When I started writing this article, I did a Google search of the word “God.” It yielded more than 2,800,000,000 results — nearly 3 BILLION.
That accounts for millions upon millions of questions about Him, speculations as well as doctrine about what He’s like, links to the Bible (and the Book of Mormon, Quran, Torah, etc.), and everything in between.
People all across the world long to know about God; they want to feel Him in their lives, know who He is, and have a personal relationship with Him.
But sometimes I think we make it harder than it needs to be. The truth is, coming to know God isn’t all that hard. It takes effort on our part, but honestly, it’s not rocket science.
Here’s the thing: having a relationship with God isn’t all that different (if at all, actually) than having a relationship with anyone else. You want to make a new friend or maintain a relationship with an old one? You consistently put in the time talking and sharing with them, getting to know them (a.k.a. learning about them), and spending time with them.
The not-so-secret secret is that we do the exact same thing to have a relationship with God.
Talking to Them
To develop a genuine, loving relationship with someone, we communicate openly with them. We share personal details and moments of our lives; we talk about our hopes, fears, dreams, and goals. Our friend wants to know things about us, and we likewise want to know things about them.
The same is true for our Father in Heaven. He already knows what’s happening in our lives, but He wants to hear it from us! I think of it like this: imagine if you found out your best friend was getting married, but didn’t hear it from them. You’d be happy for your friend, but also sad because you want them to talk to you one-on-one about it!
Heavenly Father may already know what’s happening in our lives, but He loves when we take the time to talk with Him about it; to tell Him about our happinesses, successes, sorrows, and struggles. He is there and ready to give us advice, guide us, and cheer us on — but we may never feel that if we don’t make the effort to speak with Him.
In Alma 34, Amulek admonishes us to speak with God (and ask for His blessings) regarding all aspects of our lives:
19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
Just like with our truest, most trustworthy friends, we aren’t limited in what we can talk about with our Heavenly Father — and when it comes to developing and preserving a relationship with Him, we should talk with Him frequently.
Learning About Him
Real friendship is a two-way street, not a one-way road that we’re hogging: if we try to talk AT our friends rather than WITH them, we will likely find our efforts of friendship aren’t yielding much fruit.
It makes sense, then, that if we talk AT God all the time (particularly when we are demanding blessings), we probably won’t feel or attain the closeness with Him that we desire. President Gordon B. Hinckley commented on this very thing, and I think about it often when I pray and have found that it helps me to be more mindful. He said:
“The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the telephone and ordering groceries—we place our order and hang up. We need to meditate, contemplate, [and] think of what we are praying about and for.”
We need to spend time contemplating our conversations with God; in doing so, and listening for the Spirit during and after our prayers, we will learn more about Him.
While prayer is vital in coming to know our Heavenly Father, there is another resource that will help us learn of Him better than perhaps anything else: His word, as found in ancient and modern scripture.
Alma made this exact point when he described that scriptures “brought [people] to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls.” The scriptures allowed people to know God, and thus to want to be like Him and live with Him again.
Ten years ago, sweet Elder Robert D. Hales gave a talk all about coming to know our Heavenly Father and Savior. In it, he said:
“Brothers and sisters, you may already know, deep in your soul, that God lives. You may not know all about Him yet and do not understand all His ways, but the light of belief is within you, waiting to be awakened and intensified by the Spirit of God and the Light of Christ, which you are born with.
So come. Believe the testimonies of the prophets. Learn of God and Christ. The pattern to do so is clearly taught by prophets of old and prophets today.
Cultivate a diligent desire to know that God lives. . . .
With softened hearts we are prepared to heed the Savior’s call to “search the scriptures” and to humbly learn from them.“
Through the scriptures, we learn about our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. We learn about their attributes and love for us, and what they expect us to do to become like them. As we carefully and earnestly study the words of the scriptures and apply them to our lives, our relationship with the Divine will deepen significantly — and I know that’s true because I’ve seen it over and over again in my own life.
Spending Time with Them
While talking with God and learning about Him through study are vital to developing a relationship with Him, there’s another “primary answer” that accounts for spending time with them — going to Church and the temple, and fulfilling our callings.
In this day and age, we can chat with and learn about our friends via the Internet, text messaging, and phone calls — but even still, the best and usually deepest kinds of relationships are developed by spending time together in person.
Spending time with our Heavenly Father involves going where He goes, and being where He is (and likewise, where He has asked us to be). And on Sundays, that means going to church — even if you’d rather stay in your pajamas and spend some quality time with your couch. Heavenly Father wants us to go to church, strengthen and uplift our brothers and sisters, and spend time renewing our covenants with Him by taking the sacrament.
Spending time with Him means spending time serving our fellow man — for, as King Mosiah said, “[W]hen ye are in the service of your fellowbeings ye are only in the service of your God.”
Along those lines, I’ve spent many a Sunday feeling hurt, thinking after church, “No one initiated conversation with me!” Yet while in all honesty they probably should have, my perspective totally shifted when Bonnie L. Oscarson gave a talk called “The Needs before Us,” where she gently admonished:
“Another area of focus for our service can be in our ward families. Occasionally our children would ask us the question, “Why do I have to go to Mutual? I just don’t get very much out of it.”
If I was having a good parenting moment, I would reply, “What makes you think you go to Mutual because of what you get out of it?”
My young friends, I can guarantee that there will always be someone at every Church meeting you attend who is lonely, who is going through challenges and needs a friend, or who feels like he or she doesn’t belong. You have something important to contribute to every meeting or activity, and the Lord desires for you to look around at your peers and then minister as He would.“
As we go to church (and the temple, the importance of which is explained beautifully in this lesson) and spend time doing what God Himself would do if He were there, we will come to know Him more deeply and feel His presence in our lives increase.
Our relationship with God is the most influential relationship in our lives — and luckily, the process of developing a relationship with Him isn’t complicated. Prioritize Him by talking to Him (praying), learning about Him (reading scriptures), and spending time with Him (church and temple attendance).
There’s a reason those answers are “the primary answers”: because they work. Apply them diligently and watch your relationship with God grow stronger each day.