People tell you that the key to establishing this relationship is to read The Bible and pray, but they don’t say how this magic is supposed to turn into a relationship. I think it’s because of two things: they oversimplify the concept, and they forget one rather significant aspect to building this relationship that there’s no “how to” instructions on doing. It’s really not rocket science, but it’s not easy either. My hope is to take it step by step to give you guidance on developing your own process on doing what seems to be undoable.
Read the Bible
This is really the only way to know the Lord, because it’s the only official reference guide that exists. The secret is to find a translation that works for you and to do daily readings. I know there are people that say the King James Version is the only “real” version. That’s hogwash. What good is it if you don’t understand what you’re reading, and what twenty-first century person can really understand that archaic language? I prefer the New Revised Version (NRV). It’s what my church uses, and it’s in plain, modern English, easy to understand. Get a version with footnotes to explain the things that are awkwardly translated, and you have a winner.
As for the time investment, about fifteen minutes a day can get you through the entire Bible in a year. I say “about” because that’s the maximum time investment they’re designed to have for daily readings. I have two Bibles with daily reading plans of this nature, and some daily readings are as little as five minutes (especially in the Psalms). There are many Bible reading plans available, but this is the one that works for me.
Bibles aren’t hard to find. You can read them online, and even sign up for daily readings to deliver to your email box every day. You can download free apps to your phone. And if you’re one of those “I prefer to hold a book in my hand” types, there are countless versions available, from $5 specials at discount stores to fancy large, leather-bound, monogrammed versions that you order at Christian bookstores.
I recently heard on BBN (Bible Broadcasting Network) that The Bible is the most sold and least read book in the world. There’s no excuse for that. With widespread availability, modern translations, and reading plans that can have you through a daily reading while you drink your morning coffee, everybody can find a way to fit it into daily living. It’s not that big of an investment, but it’s one that helps you build the foundation of an eternal relationship.
Certainly you should life up your concerns in prayer, but most people forget that it’s supposed to be a two way communication. How can God speak to you if you’re always talking? Every now and then, you have to quiet yourself and be open to the answers you seek and the insight you need.
God speaks to people in different ways – through thoughts and ideas, insights, music, nature, art, reading, things other people say, or even through mysterious circumstances. It really depends on what speaks to you and how He can reach you. I’ll cover more on uncovering your authentic self in the next chapter.
Many people talk about meditation, and I do believe there’s merit in taking time to withdraw from everything to be quiet and open to inspiration. It’s imperative to me to have at least a few minutes to myself every day; otherwise I get rather cranky because I haven’t had time to “center” and get myself “set” to deal with life and the world. Meditation doesn’t have to take long periods of time and in fact, I grab mine a piece at a time throughout the day: getting dressed in the morning, driving home from work, doing housework, taking a shower, and even taking a few quiet minutes before going to bed. Even five minutes of silence can work wonders for the soul. It can even be helpful to withdraw from the chaos if you find yourself overwhelmed. One frequent practice I’ve always had is to take short breaks for a walk during the workday. I call this my “purge the brain” time, and it’s ten minutes to walk outside and take in what’s happening in the rest of the world: the sky, the trees, the animals rushing around, the sunshine (or clouds), the feel of the air – just reminders that the world is still out there and turning just fine, despite whatever chaos is happening “in there.” God is referred to as “the still, small voice,” so the only way to hear is to turn off the distractions and open yourself to receiving. It’s like a radio: you can’t hear the music unless you turn it on. Well, this is the converse: to hear from God, you have to turn the world off.
Lifting up your requests, cares, and concerns is certainly a wonderful way to connect with God. Just be sure that He has a chance to speak back every now and then. Finding that time could be as easy as putting down the phone or shutting off the television or radio for a few minutes. You’d be amazed at the peace and inspiration you discover from the briefest retreat from the chaos of life.
Intuition – It’s Not New Age Mumbo-Jumbo
Intuition is often misunderstood as some sixth sense or mystical connection with the world, and for that reason it’s often not respected or used correctly. Some people grant it too much power, relying on it as magic. Others shun it as sorcery because Christians aren’t supposed to deal with that stuff. And neither side realizes it for what it really is: the Holy Spirit working in and through us.
The Holy Spirit is probably the most misunderstood of the Holy Trinity, because we just don’t get it. It’s a purely abstract manifestation of the Lord working in us, and for that reason we usually don’t know what to do with it. All we know is that the mind is sacred territory, and we don’t want anything in there controlling us. Our thoughts are the one thing that only we are privy too, and to find out that something else has access to the most private part of ourselves is uncomfortable.
There’s really no need for this. If you read The Bible, you know that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to be a “helper” to us. That means it’s a non-intrusive guide that heightens your senses so you can act with wisdom, discretion, and discernment. Think about people you know that often ignore their intuition – what usually happens to them? They don’t use it, so they lose it. Eventually, it never speaks to them at all, and then they’re groping around, dependent on their own senses to navigate a complicated world. It’s like shutting off the GPS in a strange city. Maybe they’ll stumble upon the best thing; most of the time they don’t. It’s potluck. And that’s a heck of a way to live.
If you see intuition as God working in you, then there’s nothing to fear. In fact, it’s a great comfort to know we have a direct line to our Maker that can help us see what’s unseen and guide us on the best path. It’s better than a NOAA Weather Radio – it’s always broadcasting, it always tells you what’s coming up, and when it’s about to get nasty, an alert goes off so you can prepare. Jesus gave us a great gift when He sent the Holy Spirit to help His believers. It’s tremendously valuable once we know and use it correctly.
On the surface, it can seem like a one sided endeavor. After all, God made you and knows you better than you know yourself, but we do have a choice and sometimes, we unintentionally shut him out. Building a relationship reduces this risk and keeps us open to His will for us, not only in life but in each and every day. One of my daily prayers is for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me through the day and whatever may come.
Building a personal relationship with the Lord doesn’t make you weird or wacky. In fact, I think it gives you the confidence to be the best you that you can be. It unlocks your personality and allows you the insight to find the best ways to invest yourself, your mind, and your talents in things that will build a better life, both today and in the future.
Think of this as building an antenna or constructing a satellite that will give you better reception. The more you try, the more you hear. Certainly it takes time and effort, just like all relationships, but its well worth it. Be patient, give it your best effort, and you may be surprised to find that talking and listening to the Lord becomes as natural to you as all the other things you do in your daily routine.