talk with as you thought about the decision?


Here are suggested criteria to discern whether or not a spiritual prompting is authentic:

discernment pathsIs it faithful to scripture and to the larger tradition?

Does it manifest the fruit of the Spirit within the individual and community?

Is it characterized by a genuine sense of inner authority and peace?

Does it promote reconciliation rather than divisiveness?

Does it enhance rather than diminish life?

Has the discernment process been engaged with integrity?


Questions and activities

1. Recall a decision that in retrospect was a wise one. How did you make it? What factors did you weigh? With whom did you consult? What would have been the consequences if you had made a different decision?

2. Recall a decision that you have made that you now regret. What was the process by which you made that decision? Have you since discovered clues about how you could have made that decision differently?

3. Make a short list of persons you might call when you are faced with a tough decision. What do you look for from these persons? How do they help you?

4. Encounter scripture using a contemplative approach such as lectio divina. Read the passage. Re-read the passage and notice words and phrases that catch your eye. Read the passage a third time and listen to those words and phrases in the passage. Afterward, reflect on how those words connect with a decision that you need to make.


Compiled with help from practicingourfaith.org and waytolive.org