What would it take to convince your parishioners that God wants their friendship and that they can develop a close relationship with him? While many people find this a strange notion at first, you can help them accept this idea and encourage them to develop a friendship with God. Here are some suggestions to begin the discussion:
Ask your parishioners to recall people to whom they tell the truth about themselves. What makes this trust possible? Illustrate how this same relationship with God is possible by sharing Scripture stories that show God as someone people love and trust. In Genesis, for instance, God creates the world as a garden where human beings and God work together and then sit down at the end of the day to talk over things, the way friends do. God also shows his desire for our friendship by becoming a human being. Jesus calls his disciples friends and invites them to love one another just as he has loved them.
With this notion of friendship you can also talk about prayer differently. Just as we tell everything to our closest friends, so, too, we can tell God about our joys, our concerns, our hopes, our fears . . . and then wait to see how God responds. Prayer becomes a dialogue rather than a monologue.
Finally, you could offer suggestions for discerning one’s experiences with God. Discernment means paying attention to our states of heart and mind and deciding whether these states are in line with our friendship with God. As our friend, God wants us to be alive and at peace with ourselves and others. When we feel this way, we’re in tune with God. Likewise, if we feel out of sorts and anxious, we’re not in tune with God and can ask God for help.
This idea of being friends with God may be something you have to continue to discuss with those in your parish, but it will be worth the effort. And God will be pleased with that effort, because friendship is what he wants of us.
Books by William A. Barry, SJ
An Invitation to Love
A Personal Retreat on the Great Commandment
This book provides personal, adaptable retreat sessions/reflections focused on the concepts of love for God and neighbor—the great commandment.
Lenten Meditations 10-Pack
Growing in Friendship with God
Grounded in Scripture and inspired by Ignatian spirituality, Lenten Meditations: Growing in Friendship with God offers a fresh approach to deepening your friendship with God during Lent.
Praying the Truth
Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer
Fr. Barry helps us realize that if we do not approach God in complete honesty, we may be holding back a part of ourselves that needs to be healed. By learning how to communicate honestly with God, our friendship with God will be strengthened.
Changed Heart, Changed World
The Transforming Freedom of Friendship with God
Developing a friendship with God may be the starting point for the spiritual journey, but how can that important internal relationship move us to make an impact on—and even transform—the world around us?
Seek My Face
Prayer as Personal Relationship in Scripture
Develop a relationship with God by following examples from Scripture. Fr. William Barry introduces biblical situations and personalities to show readers the ways in which people in the Bible drew closer to God.
A Friendship Like No Other
Experiencing God’s Amazing Embrace
Explore the path to becoming a friend of God. Grounded in biblical tradition and Ignatian spirituality, this book offers a fresh approach to becoming a friend of God and understanding this relationship.
God’s Passionate Desire
In God’s Passionate Desire, Fr. Barry leads us on brief “retreats” to help us understand our relationship with God and how we can move forward into a more meaningful relationship with God.
Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand
Living Fully in Friendship with God
In Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand, William A. Barry, SJ, helps us understand how we can experience a personal relationship with God, and what effects that close relationship will have on our lives.
Letting God Come Close
An Approach to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises
Using clear, down-to-earth examples Barry helps spiritual directors build up trust and confidence.