Prayer and Discernment

We all have difficult decisions to make in our lives, and perhaps the most important decisions pertain to our vocations. In the beginning we ask whether we’re called to marriage or the religious life. If we decide we’re called to marriage, we wonder who we ought to date. If we start dating, we begin discerning marriage with particular people. Once all of these questions are answered and two people have decided they want to marry one another, more difficult questions related to timing arise. You might be wondering when to get engaged. If you’re engaged, you might be wondering when to get married. Perhaps you haven’t gone through any of these steps yet, and you’re just beginning to think about these things for the first time…

You might be intimidated, uncertain, or downright fearful. There are so many moving pieces, hidden factors, and words of advice. Worst of all, the stakes seem extremely high, and making a mistake could lead to deep regret.

Be not afraid! There is a solution. There is one simple way to cut through the murky confusion and arrive reliably at God’s will without any danger of wrongfully breaking hearts, missing opportunities, or screwing up your life. The solution is called prayer.

Here is how it works. Do you recall when you first met your best friend? Do you remember the awkward initial stages in which you didn’t have as much to talk about, you didn’t always know how to make them laugh, and you had no shared memories for reference points? You both spoke English, but in a sense, you didn’t yet speak the same language. It took quality time spent together for you to form the sort of bond where you can speak volumes with subtle glances and single-word answers. Over time you began to see the world the way they see the world. You built each other up, and you influenced one another’s opinions and desires. Gradually you became more and more similar. As Aristotle says of friends, you found “another self.” This is why you can tell a lot about people by looking at their friends.

This is the way communication works. It is the way friendship works. It is the way personal interaction works. It is the way love works.

It is also the way our relationship with God works. The more time you spend with God, the more you speak with him, the more you visit him in the sacraments, and engage with him through works of charity, the closer you will be with him in general. You will begin to understand how he thinks. You’ll start to see the world through his eyes. You will become more like him. You will start to really speak his language. Just as with your friends, soon you will be able to more accurately predict what the Lord will say about anything. You can know how he would advise you in a given situation. You won’t have to wonder about his will, because your will shall be united with his. You will want the same things as him. All you will have to do is follow your own natural desires.

If you live a life of prayer, a consistent life of prayer, you will find yourself naturally seeing the truly good path and wanting to go down it. In fact, that path will look irresistible. You will finally be able to trust your gut, and you will be struck by the clarity that you see in the world.

The best part? You will understand what the saints have always humbly said. You won’t feel like you’re building your life, moving yourself, or earning anything. You will feel like God is in control, and you are just along for the ride, clinging to him in everything. The Lord will be your friend, your best friend, and you will be assured that he has your back in everything. If you pray, you will increasingly feel his presence in your heart, and you will build the undying trust that all his holy men and women have had in him. All of your questions, no matter how scary or complex, will be answered by him: answered by reason, goodness, and love itself. You will have nothing to say but “thank you.”

This is the shortcut to wisdom, the key to happiness, and the surest way to heaven. It’s all the same answer, no matter the question: pray.