Pray, Decide and Don’t Worry – Part 1: SEEKING

I recently finished the book Pray, Decide, and Don’t Worry: Five Steps to Discerning God’s Will. The book was written by a married couple, Bobby and Jackie Angel, together with Father Mike Schmitz. I’ve written about the book in previous reflections and mentioned it in my Porch Talks. Over the next few weeks, I would like to provide a summary of the main parts of the book.

Schmitz, Bobby, and Jackie lay out five steps to discernment. Each chapter in the book corresponds to one of those steps. The steps are: (1) Seek, (2) Search, (3) Silence, (4) Sort, and (5) Step Out. The book first describes each step towards discernment. Each author then gives some insights based on their personal experience. At the end of each insight, there are reflection questions. I think that the reflection questions are probably the strongest part of the book. I found them insightful, relevant, and also challenging.

Chapter 1 – Seek – starts with a question Jesus asks his disciples: “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38) The chapter – Seek – is divided into three parts. The first part concerns the cry of the heart. The second part deals with the question, “Who are you?” The third part looks at the idea of overcoming fear. 

The cry of the heart involves answering the question that Jesus asked his disciples: “What are you seeking?” One of the ways to discern this is to ask yourself what currently is weighing on your mind. What is on your heart? What things, people, activities, and items matter most to you now? Father Mike adds an extra question: “When you are 90 years old – what is it that you will have wanted to accomplish … and regretted not doing?” Is it a religious call? Is it a decision about college or high school? Is it a relationship, a career change, a family matter, or how to invest time or money? All of these involve the idea and the question “What are you seeking?”

Society seems to be afraid of going into those places. Some of us are afraid to enter into silence (more on that later) because we fear what it is we might find. Thus, we end up numbing ourselves with television, the Internet, digital distractions, and creature comforts. Fr. Mike mentions that he knows prominent celebrities and athletes who experience deep depression. Amid their “successful life”, the acquisition of money, pleasure, or fame leaves them feeling empty. 

To be fully human is to live for something. Having meaning and having a purpose are the most important aspects of human flourishing. Yet this seems to be lacking in the lives of so many people. As St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man or woman fully alive!” To be fully alive, one must first answer the question “What are you looking for?”

Jackie Angel goes into the question “Who am I?” The answer is not what we do. It is not what we are. It is not what we have done or wish to accomplish. The key question is – WHO are you? We are not a bunch of titles or achievements. We are also not the accumulation of our past sins and failures. Our religious lives are not the accumulation of the knowledge of our faith. 

Jackie quotes Pope Benedict XVI in a very profound way: “Each of us is the result of the thought of God. Each of us is wanted. Each of us is loved. Each of us is necessary. Discernment is about unearthing the will of the loving Father who gave you this unique and profound identity. In the mind of the Father, the world would be incomplete unless you were created.” 

Jackie offers some reflection questions: What gifts have you received from the Father? When people ask who you are or how you are, do you list activities you have used to define yourself or describe yourself? What is keeping you from seeing yourself as a beloved child of God? Do you struggle to see God as a loving Father? Why or why not? 

So what keeps us from answering these questions, or even asking them? Let’s examine that in the next post.

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