(*The pattern of prayer explained here is taken from Gordon Smith’s The Voice of Jesus)
One of the most incredible miracles of being a follower of Jesus is that we have the Holy Spirit, God Himself, living inside of us guiding, directing, and leading us towards wisdom and discernment. There’s a process to what the Holy Spirit does in our lives, and our response to His movement brings us to a place of wisdom and discernment. There’s a character to our prayer. That character and pattern of our prayers is: Gratitude, Confession, Meditation, and Discernment. It’s a pattern of prayer that responds to who God is and what He does through the Holy Spirit.
Gratitude is our response to the Holy Spirit’s assurance that we are loved by the Father. We must always start here… the love of God for us. Nothing is so fundamental to the Christian journey as knowing and feeling that we loved by the Father. It is from the experience of God’s love that we know the grace of God and live out every other dimension of our Christian faith. So the Holy Spirit begins by assuring us of the Father’s love for us, toward us, in us, and through us. And our response is gratitude for that love.
Confession is our response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. When we know the depths to which we are loved and known by the Father, then our sin becomes all the more “despicable.” I don’t say that to take us into deeper places of self-loathing and shame. I say that to ask, “how can we walk away from that love in our sin and disobedience?” The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and then disciplines us because He loves us… because He wants to remove all of the barriers and roadblocks that prevent us from seeing and experiencing the Father’s love. Our response to the Spirit’s conviction of sin is confession.
Meditation is our response the Holy Spirit’s illuminating our hearts and minds through Scripture. Knowing that we loved by the Father, having confessed our sin and rebellion against Him and His love, we are now ready to come to God through His Word. Our minds and hearts are clear to hear His voice and to see His character and plan as revealed through His Word. And the Holy Spirit illuminates (shines light on) the Word, and our hearts are changed in the process. Our response to that light is to meditate upon it.
Discernment is our response to the Spirit guidance in times of choice. Now that we are beginning to know and experience the assurance that we loved by the Father, convicted of our sin in His perfect love, and having come to His Scriptures to shape our hearts and minds in light of who Jesus Christ really and fully is, now and only now are we ready to hear the voice of Jesus through the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides in times of choice. The problem is that we often jump immediately to wanting the Spirit’s guidance in times of choice. When we go here without having practiced gratitude, confession, and meditation, we short-circuit the process and cannot clearly hear the voice of Jesus through the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we know we are loved, if we know we are forgiven and freed from our sin, and if we know the heart and character of God as revealed in the Scriptures, then we are much more likely to make the right choices through the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Try praying with this pattern and see how the Holy Spirit develops wisdom and discernment in your life and experience.