Saturday, July 26, 2008

Discernment = Praying for ... Indifference??

Can You Hear God Now?
Your most important leadership role: discerning and obeying God's voice. Together.
by Ruth Haley Barton

Can You Hear God Now?

. . . A true discernment process begins with a commitment to pray without ceasing. This requires more than a perfunctory prayer at the beginning of a meeting. It involves several kinds of praying throughout the entire process.

Begin with a prayer of quiet trust. A different kind of spirit descends upon us when we enter into decision-making from this stance.

When we sense that the process is straying, that human dynamics are distracting us, that we are stuck, that we are applying nothing more than human effort to the decision we face, it can be helpful for the leader to call the group back to this prayer of quiet trust, along with some time for silence. This gives us the opportunity to shift back into a position of trust rather than completely relying on our human effort alone.

Then we need to pray for indifference. This is not apathy. Rather, it is praying that we would be indifferent to everything but the will of God. This means I am indifferent to matters of ego, prestige, organizational politics, personal advantage, personal comfort or favor, or even my own pet agenda. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a model of this. Her prayer "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your will" (Luke 1:37) is a wonderful expression of the kind of indifference we seek as a group of leaders.

Praying for indifference is not easy for us, because most times we enter into decision-making with strong opinions and more than a little self-interest. It takes time, for often a death to self is required before we can see God's will taking shape in our lives. Here we ask: what needs to die in me in order for the will of God to come forth in me and among us? In the discernment process, each person needs to do his or her own spiritual work around this question, and the group needs to be honest about it. Depending on the level of trust in the group, it might even be a good idea to ask, "How many are indifferent?" and then let each person talk about where they are with that question.

As challenging as this may be, it is time and energy well spent. If we do not reach the point of indifference (or if we are not at least honest about the fact that we are not indifferent), the discernment process becomes little more than a rigged election! Even the process of sharing where we are on this question helps us loosen our grip on our own agenda and open ourselves to God's voice.

When we have reached a point of indifference, we are finally ready to pray for wisdom, which God promises to bestow generously when we ask (James 1:5). Indifference is an important prerequisite to the prayer for wisdom, because the wisdom of God is often the foolishness of this world.

Learn to listen, deeply
The discernment process requires a commitment to listen on many levels.===>Click headline to access complete article . . .

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