You don’t have to be a theologian in order to establish a strong relationship with God. Like any important relationship, our relationship with God requires dedication and attentive listening, communicating, and responding. Too often, we treat God, the author of life, like a slot machine. We put in our tokens; we say a prayer; we go to church; we await immediate answers and rewards from the spiritual one-armed bandit. Hopefully, we can see how treating loved ones and close friends this way would quickly damage those connections.
God, of course, will never abandon us. But as St. Teresa of Avila says: “Christ does not force our will. He only takes what we give Him, but He does not give Himself entirely until He sees we yield ourselves entirely to Him.” And that is where it all begins, with submission and surrender.
Put God first.
Commit or recommit your life to Christ. Every day, tell God: “Lord, here I am. I have come to do Your will.” Do this even if you haven’t quite figured out what God’s will for you is just yet. That’s okay. Just keep offering yourself to Him. This is the first and most important step to take. God must come first for everything else in your life to fall into place. “Our hearts are restless,” St. Augustine said, “until they rest in thee.”
I never wanted to be in Catholic media. I was not even aware that Catholic media existed at the time I heard God’s call to leave secular media. I blocked the signals I was receiving. Doors kept closing in the secular world, but I kept knocking on them, trying to force my way back in. I thought I had it all figured out when I landed a radio news director position. I convinced myself that I could stay in the news media, the only profession I thought I could do, and still fulfill God’s will. But I wasn’t thinking about God’s will, only mine. Eventually, I realized after almost three years in a tug-of-war with God that He had other plans. He wanted to use my communication skills and gifts for His glory, not mine. Go figure. I have never looked back, and after twenty years in the Catholic media and communications arena, I’ve never been happier.
Spend time with Jesus in Adoration.
The Church teaches us the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith. As Catholics, we are blessed not only to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus at Mass but also blessed to spend time with Him in Eucharistic Adoration. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed in a vessel known as a monstrance, allowing us to sit in our parish or chapel and spent quiet time literally with the Creator of the universe. If your parish does not offer Adoration, check with your diocese to find out where it is available. Nothing like some good “Sonshine” to help you hear from God.
Read the Bible daily.
This is one of the most basic yet most important ways to establish a relationship with God and to hear from Him. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (NIV). We keep in touch with those we love. We text, e-mail, meet on Zoom, or FaceTime. In other words, we’re eager to hear what our loved ones have to say. If you want to hear from God, see what He has to say in Scripture. The daily readings for Mass are a great way to begin and to be in touch with the universal Church. Once you start reading Scripture, you might want to go deeper and get involved in a Bible study. Why not? You can never learn enough about our glorious God. The sky, or rather the universe, is your limit.
Silence the noise.
If you wanted to have an important conversation with your child, spouse, or best friend, you wouldn’t choose the loud pub down the street or a concert at the local arena. You would choose a quiet, most likely out-of-the-way place that allows at least some serenity and privacy. God deserves that much, and so do you. Find a quiet place to pray, read Scripture, or journal. Perhaps even carve out a little corner of your home or yard as your special place of prayer and retreat. Disconnect from technology and reconnect with God, even if you have only a few minutes.
Get to know the Holy Spirit.
In His final exhortation to the apostles, Jesus promised us that although He was ascending to the Father, He would not abandon us.
If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:15–31, NIV)
The Catechism teaches us that we can be in touch with Christ only through the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit:
“God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ ” This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son. (CCC 683)
Those are powerful and beautiful words. And all we have to do is say simply, “Come, Holy Spirit.” While there are many incredible prayers to the Holy Spirit, all God wants is your yes. When you are about to pray, say, “Come, Holy Spirit.” When you are getting ready to attend Mass, ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to the readings and the message of the homily. As you open the Bible to see what God has to say to you in His Word on any given day, again say, “Come, Holy Spirit.” And remember, God keeps His promises. The Holy Spirit is our advocate and will help you discern and hear God’s voice more regularly and clearly.
Get to know the saints.
The Catholic Church has canonized over ten thousand saints. These are men and women from all walks of life. None of them was perfect; each began as an ordinary person who did extraordinary things for the Faith. The saints teach us wonderful things about prayer, the Church, suffering, family life, overcoming sin, and more. They’re great friends in heaven who want to help us get closer to God.
Continue to educate yourself about the Catholic Faith.
As I have learned over the years, one could study the Church for an entire lifetime, and it would be merely, as the old saying goes, scratching the surface. Studying the Faith does not necessarily mean going to the local Catholic college or seminary. It could, if that’s what you believe you’re being called to do. But one of the great things about the media is the never-ending amount of resources available online. By visiting Catholic websites, even semi-regularly, you will get to understand more deeply Church teaching and how to apply it to your life and relationship with Christ. You can go online, for example, to the Vatican News site each week to see what the pope has to say. The possibilities for learning are endless.
Be truly open to what God has to say.
God is never going to steer you in the wrong direction. He’s God. He created us, loves us, and wants what’s best for us, which is His will. It took me a long time to understand and accept that. I had to realize that like any good parent, God sometimes has to tell us no, even if we don’t want to hear it. God will also never tell us that sin is okay.
Several years ago, one of my radio listeners sent me an e-mail asking for my opinion on her situation. She tried justifying her actions, which, very unfortunately, involved grave sin. She did not really want my opinion; she wanted confirmation from a Catholic talk-show host that everything was fine. She never answered my reply, in which I nicely but firmly told her that God would never affirm or encourage anyone to break one of His commandments. I tried not to be too heavy-handed, as I was really hoping to establish a dialogue. At the same time, all of us who know the truth of our Faith have a responsibility to explain and defend it and to help people avoid making harmful decisions.
On the positive side, the Holy Spirit was convicting her. That is why she contacted me in the first place. Something (or someone, namely, God) was forcing her to question her choices. Deep down, she knew she was wrong; otherwise, she would never have reached out. Had she kept in touch, I would have encouraged her first to go to Confession and then to seek spiritual direction to help her hear more clearly from God and avoid any near occasions of sin.
We see so much of this in our world today — folks want to tell God how things should be, instead of the other way around. We do not want to look into our hearts and see what needs addressing and mending. In my experience, it seems easier, at least at first, to keep going through life with little or no self-examination. But that causes us to put ourselves and God in a box. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that we will find God when we seek Him with all our heart (29:13). Again, a big part of hearing from God is being open to what He is trying to tell us. The more we seek Him, the more we learn not only about God but also about ourselves.
Have an attitude of gratitude.
Regardless of your progress in hearing God, rejoice and be thankful that you want to be in relationship with Him and hear from Him more often. In our world today, there is so much busyness, clutter, and noise that continues to pull us away from God. Give thanks that you recognize your need and your longing to hear from Him.
Thank God for the little things and big things. Remember my story of thanking God for my statue of Jesus, the one with the words “Panis Angelicus”? I was pondering the amazing fact that decades after my First Holy Communion, I still had the little statue that meant so much to me. God then acknowledged my gratitude through the “Panis Angelicus” hymn, which the cantor was singing at the very moment I thanked God for my statue. When I heard the hymn, I thanked Him all the more.
See how it works? Keep thanking Him and watch how He says “Prego” — you’re welcome — and showers you with His love, comfort, and guidance.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from Listening for God: Discovering the Incredible Ways God Speaks to Us. It is available from your favorite bookseller or online through Sophia Institute Press.