Sometimes the habit of discernment invites specific acts, times of actively and consciously bringing particular decisions into prayer. These acts of discernment may include 'sorting through' experiences and information related to the decision so that we might see freshly in the moment and choose that which best fits our being. But, decision making is only one facet of discernment. It can, in fact, be the need to make a decision that becomes the catalyst for the cultivation of a discerning heart that serves us in all of life.
Sometimes people will show up for spiritual direction saying, "I need you to help me make an important decision." When I ask how they have prayed about the decision, I often find they haven't at all. They've thought a lot about their decision and scrutinized their lives in relation to it, but there's been no prayer, no intentional being with God in the process. Thus they've been constrained by their habitual ways of seeing. There has been no space for the new. So I encourage them to begin where they are, to pray as they can in this moment, with this decision. More often than not, this time of prayer becomes the foundation for an ongoing life of prayer and a conscious choice to live differently, to see with new eyes.
This discernment that I speak of is a gift that has been given all of us. We don't create it; we don't receive it from someone. Perhaps we might say that we uncover it and nourish it. We uncover the gift and then we nourish it through the skillful means of noticing, through our prayer, and through our growing openness to God in all of life. We sensitize ourselves to the uniqueness of discernment through ongoing attentiveness to our experience in prayer and reflection and often through the assistance of spiritual direction and companionship, wherein others pray with and for us and offer us the glimmers of what they see in our story to help us recognize what we might not see alone. We might also clarify our understanding through listening to the experience of others and reading some of the classical literature on discernment. The danger in any of this is that we begin to view others as experts who possess a special power that we don't have. But their advice is, in most cases, a distillation of personal experiences informed by tradition. They are therefore no more or less gifted in discernment than we are. They are simply gifted in assimilating their experience and making it available to us; for this we thank God.— Rose Mary Doughety in Discernment: A Path to Spiritual Awakening