Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that you had all those problems yourself. What I wanted to say is that God’s call requires more than woundedness.
So, sometimes you think you hear an actual voice telling you that you are called.
That is more than woundedness! But let’s think about it.
When I was first considering ministry, I got very stuck: I didn’t have a “voice from heaven” telling me I was called. The Apostle Paul did, and so did some of my friends. I knew it could happen.
Why not me?
Now I think maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t get that voice.
There are voices, after all, and then there are voices.
A lot of people hear voices telling them what to do. And some of those voices claim to be God. This can be a very serious problem. It can take ongoing psychiatric care to cope, stay grounded, and live a functional life.
That isn’t you, but if a voice from heaven says you are called to ministry, you need some discernment.
You need a way to be sure that the one speaking is really God
— as opposed to, say, your own hidden desires, or your deepest fears.
Let me suggest a practice to add to your prayer life to help find that clarity.
It is called the “examen” or “examination of conscience” as taught by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) the founder of the Jesuit order in the Roman Catholic Church. He was a genius at helping people listen to God.
Actually this is just one part of his teaching on the examen. (You can find more in my chapter on him in Kneeling with Giants.) This version is mostly what Ignatius called “discernment of spirits” and it makes a great daily practice.
At the end of each day, get out your journal. Ask God to be present.
Think back over your day, and write out your answers to two questions:
1. What happened today that helped me love God more, trust God more, and find hope in God more?
Ignatius called these “consolations.”
These are not simply fun things, joyful experiences, or things that made you happy. The question is not about pleasure. It is about your connection to God.
Often it is the hard and painful things that build my trust. They become the context in which I learn to love God more. So ask the question, and listen carefully for the answers that come up.
2. What happened today that eroded my love for God, my trust in God, and my hope in God?
Ignatius called these things “desolations.”
Again, this not a search for things that are hard, or made you sad. Ignatius himself found that the recreational reading that gave him most pleasure was actually, over time, undercutting his love for God.
Imagine how many people who find daily pleasure in social media might, on reflection, find that these hours are their desolations.
The key thing is to do this process regularly, over time.
- Do it daily.
- Then at the end of a week, do it for the week as a whole.
- Then after a month do it looking back over the whole month.
After a while you can read back over these entries as a record of what God has been doing within you.
Look for the patterns in the consolations, and in the desolations.
- What can you learn about what God might be calling you to by the things God uses to draw you close?
- What can you learn by the kinds of things that repeatedly pull you away?
God is certainly trying to get his message across to you. You are absolutely called to ministry of some kind. The examen is a way to listen more closely and discern just what that ministry might be.
If you want to explore classic ways of praying that can give your own prayer life a fresh start, click the button below. From time to time I offer online classes on prayer, and I’d love to keep you posted about the next one.
(By the way, the post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.)