Methods: Planning consistently happens in three areas, personal, ministry and organization and on three levels, strategic, tactical and operational

A Spiritual Discernment Approach To Personal Decision Making

Most of us don’t have a pre-determined process in how to discern the will of God for our lives when considering a significant or potentially life altering decision. We pray and search Scripture, seek Godly counsel and hope for the best. That’s not necessarily a bad approach and admittedly, decision making and discernment of God’s will may vary from person to person and even from decision to decision based on the context and the circumstances. Yet, I have found that putting a structure or process into my personal decision making helps insure thoroughness and inspire confidence that I have made the right decision.

Below are nine different stages or movements I like use as a process for discerning God’s will in important personal decisions or crossroads in my life. They don’t guarantee success, but I believe do increase the likelihood of a wise and God-pleasing decision.

A Nine Step Personal Spiritual Discernment Process


  • What is it that am I deciding? What specifically am I praying about and for?


  • Am I willing to give up my will for the sake of discerning God’s will?
  • What preconceived notions, assumptions and biases do I need to set aside to openly consider this decision?
  • Are there any behaviors in my life that might block my spiritual discernment?


  • What are my guiding principles in making this decision and how do they impact my decision?
  • My Mission
  • My Values
  • My Career/Life Dreams and Goals
  • My Calling
  • My Passions
  • My Giftedness
  • My Truest and Best Self
  • My Family


  • What biblical themes, scriptures and stories connect to the decision I am considering?
  • Is there anything in the life and teachings of Jesus that informs my decision?
  • What has helped or hindered me in making similar decisions in the past?
  • Are there any spiritual practices that I can add to my life that will enhance the likelihood of discerning God’s heart in this decision?


What pertinent facts do I need to consider?

  • The financial implications.
  • Pertinent background information related to the decision.
  • Specific Proposals/Recommendations/Offers/Opportunities.
  • Past precedent and experience that might apply to this decision.

Whose voices do I need to hear?

  • Those who will be impacted by the decision, specifically my spouse and family.
  • Those with special giftedness, experience or expertise in the area(s) of my decision.
  • Mentors, friends, and trusted colleagues.
  • The promptings of the Holy Spirit heard in times of silence and solitude.


  • What are the potential options and paths that are available to me?
  • Can any of these be improved or combined as a third alternative that I should consider?


How do I test and select the best option in response to the leading of God’s spirit? Which one(s) are speaking to me most clearly?

  • From the Jesuit practice of rigorous and vigorous mental examination (listing pros and cons).
  • From the biblical witness, which choice will nurture the fruit of the Spirit in my life? Which is the most loving option? What am I sensing in my prayer time? What Scriptures are speaking to me?
  • From the Quaker tradition, place each option near the heart. When I do:
  • Is there consolation – as sense of peace and movement toward God and His will?
  • Is there desolation – a sense of despondence and movement away from God and His will?
  • From Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” question, where do I see God working in this decision? Has God provided me any obvious Sign Posts?


  • After making the decision how does it feel? Does the decision bring peace and draw me closer to God or does it result in distress and move me away from God?


  • Do my spouse, family, mentors and friends confirm that the will of God has been discerned in this decision?

These movements of discernment, though presented as a linear process, need not become a mechanical procedure but rather a sequence of movements that can be creatively mixed and adapted to your situation, preferences and understanding of how God works in your life.



Posted on July 6, 2021

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5