God isn’t just a shadowy figure who created us, made a bunch of rules and then disappeared from our lives. As the creator of our spirits, and someone who knew us before we were born, He loves us and has a deep, personal interest in how we’re doing. He wants us to know Him as well as He knows us. How do you get to know someone you don’t remember meeting in person?
In today’s age of modern technology, this might not seem as complicated as it once was. Most of us feel we know many people we’ve never met. However, in general, we get to know God the same way we get to know everyone we have a close, personal relationship with. We spend quality time together, we talk, we listen, and we try to find out as much as we can about the person. We invest a great deal of time in building our relationships with people in our earthly life we care about, and we must devote at least as much time building our relationships with God and Jesus Christ.
A good first step is to gather some factual knowledge. We have access to scriptures that teach us about God, and we can read them slowly and thoughtfully, not rushing through to meet a schedule, but pondering what they say. We can even start a journal of our thoughts as we read, or begin a notebook in which we record everything we learn about God as we read.
On the official church website, LDS.org there are many articles about both God and Jesus Christ. We can read the thoughts of church leaders and ordinary church members on God and Jesus, and learn their experiences with Them. These allow us to find ways to apply those insights to our own lives, and perhaps to better understand our relationship with God.
Of course, information isn’t enough. It creates a knowledgeable person, but it doesn’t create a personal relationship. To have a personal relationship, you must have communication. This communication comes through prayer, the way God created for us to stay in touch with Him while we’re away. Prayer is not a one-way form of communication. We can talk to God, and through the power of the Holy Ghost, He can also communicate with us, a part of the process often neglected when prayer is discussed.
Here’s a brief overview of how to pray: Begin by respectfully and lovingly addressing God. (Dear Heavenly Father, My beloved Father in Heaven, etc.) Then thank Him for everything you have received from Him. Spend some time in advance thinking this through, so you begin to develop an appreciation of the many blessings you have. Even the hardest life comes with blessings, but we have to pay attention to find them sometimes. Next, if you need something, ask for it. This can include a request to help build your relationship with God. Make sure what you’re asking for is righteous and really needed, and that it’s something you can’t give yourself, unless you’re asking Him to help you with the process of obtaining it. You can also spend time just talking to God about any subject that’s on your mind. It’s peaceful to talk to someone who really understands, and He, unlike your earthly friends, never complains you’re talking too long. Then close in the name of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and finish with the word Amen.
Now the harder part begins. Most people get to this point, and jump up, rushing off to the rest of their day. However, before you close the prayer, sit quietly for a while and just listen. How can God answer you if you don’t wait for His answer? The answer can come to you in several ways. One way, the least common, is through a voice. This is more common in extreme emergencies where the Holy Ghost knows you need to hear Him right away. Another way is for thoughts to enter your mind. The third way, and the more common way, is for you to experience peacefulness in your mind when you’ve made the right decision, and a negative feeling when you’ve made the wrong decision.
This, of course, means you can’t just run to God with a question. You need to think the problem through and try to come up with your own solution. Then you take it to God for confirmation. God is a good parent and good parents never do for their children what their children can do for themselves.
The final step to building a relationship to God is, of course, to do His will. If we’re studying and praying, but then doing anything we want, our relationship with Him is empty and meaningless. “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus told his disciples. Mormon beliefs help guide its members to a close and personal relationship with God.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.