“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went of to a solitary place where he prayed (Mark 1:35).”
Jesus discerned his calling through reflection on Scripture and prayer, even as we must. He had no magic wand. There was no angel standing on his shoulder to tell him which way he should go. He found it necessary to escape the crowds and even his disciples, retreat to a solitary place and pray.
The context of this verse is really quite extraordinary. After a busy and remarkably effective day of ministry, Jesus has now retreated to this solitary place. Some of his companions have come looking for him and when at last they find him they exclaim, “Everyone is looking for you!” The implication is that many in the community—more of those who are sick and needy—are clamoring for more of Jesus. But instead of returning them, Jesus now announces that they must go on to other towns and villages, “so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” The suggestion of this story is that Jesus discerned that it was time to move on. Rather than responding to the most urgent needs (those who were clamoring for him), he discerned that it was time to move on and preach in other communities. That was his first and foremost vocation. Notice how this discernment frees him up from the tyranny of the urgent (again, those who are competing for his attention) so that he can move on to the most important thing, the task to which has father has called him.
It takes time to practice discernment, but here is a great place to begin. Set aside time every day for prayer and silence. Learn to whisper, as young Samuel did when the Lord began to speak to him, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Don’t necessarily expect audible voices or angelic visitations; but do expect that over time there will come a ‘lifting of the mist.’ Priorities will begin to emerge, directions will become more clear, values will be more certain. This is the testimony of thousands and thousands who have gone before us who have learned to discern God’s call with ever deepening clarity.