How to pray for discernment

Praying for direction for your life is something that can change your present and future.  Part of knowing the right direction to go is in having good discernment, or the ability to see the big picture.  Praying for discernment is the act of asking God to help you clarify the truth about your life.  Once you know the truth, acting on it can change your life.  Here are some of my ideas on praying for discernment.

1. Clarify the difference between direction and discernment.

I think that praying for discernment is a bit different than praying for direction.  When I think about praying for direction, I think that you’re asking God what course of action to take or you’re making a choice, or you’re trying to decide on going somewhere, answering a mission call, etc.

Discernment to me means is asking God to help clarify and sort things out in your life, whether it be getting to the root cause of your problems, or gaining spiritual insight into your situation, or seeing more clearly what’s going on in your relationships.  It’s more about finding the truth.  The Bible says, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  John 8:32

2.  Ask God “Why?” about your life situations.

When we pray for direction, we ask “who, what, when, where, how?”  You ask God, “Who should I partner with?  What should I choose?  When should I do it?  Where should I go?  How should I go about doing it?”

In praying for discernment we ask “why?” Why am I feeling so angry right now over such a little thing?  Why isn’t my marriage working out?  Why do I keep making bad choices?  Why is my child rebelling?   Why do I feel so alone and fearful?  Why do I feel like I’m not getting anywhere when I pray?  Why do I keep putting off applying for a job?”

3.  Get in touch with your feelings that you’re missing something to alert you that you need to pray for discernment. .

Usually people that are enjoying the way things are going in their lives don’t think to pray for discernment.  By and large the people who usually pray for discernment are those who feel like their lives are out of whack, full of turmoil and heartache and conflict, not those who like things as they are.  If things don’t feel right in your life, take it as a sign that it’s time to pray for discernment.

It is a fairly brave and bold thing to pray for discernment.  Jesus describes it this way:

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”  (John 3:19-21)

4.  Ask for the spiritual gift of discernment.

Discernment, especially spiritual discernment, is a very big deal.   First of all, it is necessary so we’ll know the difference between good and evil.  In this context, discernment is a quality that grows with an individual.  For instance, a child cannot discern the danger of a busy roadway like an adult can.

Jesus talks about discernment when he says that the religious leaders know how to interpret the color of the sky to determine the coming weather.  (Matthew 16:3) He contrasts this human ability of the Pharisees and Sadducees with their spiritual inability to discern who Jesus is.

Ezekiel 43:23 says about those who minister:  “They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.”

Ezekiel is talking about seeing the underlying spiritual qualities of things.  This verse doesn’t tell the leaders to make a clearly defined list of everything possible in the world and then rate it as good or evil.  Unfortunately, the Pharisees actually attempted to do this by writing rules about everything.  It didn’t work because there were too many rules to remember.

Instead this verse tells the spiritual leaders to teach people how to distinguish between things for themselves.  Is this sacred or selfish?  Good or bad?  God-serving or self-serving?  Healthy or dysfunctional?  Freeing or imprisoning?  True or false?  Helpful or hurtful?   Unifying or partisan?

5.  Pray for Wisdom

Solomon prays for wisdom and God says in 1 Kings 3:10-12  “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.  So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not  for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked.  I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.”

It actually pleases God greatly when we ask for discernment!  What makes it more interesting is that the things God lists that Solomon could have asked for are exactly the types of things we typically pray for: good things for this life – strong bodies, provisions and wealth, relief from enemies and troubles.  Perhaps there’s an ascending order to the worth of things we might pray for.  Perhaps on the lower rung are our prayers for provisions for this life.  This passage leads us to believe that God is pleased when we climb to a higher rung when we ask for something more useful in the Kingdom, like wisdom or discernment.

6.  Expect the answer to come.

God directly tells Solomon that his prayer will be granted.  This doesn’t happen often when we pray for things like getting a book published or getting into a certain college.

7.  Ask for a discerning heart.

God doesn’t say that he will give Solomon a wise and discerning mind but rather a wise and discerning heart.  Intellectual discernment might be more closely related to the ability and think, reason and grasp.  The discernment of the heart seems to operate in a different sphere – the more spiritual center of a person’s life purposes, desires, hopes and dreams.

8.  Use discernment to heal.

Discernment is more like a diagnostic tool than anything else.  In the Bible it mentions the naming of spirits, and I think that when we pray for discernment God helps us put a name to a truth about our lives so we can then proceed to deal with it.  Discernment is more like the uncovering of things we weren’t aware of at first glance, things we’d rather not become aware of, something like “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

There is also another related Biblical facet to this that is listed as the spiritual gift of “discerning of spirits.”   I Cor. 12 lists the gifts of the Spirit in verse 10 “to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another the distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in tongues…”

Today as in New Testament times there are those who practice deliverance by naming the evil spirit being cast out.  For instance, an evangelist might pray that a spirit of fear or infirmity or alcoholism might leave a person.  Psychologists work in much the same way, uncovering the root causes of our emotional problems.

9.  Test out what you think you have discerned.

I John 4:1 goes a step further talking about spiritual discernment.  “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  Vs. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

John tells us that we even need discernment in our own churches to sort out the true spirit of Christ from other things that look similar, but are rooted in other things such as materialism, self centered  individualism, political power plays, science and logic, sensationalism, voyeurism, judgmental tendencies, ego, jealousy, pride, greed and the like.

10.  Act on what you discern.

Discernment leads us onto a healing path.  If the answer to our prayer for discernment has uncovered a fault or problem, it leads us on the action-oriented path of repentance or confrontation of evil.  Once something bad has been named and uncovered, it has to be dealt with.  Now it’s time to pray for the strength and guidance to know what action we need to take!

Throughout the years I have had close relationships with people in need of help and support and I have made many mistakes by taking what people say at face value without realizing that people sometimes play games to keep from becoming vulnerable or being  hurt.  Many times our relationship only progressed after I was able to speak the truth in love about what I saw going on between us that wasn’t helpful.  Discernment is absolutely vital in all of our relationships and God’s direction is even more important in knowing what to do about what we do discern.

Discernment is tied to the Holy Spirit.  I Corinthians 2:10 says,

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God…

Colossians 2:8  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Related articles

Scripture prayer for guidance: Show me your good way.

Prayer for God’s Strength one step at a time

Finding answers to prayer during long term problems

Copyright Karen Barber 2011.  All rights reserved.

prayerideas.org

Throughout Scripture we are reminded of God’s direction over our lives. He is our good Shepherd who leads us and He desires that we follow the path that leads to joy and contentment.  When we pray for God’s guidance and for discernment through the Holy Spirit, we can rest assured that God will provide wisdom! We do not have to worry about our next step or about tomorrow because we know who guides our way! Do not rush your day without going before God to seek guidance!

A Short Prayer for Guidance

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your guidance. Forgive me for getting ahead of Your plans, and help me know when to stop and listen for Your direction. Your ways are perfect, Lord. Thank You for offering gentle grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
– Kristine Brown

Prayer for Guidance from the Holy Spirit

Lord, I pray you would move the Spirit more boldly in my life. I know that any sin can grieve and diminish the voice of the Spirit, and I pray against the temptation to sin. Help me crave your presence more than I crave sin. Help me grow in the fruit of the Spirit and so walk closer with Yourself. I pray for guidance from your Spirit- let your will and promises always be a meditation of my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
– Kenny Luck

A Prayer for Guidance When Life is Challenging

Lord, I’m here today with open hands and an open heart, ready to depend on you to help me through the day and all it will bring my way. Help me be like Nehemiah, help me come to you for guidance, strength, provision and protection. As I face tough choices and hard situations, help me remember my belovedness, help me remember that I am Your child and Your representative to the world around me. Help me live today in a way that brings honor to Your holy name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
– Charles Stanley

how to pray for discernment

Prayer for Guidance in the Day Ahead 

Good morning, Lord! Today’s a new day, a chance for a new start. Yesterday is gone and with it any regrets, mistakes, or failures I may have experienced. It’s a good day to be glad and give thanks, and I do, Lord. Thank you for today, a new opportunity to love, give, and be all that you want me to be.

Today I want to start the day with you on my mind and in my heart. As I dress, let me wear the armor you’ve provided daily: the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the belt of truth, the shoes of peace, and the sword of the spirit—with prayer on my tongue: praise for you and petitions for those around me and those I meet.

Feed me today with your daily bread. As the Bread of Life, your food, like manna, will sustain me throughout any trials and hungers. Help me to set my thoughts on things above and to speak only what will help and encourage others. Keep me from putting my foot in my mouth, and help me guard the affections of my heart today, Lord. Make whatever work I do be marked with excellence rather than perfectionism, as I seek not to make a name, but to make a difference. Help me to treat each person I encounter as you would, with respect and love, forgiving others and asking for forgiveness myself when needed.

As I start this day, help me remember that I belong to you, and my desire is to act accordingly. Keep my feet from stumbling and my mind from wandering into distractions that could steal precious time and energy from the most important things you have designed for me. I’m proud to be your child, Lord. And I’m so grateful that you died for me—rising again on your own new morning—so that every day could be filled with the wonder of your love, the freedom of your Spirit, and the joy of knowing you.

I know earthly life is short and fleeting, Lord. But I want to live today as if it were the first or the last day of my life, giving thanks for every good and perfect gift you choose to give. Today, and every day, I want to live my life for you, Jesus. In your precious name, Amen.
– Rebecca Barlow Jordan

A Prayer for Discernment and Wisdom When You Need God’s Direction

Lord, thank You for the people You have divinely placed in my life who speak holy truth, love and words of wisdom. Give me a heart of discernment to know when You are using someone to speak instruction into my heart and my circumstances, and give me the strength and courage to follow through with that advice, even when it’s hard. Fill me with peace in knowing that even if I take a wrong turn, Your purpose will prevail. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
– Tracie Miles

This Beautiful Version of Psalm 23 Had Me in Tears from biblestudytools on GodTube.

Bible Verses about God’s Guidance

Psalm 25:4-5 – “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Psalm 16:7-8 – “I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Psalm 32:8-9 – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”

John 16:13 – “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

What decisions and situations are you praying for guidance over? Join in our large praying community in the comments below and recieve encouragement! 

how to pray for discernment

This article is part of our larger Prayers resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can’t find the words to pray.

Prayer for Healing

Prayer for StrengthPrayer for ProtectionMorning PrayersGood Night PrayersThe Prayer of JabezShort PrayersThe Lord’s PrayerThe Prayer of St FrancisSerenity PrayerA Birthday PrayerSinner’s PrayerPrayer for ForgivenessPrayer for GuidanceIntercessory PrayerIrish Prayers and Blessings  

Now available is our new Daily Prayer devotional! An easy way to find start your day with prayer, read today’s prayer and sign up to receive by email.

www.crosswalk.com

How is your life lately? Are you going through serious trials and tribulations? Are you in a time of peace and genuine happiness? Are you confused because you are at a fork in the road? Whatever your situation may be, seeking God’s wisdom for your life is essential. Here are 6 prayers you can pray to God for wisdom and discernment for your life.

Darkness/Chaos

“Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:12)

Lord Above,

I am so lost. I don’t even know where to begin praying. I feel so lost in the darkness that surrounds me. My wife has left me for another man. My children are acting out because of our family breakdown. I don’t want to go to work. The bills are piling up. I want to move away and start over. I can’t handle this pressure and stress on my own, Lord! Please show me Your will in my life. Give me the knowledge and wisdom to conduct myself as a Christian. Bad circumstances aren’t a gateway for me to act out of accordance of Your will. I just wish this was a bad dream and that I could wake up. I cannot think straight. So many emotions are plaguing me, Father. Cast these burdens off of me! Lord, I humbly pray that You would honor my request for wisdom in this because I cannot do anything on my own. It is by Your power alone that I am moving through this chaos. I love You, Father! Amen

Clarity

“Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3-5)

Omniscient Father,

Lord, You have full knowledge of everything in Your grasp. There is nothing that surprises You. Father, I need clarity right now. I am at a fork in the road and I don’t know which way to turn. There are at least 3 different decisions that I could make and they all seem like wise decisions. I can’t rely on human intuition here, Lord. Father, I ask You now for a clear and concise answer on what I need to do. I want Your will to be done in this, Father. Give me clarity, Lord. I love You! Amen

Who Is The Culprit?

Please read the entire section of 1 Kings 3:16-28 for the whole story on two prostitutes who were fighting over custody of a baby. “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other…Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.”

My Lord,

I am in a sticky situation right now. I have two people whom I love dearly telling me two different stories and one of them has to be wrong. I pray for Your help in this, Father. Give me the knowledge and the words to speak to both of them so we can fix this. Lord, I pray that you would prepare all of our hearts as we sit down and discuss this matter. Lord, when the truth is revealed I pray that the one at fault will repent of their sin and hold tight to You. I pray that you would soften the heart of the one who is right, so that forgiveness can be made for the transgressor. Lord, may You be glorified in this ultimately. I love You! Amen

My family and I are so close right now … This is a wonderful time!

Seasons Of Joy

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Blessed Father,

I thank You for this wonderful time of life! My family and I are so close right now. My spouse and I have never been closer emotionally, physically, intimately or spiritually ever! This is a wonderful time! Father, as wonderful as this is, I pray for Your wisdom in this time of celebration. Father, I don’t want to say anything that would mess this up. Please be with me and give me the words to speak in every situation. May we continue to praise Your name always, Lord! I love You! Amen

A Partner In Marriage

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

O Lord,

You know my heart. I yearn to have a partner to walk this life with. Lord, my human side is saying “take the first person that comes!” I know this is not wise. I don’t want to settle for anyone that You don’t want me to be with. Father, give me wisdom in picking a mate. You know the future down the road for me, Lord. Please give me the ability to turn off my longing for affection to be wise in this decision. Father, the last thing I need to do is to be unequally yoked with another. Marriage is a BIG deal and I want to marry someone that I can connect with spiritually and keep falling in love with every day! Thank You for all You have provided me with, Lord. I love You! Amen

Pastors

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Dear God,

Today I am speaking Your Word to Your church. Lord, let it be that the only words I speak come from You. The congregation doesn’t need to hear me; they need to hear You. Lord, I have spent time this week studying the passages You have put on my heart to preach. Lord, as I step behind the pulpit, I give my all to You. You are worthy of all glory, honor and praise! Father, I pray that You give me the words to speak as I deliver the message You have put on my heart. Father, I also pray for my church family. Give them ears of discernment. May they listen intently and be wise in their thoughts as they hear Your word spoken. Father, I give this to You. I love You! It’s in Your Name that I pray. Amen

Conclusion

We all go through many types of scenarios and seasons of life. No matter what the occasion, wisdom should be a major focus. When we act and speak wisely, ultimately God is glorified, but also, people notice something in us. This can be a stepping stone into a possible conversion. So, be on guard! Guard you heart, mind and soul! Stay in the Word and in Prayer! Seek wisdom around every single corner! God bless you as you live a life worthy of the calling!

Read more of what the Bible says about wisdom in this article:

15 Wisdom Quotes From the Bible

Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. YouTube “Give me Words to Speak” by Aaron Shust.

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