Encountering God in your Life

No matter where you are on your life’s journey, God is longing to communicate with you. He made our incredible, beautiful, and surprising world to wake us up to the reality of something bigger. The first step in encountering God in your life is investing time in silence. Silent reflection enables us to wake up to the truth that there is something more to life than what we can see and that there is someone bigger (God) who is real and loves us. Prayer is a word that we use to describe the dialogue or conversation that happens between God and us.


3 Things to Know About Prayer

1. Prayer is a response to God

God always makes the first move in prayer. He is the one who is inviting us into a conversation. Whenever we choose to spend time in prayer, it is always a response to God’s interior invitation we experience in our hearts. Knowing this, it’s helpful to begin your time in prayer acknowledging you are in God’s presence.

 
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
— Jesus (Jn 15:16)
 

2. Prayer is relational

When we have a conversation with God, it should be like other conversations we have with our friends. It should be a two way conversation; don’t take up all your prayer time talking at God. It should also be honest. Take note of what kinds of thoughts, feelings or desires you have going on inside of you and tell God all about them. Don’t filter your prayer by only telling Him what you think He wants to hear. Finally, be consistent. Like any of our human relationships, to build an intimate and lasting friendship our conversations need to be consistent. We can’t go weeks or months without speaking to a friend and expect to be close confidants. God is always ready to have the conversation of prayer with us, we just need to show up on a regular basis.

 
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you
— the apostle James (Jas 4:8)
 

3. Prayer is a gift

When, not if, prayer becomes difficult in your journey of faith, it’s important to remember that prayer is a gift. St. Paul even says that, “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26). It’s in these moments that we should ask God for the gift of prayer. God loves us and longs for us to encounter Him in our lives. Asking God for the gift of prayer is asking Him for something He already desperately wants to give you. If you are honest and consistently set aside time for prayer, God will constantly surprise you with the gift of a fruitful prayer experience

 
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do
— Jesus (Jn 14:13)
 

Your Prayer Life

We know that everyone is at different stage on their journey of faith. Below you will find sections that detail how to encounter God in different forms of prayer that have been given to us through our Catholic tradition, as well as our tips for how to make the most of the time you spend in prayer.


For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.
— St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul

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I’ve never prayed before… where do I start?

Great question!

It’s not unlike going on a first date (if you will allow us to use the metaphor). What do we mean by that? Well, what would you discuss on a first date? You would probably talk about things you like to do, dreams you have for your life, your family, and your job. Tell God all about these things. The good, the bad, and the ugly. He wants to hear about them all.

Here’s the kicker… you should also let God tell you all about those things too. It would be an awful date if one person spent the entire time talking about themselves. It’s the same in prayer. Our prayers are going to feel boring if we spend the whole time talking about ourselves. Things get exciting when we give God a chance to tell us about Himself.

How is that possible you might ask? How do we find out about God - the things He likes, the dreams He has for us, the stories about His family, the things that excite Him? We don’t have to sit around wondering what these things might be because God has already told us! We find the answer to all these questions and so much more in the book(s) he wrote us; we call it the Bible.

So many people experience frustration in prayer over “not hearing God speak to them." Our answer is simple! God has spoken to us in the Bible. Yes, God can choose to speak to someone extraordinarily in their prayer. However, the normal way God chooses to speak to us is through His words in the Bible.

Our Tip:

Try it for a month. Pick up the Bible and turn to the Gospel of Matthew. This is first book in the second half (New Testament) of the Bible and it's story of Jesus's life told by one of his closest friends. Read one chapter a day for a month (chapters are very short). When you go to pray, talk to God about the thoughts, feelings, or desires that you experienced while reading through the Gospel of Matthew. We promise you will begin to encounter God in a powerful way if you give Him a try.

If you are interested in what translations of the Bible are Catholic-approved, click here.

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Prayer is in fact the recognition of our limits and our dependence: we come from God, we are of God, and to God we return.
— St. John Paul II

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I’ve tried praying before, but never felt like God has “spoken” to me

Thanks for being honest enough to admit this!

We want you to know that you are definitely not alone. Everyone who has ever tried to have a conversation with God in prayer has experienced this at one time or another. There is no such things as a “bad prayer," but there are definitely better ways to pray that open us up to encountering God more easily.

Our Tip:

Ask yourself the following questions to help you make sure you are making the most of your prayer time and giving God a chance to speak to you.

Am I directing my prayers to God, or just thinking about my life or God during my prayer?

It’s very easy for us to forget to address our prayers to a person (God). No one would ever walk into a pitch black room and begin talking, just hoping someone was in there to listen to them. The same is true about our prayer. God is real, He loves you, and wants to communicate with you. Begin your prayer time by acknowledging He is with you and actually address Him when you pray (ex: “God, I’m having a hard time with this...” or “Jesus, thanks so much for this…”).

Am I being honest in my prayer?

One of the hardest things to do in prayer is be honest with God about what we are thinking and feeling. Without even realizing it, many times we are filtering what we say in prayer to make ourselves look better, or because we feel guilty about the things we are thinking about or how we are feeling. God already knows you better than you know yourself. Nothing you can say to God will ever make Him leave you or love you any less. Many times we aren’t hearing God in our prayer because we are only praying on the surface level of our hearts. When we are courageous enough to let God in on what’s really going on in our hearts, God begins to show up.

Am I giving God my attention consistently?

If we are only praying every so often, or when we remember to, it’s very difficult for us to be able to hear God’s voice in our prayer. The more consistently we spend time in prayer, the easier it is for us to hear the “small whisper” which is the voice of God in our prayer.

Am I taking time to read the Bible?

Many of us are subconsciously expecting God to speak to us in our prayer through some kind of supernatural voice. Although God can definitely choose to speak to us this way, He normally speaks to us in prayer through His word in the Bible. If we aren’t spending time reading His word in the Bible, we are forcing God to use extraordinary means to speak with us. It’s no wonder we aren’t hearing God speak to us consistently in our prayer if we don’t allow Him to speak to us through the word He has already spoken, which is the Bible.

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We speak to God when we pray; we listen to Him when we read the Scriptures.
— St. Ambrose

section three

 
 

I’m ready to go a little deeper in my prayer, but could use some suggestions

Our Tips:

Lectio Divina

Lecito Divina is Latin for “divine reading." It’s a very simple way of reading the Bible that helps us be attentive to what God is trying to say to us personally. Here are the steps:

Lectio (read) - Pick a short selection from the Bible (a scene from the life of Jesus for example). Read the story slowly and out loud if possible. Read the story again, this time paying attention to any words or phrases that stand out to you.

Meditatio (meditate) - Spend time pondering the meaning of the words or phrases that stand out to you. What did they mean in the context. How might they relate to your life at present? In what way could God be speaking to you through these words/phrases?

Oratio (pray) - Talk to God about what thoughts/feelings/desires you experience while meditating on this piece of scripture.

Contemplatio (contemplate) - Give God a chance to respond to your prayer. Contemplation means gazing upon God. This part is out of our control and is totally a gift from God, don’t try to force anything during this part of your prayer.

The Rosary

 
And I was confident in advising you with assurance to pray the Holy Rosary. Blessed be that monotony of Hails Marys which purifies the monotony of your sins!
— St. Jose Maria Escriva
 

 

The rosary is a prayer of meditation on the life of Jesus. For instructions on how to pray the rosary, please follow click here.

Make a Holy Hour

Making a Holy Hour is the devotion of spending an hour in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. This is done most commonly during a time of Eucharistic Adoration but can also be done in the presence of the tabernacle. We have Eucharistic Adoration at St. Joseph the first Friday of every month from 4:00 to 5:00 pm followed by the 5:15 pm Mass and a Young Adult Adoration (open to all but lead by Deacon Denny and Campus Ministry students). For more information and ideas on what to do during your holy hour, please click here.

Popular Devotions

Popular devotions are a combination of our faith, culture, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They in no way replace the liturgical life of the Church, but serve as an extension into our daily lives. Examples of popular devotions include pilgrimages, novenas, processions and celebrations in honor of Mary and the other saints, the Angelus, the Stations of the Cross, the veneration of relics, and the use of sacramentals. To find out more, please click here.

Novenas are prayed for particular intentions or graces that are prayed over nine consecutive days. At St. Joseph we have Novenas offered for mothers on Mother’s Day, fathers on Father’s Day, and deceased loved ones on All Soul’s Day, but you can pray Novenas at home as well.

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