Discernment of the Guidance of the Spirit

As Friends seek to live faithfully as individuals and as meeting communities, they return often to seek direct communion with the Divine. They find guidance through reading the Bible and other sources of wisdom. And they clarify and focus their concerns and test their “leadings” by responding to “queries”—open-ended questions based on Friends practices and testimonies. These processes give the meeting and individuals a sense of clearness and confidence that they are moving forward in harmony with the Divine.

At times an individual Friend may seek a more structured clearness process within the meeting. These occasions might include application for membership, marriage under the care of the meeting, decisions on an important life course, and to test a leading. For Friends, a leading is a persistent thought or idea, believed to be a call from the Spirit that compels one to action. In each of these situations, the meeting and the individual can draw on well-established practices that enable Friends to understand the call and to act on the promptings of love and truth in their hearts.

The meeting community itself uses defined processes to reach clearness in decisions and to guide the actions of the meeting. “Spirit-led” decision making is central to the life and health of the meeting.

The desire of Friends as individuals and as meeting communities is to live with greater awareness of and faithfulness to the Light Within. Friends strive to integrate their inward life and outward activity. In the sections that follow, we return often to discernment and clearness as practices that lead us to greater harmony with the Light Within.

Dear Friends, keep all your meetings in the authority, wisdom and power of Truth and the unity of the blessed Spirit. Let your conduct and conversation be such as become the Gospel of Christ. Exercise yourselves to have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all people. Be steadfast and faithful in your allegiance and service to your Lord, and the God of peace be with you.

— Elders of Balby, 1656