God Never Changes His Mind About You
Did you know God never pulls back from us? Never. If we skip Mass for years, use porn, have sex outside of marriage, steal, use his name in vain…and every sin you can think up, he is always waiting and is constantly extending his mercy. The reality is, he loves us and he will never stop doing so!
This isn’t supposed to sound sacrilegious, but God’s presence and love is kind of like our pets, especially our dogs. They are so faithful! All they want is us. Helpful visual? Here’s another.
If you are a millennial like me, you may remember the youth rally drama Total Eclipse of the Heart; the story of a person whose relationship with God is interrupted by temptation, sin, and evils of the world. The music and feel of the whole thing is “emo” but it’s another visual depiction of how God pursues us, offers freedom, and in the end he saves.
What You Do Changes Your Mind About God
You were made for God and to be united with him. So, what you do doesn’t change his mind about you. But, as you probably know from your own life experience, what you do does change your mind about him! Engaging in the activities mentioned above or not being in regular conversation with the God who made you causes you to doubt that God is good. He can be trusted though! He does have a plan for your life and wants to share it with you. This is where prayer comes in.
The whole spiritual life is focused on ordering our lives towards God. Or more simply said, growing in friendship with Jesus. This means that what we do each day (prayer included but not exclusively prayer) should be directed towards growing closer to him. How we speak is supposed to move us towards God. What we buy, yeah that too. Everything should help you grow in relationship with him. “He made us; we belong to him” (Psalm 100: 3).
Prayer is Your Aid for the Journey
There are stages to this growth and relationship with God, three in particular: purgative, illuminative, and unitive. (We will explore these in depth in another blog post). These stages of growth focus solely on our relationship with him. So here we will focus on prayer as the foundation of our relationship with Christ.
The grace of prayer, and the sacraments, are your aides in the journey to God and the holiness he desires for you. So, where do you start? What prayer methods can aid you and provide a foundation for your spiritual journey toward God and holiness?
Even if it’s what TV or social media shows us, we can’t only recite a few lines for prayer and call it good. We need more. And so we need to be more intentional to get to the heart of things, more specifically to his heart.
So, how do you grow in relationship with anyone? By spending time with them, talking, sharing intimately, giving of yourself through acts of service, making sacrifices, putting yourself last, maybe giving a gift or letter of affirmation every so often. Your relationship with God is no different. It deserves time, conversation, sacrifices, and self-gift.
So, here are five ways I have found to focus on my relationship with the Lord and energize my prayer life. Prayerfully consider which of these God is calling you to focus on right now.
1. Set times to pray and to go to Jesus. He is your way back to God the Father.
God gave us Jesus so that we may have eternal life (John 3:16). No one goes to God unless they go through Jesus. Afterall, he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
Have you seen the quote: “Don’t act like a Christian, act like Christ”? Jesus is the model for us in this life to get us to the next life. He is the way and he is the one who will return us to God-our creator, father, lover, and almighty!
If you aren’t currently praying, consider starting with five minutes of prayer in the morning and five minutes at bedtime. I pray the Marian Consecration Prayer every morning when I wake and an Act of Contrition every night when I go to bed. Morning and night time prayer are so needed. It’s really a sweet time of intimacy with the Lord.
My friend recently told me a line from the book He and I that has moved my heart to desire night prayer all the more. In the book, Jesus says to each of us: “In our intimacy this evening before you go to sleep, when your heart is close to mine, won’t you give me its most tender thanks?”
As you dive deeper into prayer, I encourage you to schedule in the following to your daily, weekly, and monthly prayer routine:
- Mealtime Prayer (before and after)
- Spend 15 minutes each day or once a week at 3:00 p.m. to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
- Frequent Communion at Mass (the greatest prayer of all time). (If you aren’t a regular communicant, I encourage you to begin going to Mass once a week. However, if you are social distancing due to COVID-19, make a point to watch one Mass online once a week and pray the Act of Spiritual Communion.)
- Plan half an hour once or twice a month to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation. (If you aren’t already going to Confession, I invite you to consider receiving the sacrament once a month. If you already go to Confession once a month, pray about going every two weeks.)
2. Begin adding Scripture reading to your prayer. It doesn’t have to be an entire book. You can start small with one passage or even one line.
Saint Jerome famously said: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Don’t be afraid to dive into Sacred Scripture. You are in good company! Learn from the Saints and enter into the word of God. It is here that we receive much needed nourishment.
People joke all the time that Catholics aren’t well versed in Scripture (no pun intended!). Even though it was Catholic Saints who wrote and translated the Bible!
It is true however that we do tend to read all the religious books and shy away from opening the Bible. I am guilty of this myself.
Sometimes Lectio Divina and prayer tools like the Magnificat, the Divine Office, and daily devotionals can help us with our nervousness to open the Bible and start reading. These resources ease us into the word of God and give us a context and accompanying reflections.
Again, those prayer tools are:
- Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”)
- The Magnificat
- Divine Office
- Daily Devotionals
To take a deep dive into the importance of Sacred Scripture, read Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini.
3. Be intentional about reflecting on how blessed you are, and that God is calling you to holiness.
To journey back to God, we must engage our memory, intellect, and will. This includes finding God’s presence, work, and invitation in each of life’s events.
When you add an extra 15 minutes a day to your daily prayer routine to reflect on the events of your life in this way, it will bring about awareness of the graces and blessings you’ve received up until this point in your life, including the ones you haven’t been aware of before.
This is an incredible exercise! It will show you how blessed you are, how God has been and still is working in your life, and very importantly, it’s an opportunity to see God’s mercy and love working at every moment.
A great guide for this would be Father Bill Watson’s Whole Life-Confession. You could spend 15 minutes a day for four weeks. For those of us who don’t know it, it’s a great way to recognize both the things you want to confess and recognize life’s blessings. Something like this is done in the practice of the Church known as the “Examen” Prayer.
Include the following with your meditation and contemplation with Father Watson:
- The “Examen” Prayer
- Daily or Weekly Holy Hour (If available, spending time before the Blessed Sacrament at your church each week.)
4. Let Mary who is the model of contemplation and prayer be your guide.
It’s up to how you bring Mary into your prayer life, but however you do, it’s a biggie!
Mary found great favor with God. Afterall, she was the only one who was asked to be the Mother of God (Luke 1:26-34).
Mary teaches us many things that we can pick up quickly from the story of her life. These include humility, obedience, simplicity and charity.
I recall listening to Father Larry Richards once reflect on how after Mary said yes to Gabriel that she would bear God’s son, she travelled to see her cousin Elizabeth. She didn’t sit around; she went to serve. She kept giving of herself.
We are called to give of ourselves to God and neighbor. We give ourselves to God through prayer and service. This takes the gifts Mary models so well, especially humility.
Every time Our Lady of Fatima appeared, she asked the world to pray the rosary. Honestly, every biography of a saint, everything written by a saint, and all the spiritual books that I have ever read, always, always encourages the recitation of the rosary. In humility, maybe we should take a hint?
I encourage you to beg the Blessed Virgin Mary, our mother, and the Cause of Our Joy, to not only teach you how to pray but to teach you how to be a saint.
I invite you to pray the rosary daily. If you wish to deepen your understanding of the role of Mary, read 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Michael Gaitely.
5. We need the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Spiritual Direction.
If you don’t have a desire to pray, it might be that something is holding you back from God. Ask yourself some questions:
- Have I stopped going to Mass?
- Did someone hurt me?
- Have I hurt myself?
- Have I hurt someone?
- Did I lose a loved one?
- When did I stop praying?
Try to pinpoint the moment you stopped talking with God or being aware of his presence in your life.
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) God generously pours out healing and grace. It is here as well as in the Eucharist that we have direct access to the Lord. Why don’t we take advantage of this more frequently?
Ask the Lord to help you lay down your struggles and burdens and surrender and trust in him and the sacraments he offers through his Church.
As you navigate the spiritual life and consider questions that invite your reflection, spiritual directors are very helpful and often crucial to your growth. They help you see what you may not necessarily see otherwise in your life.
What can help you when preparing for Confession and/or discerning a spiritual director?
- Litany of Trust by the Sisters of Life
- Examination of Conscience by Father Mike Schmitz (UMD Catholic)
Get a More Detailed Roadmap for the Journey
Remember, God made us for himself and we belong to him.
So, we have to take our relationship with God seriously. That means we also need to take our prayer lives seriously. Let’s start today.
As I’ve said, I want to see you grow in your relationship with God. This will involve being intentional about setting time aside for prayer. Let me give you a roadmap for the journey!
Join me for my Joy Seeker Spiritual Direction Package. This includes six sessions of one-on-one time in conversation about the spiritual life, prayer, and tools for growth.