" My whole yearning was, and still is, that, as the Lord has so many enemies and so few friends, these last should be trusty ones.
" — St. Teresa of Avila
EUGENE — Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a deeply committed relationship with our Creator? It’s easy to look at the saints and think, “Well, they had special graces. I can’t do that.” Guess what. God wants to give us those same graces. The saints weren’t always saints. So, where do we start?

We begin with the determination to grow closer to God, knowing that God is drawing us closer to himself. As a new friendship forms, each individual cannot learn enough about the other. Hours spent together pass like minutes. This also is true with God. Yet, with God being visually hidden from us, it’s a little more challenging. It’s like playing hide and seek. Unless we seek him out, we cannot find him.

So how do we seek God out? There are various ways; mainly, through prayer, participation in Mass, frequent reception of the sacraments, and a prayerful reading of Scripture. All of these lead us closer to God. But let’s focus on prayer.

When the prophet Elijah was seeking God, he discovered that “the Lord is not in the earthquake,” and “the Lord is not in the fire” (1Kings 19:11-13). He’s in the “whistling of a gentle air” (1Kings 19:12). In other words, God speaks to us in the silence. To pray, we have to be still. Peaceful. We must wait in patient longing for God to arrive. We must listen. His voice is a gentle nudging of the heart, a simple word coming up from the depths of our being.

When St. Teresa of Avila reformed the Carmelite Order (called the Discalced Carmelites) with the intention of being God’s friends, she opted for austerity because she wanted to help foster this silence. Carmelites are cloistered, set apart from the world. They live a life of simplicity in silent solitude, as though in a desert (in imitation of the prophet Elijah), to find God within the simplicity and silence. The more we can simplify and quiet our lives, the closer God can draw us to himself.

What happens when we pray? In silence, the distractions come to the forefront, and, with God, we face our true selves — which leads us to the virtue of humility (or living in the truth). The closer we get to God, the more we come to self-knowledge; for, knowing him is to know the Truth, Himself.

Although we’re not all called to this level of austerity, we still can set aside time each day for God. To pray, we must shut out all distraction. This means turning off cellphones, iPads, computers, radio, TV, shutting out the news, shaking off the anxiety, quieting our minds. Why? Because these distractions keep us from hearing God’s voice. It’s so easy to mistake our own voice and desires for God’s. Much like a river that is littered with logs, which must be removed before the water can flow steadily downstream, the debris from our lives must be cleared away to let God in. When the waters flow, the effort is well worth it: for in letting the worldly distractions go (if even for an hour or two) and opening ourselves up to the movements of the Holy Spirit in our souls, we gain God. He, then, transforms us into the best version of ourselves.