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How to Exercise Spiritual Discernment



“He gives us discernment so that we may accept the responsibility for those souls before Him and form the mind of Christ about them.”

Oswald Chambers


While reading the Word of God, I pay close attention to the wording in scripture to perceive what phrase the Holy Spirit is highlighting for me to ponder. As I read chapters thirteen and fourteen in Acts, I came across two passages that used the phrase looked (looking) intently. Acts 13:9-10 and Acts 14:9-10 describe encounters that Paul had. The author Luke wrote that Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit,” which is a prerequisite to exercising spiritual discernment.


In Acts 13, Paul looked intently at a man named Elymas. To look at someone intently means to do so in a “concentrated manner, with great effort and attention.” I’m not sure what Paul saw in Elymas, the sorcerer, but it was obvious by Paul’s response, it must have been evil. In Acts 14, Paul looked intently at a man who had been crippled since birth. It says Paul had discerned the man “had faith to be made well,” so Paul commanded the man to stand. A miracle took place and the lame man “sprang up and began walking!”


Those are two different passages with different encounters and perceptions. But both said that Paul was able to discern their hearts by looking intently at them. After Paul recognized what was in their hearts, he knew how God wanted to specifically minister to each of them. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best...” (Philippians 1:9-10).


One of the churches we used to attend had the pastoral staff sit up on the platform. Sometimes during worship, as I looked at them, God gave me discernment about how to pray for them. At other times, the Holy Spirit would whisper an encouraging prophetic word which I gave to them later. Periodically, during a prayer meeting, I will pray with my eyes open looking at the one we’re praying for. God gives me His heart to pray as I gaze at them.


As you pay close attention to those you’re ministering to, God will show you how to respond with His spiritual discernment. Remember to “look intently” and then listen to the Holy Spirit for direction.


“Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.”

Oswald Chambers


Relevant Reflection:

Describe a time when you “looked intently” at someone and God gave you discernment on His next steps to take.

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