“Ask a Priest: After Jail, How Do I Find God’s Will for Me?”

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Q: I’ve spent most of my life alone, shunning people and not “living life to the fullest.” I then spent a good portion of my life in jail which allowed me to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. I have been out and I’ve received God’s blessing in my life. The problem is that I am trying to stay on track and accomplish the major goals of independence (house, car, etc.). In the meantime, I do not try to socialize outside of work (partly because it is still awkward due to the jail mentality that causes isolation in order to survive). I try to do right by people (family and co-workers). I don’t want to pursue a relationship as I am trying to get my feet under me, and the extra drama would aggravate me and slow me down. I have always been lonely and during this time I have a lot to think about. I want more of God, but I don’t even know how to find his purpose in my life. I don’t really know what I’m asking but rather looking for guidance I suppose. Anyway, thank you for your time. – A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It sounds as though the Holy Spirit is working in your heart and trying to draw you closer to himself.

For starters, it’s good to remember your core identity: You are a beloved son of God. Jesus suffered and died on a cross for your redemption. You mean a lot to Our Lord. In the deepest sense, you have never spent any of your life alone.

Jesus also has a mission for you. You are in this world to give glory to God and to bring his love to others.

There are a few things you might want to consider.

First, it would be good to dedicate time to prayer every day. You can use prayers from a Christian prayer book, or you can make up your own prayers. Just try to approach prayer as a moment of dialogue with your best friend, Jesus.

Then, try to dedicate some time to reading a bit of the Gospels each day. Get to know the person of Jesus. From there, you can start reading other books in the New Testament. The Old Testament is good, of course, but it’s harder to understand at times.

Moreover, it would be good to look for a way to reach out and help others. No man is an island. You don’t have to be a chatterbox in order to help others; you can just reach out to someone who needs help.

There might other former inmates who could use help transitioning back into the wider world. There might elderly people in your area who need help getting to the supermarket or to a doctor’s appointment. Or there might be soup kitchens where you can volunteer.

The idea is that we can express our faith through acts of charity. And the faith is easier to practice when it is lived within a community. Along the way, it will be easier to see where God is leading you.

If you need help praying, you might look at these short books: Opening to God, by Thomas Green, and Time for God, by Jacques Philippe. Or, feel free to watch our free Retreat Guides.

If you are interested in learning more about the Catholic faith, you might get a copy of the Youth Catechism (or YouCat) or Why We’re Catholic, by Trent Horn.

Feel free to attend Mass, but don’t receive Communion. If you want to learn more about the Church, you could ask a local parish about its RCIA program.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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