When trying to listen to God speaking to us in prayer, it can often be difficult to work out what God is saying to us, so we need someone experienced in the spiritual life to help us discern God's voice and move in the direction He is calling us. Engaging in spiritual direction enables us to seek counsel and encouragement in the spiritual, human, and apostolic dimensions of life. Besides being a form of human communication, spiritual direction is a conversation among three people - the person searching, the director, and the Holy Spirit. The first two listen and try to understand what the third is saying. So, it is first and foremost a dialogue in faith between two persons who seek together to find God's will in the concrete circumstances of life.
We all need spiritual direction. When we are thinking of changing jobs, we will talk at length to people wanting to get their opinion, will do research into the new job opportunity, and only proceed once we are completely satisfied that we are moving in the right direction. Strangely, however, matters of a supernatural nature (like a vocation) are sometimes thought to be private and personal, not to be discussed, even though it is something far more important than a new job.
It may take a while to find the right director, but it is important to look for someone who is trained as a spiritual director, who is experienced, and whose life is profoundly centred on Christ. To help discern God's will, the director needs to know what our deepest longings are, our strengths and also our weaknesses and it is of utmost importance to be open in discussing these things.
By speaking to Jesus and listening to Him we are able to share our fears and desires with Him. This helps us to develop a friendship with Him based on trust in His Love for us.
What is the deepest desire of my heart?
- I must ask God persistently to reveal this and wait in trust for Him to speak in His time.
- Are there desires in me that I have buried?
What is really important to me and gives meaning to my life?
- Have I spent time reflecting on the passionate love of Jesus for me? (Romans 8:35-39)
- What spontaneously gives me joy and brings a sense of peace?
- Do I feel that anything is holding me back from moving in the direction I feel God is leading?
- When I face difficulties, what motivates me to go ahead?
- How has God revealed Himself to me in the past? particular Scriptures, people, events…
- When do I most seek God or feel He is particularly present? in times of confusion, quiet, trauma…
- Unexpected events may lead to an unexpected vocation and I need to be free and detached from my own plans, however good they may be. I must discover the signs, not create the signs I am looking for.
Am I ready to respond?
- If I ask God to show me His will for my life then He will show me and I need to pray for the graces I need to be ready to act in response.
- It is important to preserve a sense of peace and calm about the future even if we sometimes have to fight to keep the panic down. Remember that God is our loving Father and He will never lead us anywhere we won't be happy, fulfilled and at peace.
When you come to pray, always remember:
God has called into being
God loves you more than you could ever imagine
God has a vital purpose for your life
Receive God's gift of love
Whom are we seeking?
"I have loved you with an everlasting love." (Jer. 31:3)
Throughout the Bible we are told that God loves us, that Jesus loves us. Do you know what this means? Have you experienced this love? More than anything else God wants you to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that He loves you.
Reflect on the scripture quotes we have picked or choose others that speak to your heart of God's faithful love. In the silence and solitude of your heart, allow the words of God, your loving Father, to speak to you. Repeat them to yourself in this time of prayer and throughout the day. Allow yourself to hear these words, and to know that they are true. You are loveable. You are loved by God and you have been loved by Him since the beginning of time. He loves you regardless of how you feel about yourself. Because God has "called you by name" (Is 41), feel free to personalise these quotations by putting your own name into the quote.
Our Lady knew God's incredible love, so ask her to lead you into this experience.
"I knit you together in your mother's womb." (Ps 139)
"You are precious in my eyes and I love you." (Is 43)
"As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you, close to my heart." (Is 40:11)
"This is my beloved Child in whom I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22)
"The Lord your God has carried you as a man carries his child, all along the road you have travelled." (Deut 1)
More scripture passages: Bible quotes for living.
The Lord asks the first disciples,
who, are perhaps, still uncertain and doubtful:
"What are you looking for?" (Jn 1:38)
We can read into this question other radical questions:
What does your heart seek?
What concerns you?
Are you looking for yourself or are you looking for the Lord your God?
Are you pursuing your own desires or the desire of the One who made your heart and wants to bring it to fullness, as he knows and understands it?
Are you running after only passing things or are you seeking the One who does not pass away?
"In this world of dissimilarity, with what do we need to be concerned, Lord God?From the rising of the sun to its setting I see men overwhelmed by the turmoil of this world: some look for riches, others, privilege, others yet again the satisfactions of popularity."
"Your face, O Lord, I seek" (Ps 27:8)
Is the response of the person who has understood the uniqueness and the infinite greatness of the mystery of God and the sovereignty of his holy will but is also the response, even if it is only implicit and confused, of every human creature in search of truth and happiness. To seek God has always been the quest of every being thirsting for the Absolute and the Eternal.
Many today tend to consider any kind of dependence humiliating, but the status of creature in itself implies being dependent on an Other and, therefore, as a being in relation, dependent on others.
To seek the will of God means to seek a friendly and benevolent will, which desires our fulfilment, that desires, above all, a free response in love to its love, in order to make of us instruments of divine love.
It is along this way of love that the flower of listening and obedience blooms.
* From: The Service of Authority and Obedience, by The congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
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The ancient spiritual tradition of the Church, explicitly connects the enclosed-contemplative life to the prayer of Jesus "on the mountain", or solitary place not accessible to all but only to those whom he calls to be with Him, apart from the others.
The enclosure therefore, even in its physical form, is a special way of being with the Lord, of sharing in Christ's emptying of Himself by means of a radical poverty, expressed in renunciation not only of things but also of space, of contacts, of so many benefits of creation.