My Life

How to (and how not to) Pray About Your Vocation

I remember the first time I ever prayed about my vocation — it was only a few years ago. I was kneeling down to pray before daily Mass, and I felt the slightest movement of my heart. In the quiet of the chapel that day, the Lord reminded me of my deepest desires. Then He asked me if, in a particular vocation (I won’t mention which one), they might be fulfilled. I was a little stunned to hear Him ask that — I hadn’t asked for any clarifying signs or answers about vocation; instead, I had recently been praying about the things I wanted to be when I grew up. I had talked with the Lord about what my deepest desires were, offering to Him some desires that I was already aware of, and receiving from Him those He had given me that I hadn’t yet noticed. The Lord took my pursuit of desire and fit it into the call of a particular vocation.

A Conversation of Desire

I’ve been doing Catholic stuff for a while, and, as far back as I can remember, many of my Church friends have pretty frequently been freaking out about their vocations. They’ve prayed novenas to St. Therese, asked God for signs, taken online vocation quizzes, and even sometimes asked people point-blank to read their souls and to tell them to their faces what their vocations were. I won’t judge any of these options as good or bad (I don’t have that authority anyway); instead, I want to offer a different approach to praying about vocation. Rather than begging God to reveal what He wants for our lives, perhaps we should do our best to be honest with God about the things that we want from Him. I don’t mean to ask God for a million dollars or a new car — those probably aren’t the things we really want anyway. I mean to be honest with God and then surrender to Him the deepest desires of our hearts, trusting that He will sanctify them and give them back to us if we really do want them.

On a Journey

To pray about vocation is not to pray about the end of our lives, but to pray about the mode of our lives. Vocation is the way in which we live out the fullness of our identities and in which we love God as best we can. Vocation is a pilgrim journey, not a stationary destination. For one to choose his vocation dictates not so much where he will go in life — can we ever really predict that anyway? — but instead illuminates how he will get there. And, regardless of one’s vocation, all of creation has the same ultimate purpose — to praise God. That purpose is unchanging, we share it with the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Priests and married couples and cloistered nuns all have it in common.

Vocation does not tell us where to go, for we already know from our very existence that we should go to the heart of God. Vocation gives us a way to get there. Although all people share the purpose to praise God with their lives, the way in which a priest praises looks pretty different from the way a mother praises or the way a monk praises. In this diversity of mode, not destination, comes our particular vocations to participate as different members of the Body of Christ.

It’s Already within Us!

Sometimes praying directly about our vocations can actually distract us from discovering them, or from allowing God to bring us to them in His time. If we’re always asking God to “please-please-please show us which vocation we’re supposed to choose,” then we risk the chance of missing the meaning of the experiences we’re having in the present that will inform our vocations in the future. If we spend an entire retreat begging God to reveal to us whether or not we should join religious life, we might rob ourselves of the incarnate experiences all around us.

I’d argue that we learn a lot more about the vocations God has in store for us by living authentically than by asking for divine interventions. To be oneself most wholly is to gather evidence about what one’s vocation might be. If you love to serve others, to teach, to listen, to create, to do anything, take that passion into your prayer about vocation. Your vocation will be something you’re good at — after all, you were made for it!

Having not yet chosen a vocation is not a waste of time. In fact, that period of waiting might be the entire point of the Christian life. Christians are a people on the way, in pursuit of the heart of God. When we live as young people not yet having committed to a state-in-life vocation, we have the special opportunity to take in a wide variety of experiences that will help us to know ourselves and God more deeply. We don’t choose our vocations — we discover them living already inside of us. In the process of growing up, making mistakes, trying and failing, learning new lessons, and walking the Christian walk, we come to see who we really are, and what it is that we really want. Therein is vocation — that place in which our loves cross with the world’s needs for the greater glory of God.

Photo by unsplash-logoPriscilla Du Preez

About the Author

Nick Bernard

I once played a character named "Jim" on an ad for my city's local Catholic radio station, and my friend Kelly played "Kathy." Unfortunately, my career in radio was pretty short lived (maybe twenty minutes total?). My relationship with Jesus is simultaneously beautiful, raw, intimate, and wild, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The Lord continues to invite me deeper into His love, and I can't wait to see where He'll take me next. If you'd like to follow along with me in my journey with Christ, you can find me on Instagram @n1ckb3rnard.

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