Walking Our Faith: How do we grow closer to God?

I hurried into 8 a.m. Mass Thursday and saw Father Stephen kneeling at the back of the center aisle silently praying the rosary. After Mass, I asked him why he did that. He gave me a one-word answer: focus.

His intention is to focus his mind and spirit before the Mass so that he can lead us to the Mass and consecrate the Eucharist on our behalf. (These are my impressions, not his.)

Most of the time, I share my walk of faith in this column. Lately, I’ve been telling you how different spiritual practices have brought me closer to God over the past year.

I wanted to hear how others would answer this question: How do we grow closer to God? So this week, I’m sharing the responses I received from three local pastors.

Father Stephen Seibert, pastor

Our Lady of Peace/St. Mary’s Catholic Church Summit County parish

Daily prayer and meditation is essential to live and progress in spiritual life. Prayer, usually articulated through the Psalms, and meditation in the lectio divina tradition will nourish the soul and help weather the storms of life. It will also keep one’s ear open to hear the Lord who calls, just as the Virgin Mary was blessed with an open ear.

Along with the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours is the other public liturgy of the Catholic Church that clergy, monks, nuns and the lay faithful pray daily so as to “pray always,” as St. Paul admonished, and to pray in union with the entire Church.

The Liturgy of the Hours is composed of Psalms, Canticles and other Scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments and ordered to be prayed every three hours beginning at 6 a.m. and finishing the day at 9 p.m. with Compline or Night Prayer. That rhythm of prayer is time-tested, and has been practiced in the church from its very beginning and throughout the world in all of the many and varied cultures that make up the Catholic Church.

Chuck Straughn, pastor

Ten Peaks Church

I believe that growing closer to God is easier than we think. … It comes down to us making a decision to passionately love Jesus with everything we have and to surround ourselves with other people who also passionately love Jesus.

In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” So it starts there, with Jesus, and it looks like falling in love with the author of love and life, which is Jesus. It certainly helps to be surrounded weekly with like-minded believers in church and small group Bible studies because they will love, support and encourage you. But be reminded that they also need you, just like you need them.

We are one body in Christ. All of us have different roles to play, different gifts to offer one another, and when any of us are missing, we are incomplete. But together, we are the church!

Brian Brewer, pastor of equipping

Agape Outpost Church

Our spiritual journey is multifaceted, including times of corporate worship gatherings mixed with times of solitude — both aimed at developing spiritual disciplines in hopes of deepening our walk of faith. As with any relationship, increased time invested should (hopefully) yield richer bonds of connection. This is true of our relationship with God (and subsequently with his people, the church). If I were to only spend an hour or two a week focused on my relationship with my wife, I shouldn’t expect there to be much depth. The truth is, I cherish spending time with her, hearing what’s on her heart, sharing in her joys and her sorrows.

Religion might be satisfied to simply check the box of attendance, but a thriving, growing, meaningful relationship with God will require (and give in return) much more. This could include daily disciplines such as prayer, journaling, Bible study, etc. These might be formal, such as Ignatius’ Examen, or selected readings from a timeless classic, such as “The Book of Common Prayer,” or they might be as simple as reading and reflecting on a particular focal passage each day, asking some key questions and allowing the Lord to speak.

If and when we develop the daily practices of communing with God, then when we gather with his people, we have something to offer, something to contribute. If nothing else, we enter into that regularly scheduled hour recognizing that it is not sacred — at least not any more than the time we spent in God’s presence on Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon. Maybe the reason many feel so distant from God after leaving a weekly worship service is that they are still getting to know him rather than a continuation of a steady, growing, deepening relationship — full of joys and sorrows — and hearing what’s on his heart.

In the coming months, I’ll share in this column the experiences of Summit County folks who want to share their walk of faith. If your minister or you would like to share, please email me. I hope to hear from people of all faith traditions. Yes, even atheists are welcome here. My only requirement is respect for one another’s differences.

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