“Do not pray the way you normally do. Instead take these next three days in silence and listen to what God has to say to you.” These were the words that spiritual director Father James Kubicki said as he opened the first retreat I attended at the White House Jesuit Retreat Center 11 years ago. These were the words that changed my life.
Listening to God. This was a new concept for me. I was so self-centered that I had never once in my life asked God how He wanted me to use the gifts that He gave me. My prayers were always “negotiations” with God. “God, if you do this for me, I will do that for you.” This is how I prayed. This is how self-centered I was.
It took me 47 years to realize that I couldn’t do it on my own. It took me 47 years to admit I was broken and needed God. Eleven years ago, I started my personal relationship with God. I have always believed in God, but He was simply someone I read about; I never took the time to get to know Him personally.
Today, I spend a lot more time listening and a lot less time talking when in prayer. The more I pray and align my thoughts and actions with God’s plan for me, the more peace and joy He gives to me. There seems to be fewer “forks in the road” and my path is becoming clearer. Instead of treating God like a genie in a bottle to grant me wishes, I treat Him like my Father, Brother and Friend. God is someone who I love and want to be with every day.
As my relationship with God has grown, so has my relationship with my wife, children, family and friends. Quite frankly, we can’t give what we don’t have. We have to open ourselves to receive God’s love and mercy first before we can give it to others. This allows us to more fully live the life that God has planned for each of us.
In my travels across the archdiocese, I meet a lot of great people who are “on fire” for Christ. I ask them, “How did it start for you?” The response — they attended a retreat, and more specifically, they spent time in silence on the retreat listening to God. They spent time starting a personal relationship with God.
So, are you looking to start a personal relationship with God? If so, take the first step and start right now, spend some time in silence with God, every day, throughout the day and listen to how He is calling you. Next, contact your local parish and find out about upcoming retreats and go on one.
Do you have a relationship with God and are a regular retreat-attender? If so, encourage your family and friends that don’t to start and then personally invite someone to join you on your next retreat.
God wants to pour His grace and blessings on us, but we have to be open to receive them. Take the first step. What are you waiting for? Listen how God is calling you.
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at
(314) 792-7215 or