Begin with DESIRE
What do you desire? What is already placed deep within your heart that stirs? The first step in discernment is to become aware of the deepest desires of our heart and to be able to name them. This takes time and practice.
In your journal, at the end of the day, write down to the extent that you can remember your thoughts, feelings and desires. Become aware of the interior spiritual movements of your heart. This is where God speaks to us. He does not impose Himself on us; rather, He draws us to Himself from deep within, that place of communion and discernment where God dwells in us by virtue of our Baptism.
Once we are accustomed to becoming aware of our thoughts, feelings and desires we are ready to embark on a wonderful journey of deep personal prayer with Jesus Christ that leads to authentic and diligent discernment of God’s will. Take a moment to learn some simple steps of personal prayer, ARRR.
ARRR – Personal Prayer
The ARRR method of personal prayer begins with unburdening your deepest thoughts, feelings and desires to the Lord, opening yourself to receive His grace, and then making an intentional response to God’s love. This prayer can be done in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in the silence of your room. Don’t rush through the steps. Feel free to linger with the Lord as the Holy Spirit moves your prayer.
Be still for a moment. What’s going on inside you? What are you thinking, feeling, desiring? Honestly acknowledge your interior disposition. Try to be aware of both your surface-level emotions and what’s going on deep in your heart. In a word: be honest with yourself.
Now tell the Lord what’s going on. Be completely real with Him and don’t hold anything back. Tell him about your anger, fear, agitation, and joy. Tell him even about the small stuff. It may help to imagine Jesus sitting in front of you as you’re talking to him. Let it all out.
This step is most difficult: stop talking and listen. Be confident that God will communicate with you! Open yourself to his response. Feel his light and love. Is there a peaceful thought that keeps coming? A gentle tug in one direction? An echo of Scripture that comes to mind? Let God’s grace wash over you.
Now respond to grace. As you are walking alongside the Lord, what is your next step with him? Is he inviting a spiritual change? Renewal in how you approach a situation? Sometimes your response should be concrete, like an action to undertake today, a word to speak to a friend, or a resolution for the future.
Ted is a seminarian in theology. He is finishing the year and finds himself in a difficult spot. Exams are difficult to prepare for and he finds himself agitated and anxious about many things. This agitation manifests itself toward his brother seminarians in unkind and uncharitable ways. He notices this and finds this troublesome.
Ted goes to the chapel to pray his daily holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. He has a lot of “stuff” on his heart. In that time, he simply shares this “stuff” with Jesus in quiet heartfelt prayer. A simple conversation emerges. Like a friend, Ted shares with Jesus everything that is going on and asks for His assistance.
Slowly Ted notices peace return to his heart. There is a sense of warmth, of closeness, of comfort. Ted senses Jesus’ presence with him and is encouraged to keep going. He has a great sense that even in this difficult time he is loved by Jesus. He knows that this time will pass. In his prayer he is reminded of all his gifts and talents and the blessing that he is to those around him. Joy wells up in his heart as he prays.
Very gently, Ted responds to Jesus’ consolation with gratitude and simply sits in heartfelt prayer with the Lord. He receives God’s love and loves Him in return for looking upon him with such tenderness and compassion. Ted is completely at peace.
The hour seems to have flown by. He wishes he could stay longer in prayer but has to get back to his studies. He leaves the chapel with a renewed sense of purpose, energy and enthusiasm for what lies ahead knowing Jesus is with him in it all.
Adapted from Fr. Eirvin’s personal experience with a seminarian in formation.
What should I read at this point?
To Save A Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood
By Fr. Brett Brannen