Path #3: Discernment
So, when we answer the phone, how do we know it is God calling?
Only through discernment. And discernment takes silence and prayer. One of the great images for me of someone hearing the voice of God is Elijah at the cave. Expecting God to come in the form of wind, or fire, or an earthquake, Elijah only finally hears his voice in “a light, silent sound.” (1 Kings 19:12) If was difficult in the time of Elijah the prophet to discern the voice of God in all the noise around him, how much more is it for us in the hurly burly world of today, with all its attractions and distractions? If we want to find our missionary hearts, the cold reality is that we have to unplug from the world, find a quiet place, and let God speak to us in the silence.
Many years ago, I had the privilege to attend a silent retreat in the form of Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. At first it seemed an insurmountable climb to unplug from the world for an entire weekend, but by day 2, frankly, I’d forgotten about the world all together and was focused solely on God and what he was asking of me. I began doing these wonderful retreats, given by the Legionaries of Christ, annually, and eventually not only looked forward to them, but started extending them to three full days when I could. So if you’re trying to develop your missionary heart, to make your heart more like Jesus’, try a silent retreat. Go to the cave of Elijah. And listen to God’s whispering voice in the gentle breeze.
If you’ve found your silent place, here’s the bonus: you are already praying! Too often, we think of prayer as a visit with Santa Claus, where we let God know all the things we need and people He needs to take care of (as if He needs a reminder!) While “petitioning” is certainly an important form of prayer, don’t forget the other forms—they lead to the missionary heart: adoration, contrition, contemplation, and most importantly, ascent to the will of the Father. A priest once told me, “A key objective of prayer is discerning the will of God in my life, then conforming my will to His.”
Another way to summarize all this is to LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Too often in prayer, we think we need to do all the talking. So even when we’ve found silence, we fill that silence up with our own voice. And when we do that, we can’t hear God’s…