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I was born and raised in the Catholic religion. In the beginning I was, as far as I can judge, a good Christian.

But I never felt any connection to God while praying. It was like talking to myself. Nothing special happened. I’m not talking about God granting me anything earthly, but a little sign, maybe the feeling that he was watching would have been enough.

As time passed, I started to doubt more and more and eventually lost all interest in religion.

Now, several years later, I have a good (material) life. But it seems empty—no sense to it. People who believe appear happier.

I can understand why God would not want to manifest himself to me now. I've sinned a lot. But why didn’t he talk to me when I was younger and sinless? I didn’t need anything fancy like a bush on fire, but just a few words to keep me on the right path.

What do you think?

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We've heard from a skeptic and a mad woman. Now it'll be good to hear from a catholic. Where's Peter Turner? –  Monika Michael Jul 18 '12 at 10:19
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@Monika I had to quickly scroll down to check whether the "mad woman" reference was about yourself, or whether a flag-storm was about to erupt ;p –  Marc Gravell Jul 18 '12 at 10:24
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"..when I was younger and sinless...." You were never without sin. And even if you seemingly sinned less in your youth, you were just as much a sinner as you are now. Perhaps this shift in thinking when approaching God will be helpful. We can only come to Him because of His love and mercy towards us. –  maj nem ɪz dæn Jul 18 '12 at 20:56
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This is asking for pastoral advice and should not be on topic. –  DJClayworth Jul 19 '12 at 12:51
    
@jmn: don't forget, there are many religious people that are miserable because of religion. grass is always greener on the other side. but yes, material things can not fill the void of emotional, physical needs or life experiences that bring joy and peace. –  Greg McNulty Jul 21 '12 at 5:26

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You cannot force God to do your will. It is his will that should be done always. Remember Jesus told his disciples "...this generation want a sign but a sign will not be given..." It is the choice of God to give it not yours.

I share your experience too. Here it is:

When I was young, every first Sunday of the month we gather in church for Holy Spirit filling. We'll clap, sing and shout. Pastors would lay hands on us. I saw many received the Holy Spirit, Spoke in new tongues, received the gift of prophecy but nothing happened to me, for 7 years.

When I got to University, I actually knew what being a christian was from being a religious person. So I started praying for the Holy Spirit again. I fasted. I read books. I attended seminars. I did night vigils. Nothing happened. So I told God one night that If I didn't receive the Holy Spirit today you won't be my God anymore. But I didn't receive the Holy Spirit.

We cannot threaten God. That night I realised my foolishness that God will always be my God. I can't disown him. I continued praying for the Holy Spirit but in another dimension, no more threats. I was no more desperate. I relaxed knowing that God is more willing to give me. I begged God. I pleaded for mercy. I told him why I needed the Holy Spirit. I reminded him of his promises in the bible to fill me and to empower me.

Along the line a pastor told me his experience that he prayed for the Holy Spirit but he didn't know he had received this because he was looking for a specific sign

Don't put God in a corner. It is not possible. He is more dynamic.

I continued my life trying as much as possible to devote my life to God in praises, reading the word of God, my frequency of prayers. Then one night I had a dream I was walking on an empty street at night and I was speaking in tongue. That's it.

To address your question, what do you want God to speak to you. If it is already in the bible I don't think God would want to repeat himself because he must have spoken through your pastors, your neighbours and more.

Numbers 12:6 he said, "Listen to my words: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.

If God needs to speak to you he would do. But the good news is that he has spoken to you and he is speaking to you even right now that you are reading this post.

God speaks in divers way, obvious in the past but this day he speaks through his Son. This is not a the physical Jesus, but through his manifestation, the Holy Spirit in us.

Hebrew 1:1-2 1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe

John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Maybe he does speak to you and you have not noticed. God speaks best in your quiet moment. So if you are a busy person, you might get less of God, but he still speaks in such situation

God speaks through his creations [stars, birds, sky, etc]

God speaks to sinners too. The message of salvation is from God. If you are not sensitive to God's bidding, he sends people to you. The kings in the bible, most of them receive God's message through the prophets, not directly. But Solomon was not like that. God also spoke to Nebucadnezzar through dreams. He spoke to Pharaoh through dreams.

Where you are (your position in God and from God) determines how he speak to you.

God is willing to talk to you. If you fits in his plan, he wants to discuss it with you. Tell you what you have to do exactly. God doesn't just talk. He talks to achieve a purpose.

This is getting too much already, hope someone would be able to read this. More

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Not to criticize your experience: how do you evaluate whether dreams are "divinely" inspired or not? I find myself that I often have dreams about things I think about during the day -- whether movies I've watched, or books I've read. As such, when I occasionally have "Christian" dreams -- I'm never sure if it's God, or if it's just my brain rearranging the stuff I read during the day. [I've never tried the following, but I suspect if I read occult books day and night, I'd probably have satanic dreams too.] –  user1694 Aug 20 '12 at 11:10
    
(+1) because I enjoyed reading your account nevertheless. –  user1694 Aug 20 '12 at 11:10
    
I have tried my dreams several times. Am a hard believer. When I received the holy spirit I asked God to change my tongue because I didn't like the monotonic utterances and thought could have been from the devil. I don't agree with things easily until proven. I see things that have not happen and when they happen I wondered if it had happened before then I would know, yes, I saw it in my dream –  tunmise fashipe Aug 20 '12 at 11:21
    
Sorry, I'm confused. What do you mean "I have tried my dreams several times." ? –  user1694 Aug 20 '12 at 11:54
    
I meant, I know most times when it is an instruction, a warning or revelation. I try most time to tell myself this is my mind playing me until it is obvious otherwise. 2 years ago I was shown someone I loved in the church would betray me. I couldn't believe it but I took the warning. I had the dream twice. When it happened, the whole church almost turned against me but I scaled through because I saw it coming a month earlier, prayed about it and prepared my response. I told God "Give me a mouth that my adversaries would not be able to withstand" –  tunmise fashipe Aug 20 '12 at 13:46

I think a great deal of the problem is that much of modern day "Christianity" is content to live without hearing the voice of God.

Fellowship with Christians vs Fellowship with Christ

Matthew 22:36-40

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I don't think Christ meant us to take Law1 + Law2, and take a weighted average of the two. I think it was meant as: First do Law1, then, within Law1, also do Law2.

And thus, if we look at modern Christianity, people's contentment with fellowship (good thing), Sunday school (good thing), Christian community (good thing) -- it's very easy -- in pursuit of these good things, to put the love of the fellow Christian above the love of God.

Often times, I wonder -- if there was a Church, that was more than a social club of people who claim to believe in Christ -- if there was a Church, whose sole focus in very meeting is to brutally and ruthlessly mine through the scriptures in a relentless pursuit to understand the nature of God -- what would that church look like?

Solitude

I don't think most modern "Christians" have nearly as much solitude as either the OT or NT greats that talked to God. Moses / Elijah each spent 40 days fasting (in solitude?) in pursuit of God. I don't think I've ever spent 4 days without internet access -- and definitely not 4 days without human contact.

Much like how we can't see the stars under the glare of the Sun, I doubt we can hear the whisper of God over the noise of every day life.

Martyrdom

Many of the disciples in the NT who had direct experience with God were martyred.

Many of the OT prophets went up against kings.

Yet, much of modern day "Christianity" is about being tolerant -- and being nice, rather than declaring God's judgment on the world.

In this sense, we're not worthy of God talking to us, because we're wimps unwilling to be labeled intolerant / prudish / judgmental for the sake of the Gospel.

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God speaks to many people throughout the Bible and history, but no-where does it say that he is obligated to speak to everyone, or cause an emotional reaction in us. We are given commands to pray, to trust, to learn, to love with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. He has made promises to us as well. But nothing that says we'll have some emotional reaction.

Emotional reactions can come from lots of sources, and are much more suspect than truth. Searching for truth has much more value than searching for some feeling. As for hearing from God: have you read and re-read the entire library he wrote to us? Isn't that hearing from God?

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I like your answer –  tunmise fashipe Aug 20 '12 at 10:56

Wow. Good question. I am a Christian that prays as often as I can, not nearly often enough. I can share with you what I have learned in my walk with Christ. I agree alot with what Monika says above, I would like to add that if you are not getting answers from prayer there could be a couple of reasons:

  1. Where's your heart at? God can see directly into our hearts. He knows all of your secrets and everything that you hide from eveyone else. You are an open book to him. So where is your heart at? Luke 12:34 says "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". What do you treasure most? Often when I find that God doesn't seem to be listening I need to take a good look at myself.

  2. How do you pray? We don't know how to pray. Romans 8:26 states: "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words" I was baptised in the holy spirit. Not sure if Catholics believe in that, but I pray often in the spirit.

  3. Do you humble yourself before God? Going to God in prayer with a prideful heart or attitude will not yield any results. Go to him in prayer and be humble and brief.

  4. Do you get an answer, just not the one you expect? Many, many times my prayers have been answered, just not in the way I expected. I have been guilty of having preconceived notions about what to expect when I ask God for something. Sometimes you don't get an answer, sometimes God will speak directly to you. Often times you will get an answer, and it will not be what you expect.

Here's an example. When my second child was born we were a little strapped for cash. We had just moved into a new house and were adjusting to the increase in bills. I went into prayer and asked God to provide a way for me to meet these obligations. My expectation was that money would just fall from the sky, seriously, I thought I would just find a check in the mail or something and that would be my answer. Well a month went by and then God told me that a project would be offered to employees at my work, I was to take the project, and not be concerned with how many other employees applied for it.

Well, the day came that I got an email about a project I (and many others) were qualified to do. So I did as God asked and applied for it. At the initial meeting with Management we were told that they only needed one person. There were 10 people that applied. At the end, about two weeks later, there were 4. And then a week later all had dropped out of the running. I was the only one left. That project helped me exceed the financial obligations of moving into the new house. I took some money that I made from that project and put it into a ministry that teaches the Gospel to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

So, as you can see, prayer does get answers. I am living proof. But I also wanted you to know this. I have asked for a sign before, and I have never got one. Don't be concerned about a sign, just pray and follow the advice above. I am sure you will get an answer to your prayers. God bless!

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Pascal wrote in Pensées (513):

Why God has established prayer.

  1. To communicate to His creatures the dignity of causality.
  2. To teach us from whom our virtue comes.
  3. To make us deserve other virtues by work.

(But to keep His own pre-eminence, He grants prayer to whom He pleases.)

Objection: But we believe that we hold prayer of ourselves.

This is absurd; for since, though having faith, we cannot have virtues, how should we have faith? Is there a greater distance between infidelity and faith than between faith and virtue?

According to this theory, which I agree with, God uses prayer to help us draw a line of causality from God to the good things in the world. Among those good things is our very virtue. According to Pascal, God wants us to use the scientific method (among other things) to discover Him. But if anyone can pray and God always answers, we might mistakenly assume that human action (i.e. saying a prayer) causes the result.

Shortly after the passage I quoted, Pascal notes:

Saint Augustine has distinctly said that strength would be taken away from the righteous.

There's a deep paradox here, which is amplified by reading about the conversions of Pascal and Augustine. These are men with virtually unlimited talent, but their genius was only unveiled after they were humbled in their ambitions. Only after God brought them to their knees could they fulfill the promise that was their birthright.

Jesus talks of humbling ourselves, becoming like children, taking up crosses, and so on. He told the rich man that he lacked one thing and in the end the man's possessions possessed him. He told the Pharisees that He came for sinners because it's the sick who need a physician. In other words, there's a good chance that God is speaking to you now, when you know that you are a sinner, rather than before, when you were a "good Christian", precisely because He wants you to rely on Him for all things.

If you forgive my quoting an Englishman, C. S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

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Dare I suggest that perhaps the answer is that he was but you did not recognize the voice as God's? The interaction with Samuel and Eli is a very dramatic example, but the situation exists with those of us who are more mundane.

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It's part of my reproach : why leave anything to interpretation ? Is an unanbiguous sign that much to ask from my creator, especially if he loves me ? –  jmn Jul 18 '12 at 16:34
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@jmn Yes, actually it is asking to much to command God to do something. Are you asking or commanding? –  user1054 Jul 18 '12 at 19:23
    
@Dan Mark 11:24 says otherwise –  Marc Gravell Jul 18 '12 at 20:58
    
@jmn /cc for the above –  Marc Gravell Jul 18 '12 at 20:58
    
+1 I like your answer. Simple and true. Eli did not fit into God's plan anymore so God ignored him but still chose to speak to him through Samuel. The Secret of God are with those that fear/love him –  tunmise fashipe Aug 20 '12 at 10:55

Reasons (my rantings) we can't talk to God -

  • Result of our sin.

Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"

We all inherit the sin of Adam. Adam could talk directly to God but as we fell from grace we lost access to divine grace. But one day we would talk to Him directly.

  • As a test.

If one could see God face to face, Adolf Hitler would be singing glory hallelujah with tambourines and drums. No one would commit a crime in front of the police. Absence of God from the scene serves to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  • For our own good.

Those who could be in the presence of God and behaved as we did would drop dead in a second. As Christians we are supposed to go through this life building character and learning to resist sin so that we could be in the presence of Holiness.

  • God doesn't like hollywood style dramatic dialogues.

And neither does Satan. In real life you will never see Satan appear as Pazuzu. He comes in much more subtle forms. Its the whole concept of free will. Both Holy Spirit and Satan will only suggest things to you. You have to act upon them of your own free will. If Satan or God appeared before you and commanded you to do something there's very less of free will left. This is why God appeared to Ezekiel in all His glory but not to Israel.

Ezekiel 1:4 "I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north —an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal."

If he had appeared to Israel in that form they would've repented in ashes. But then as He says elsewhere

2 Opinions 3:1 "Thou shalt repent if thou art sorrowful in thine heart, not because I am the master of special effects."

  • Speaking to God won't produce faith.

Adam spoke to God, that didn't keep him from sinning. So did Cain, Solomon and most importantly - Satan. The disciples had the same doubt as you do -

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

If we do not love or obey Him nothing will produce faith -

Luke 16:31 " ... they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

  • Perhaps the same reason why the president won't talk to me.

Let's not be proud and forget our own positions in relation to God. It amazes me how I usually assign more respect to my earthly masters than to God himself.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 "God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

  • Perhaps He's afraid that once he engages me I just won't stop chattering. (True story)
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On your first bullet; the Bible describes many people with more direct interactions with God; Abraham, Noah, Moses etc. My point: it is hard to say "the fall" cut all lines of communication. –  Marc Gravell Jul 18 '12 at 10:20
    
I wasn't refering to a direct chat with God. But I remember I read in a magazine that a scan of the brain of praying nuns was almost the same as Shaolin monks in meditation. So something is clearly happening to them. Why not me ? –  jmn Jul 18 '12 at 14:58
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@jmn what exactly does that comparison demonstrate? The fact that the same happens with a Shaolin monk suggests strongly that any effect here is a mental state induced by repetition of a well-known and rehearsed mantra. If the effect were Godly, we would expect different results, no? –  Marc Gravell Jul 18 '12 at 20:02
    
@Monika: Can you expand on the "Perhaps He's afraid that one he engages me I just won't stop chattering. (True story)" part? –  user1694 Jul 31 '12 at 20:51

First, disclosure: I too am an ex-Catholic atheist (secular Humanist, actually), so I can relate - but understand how that may influence/bias the answer too.

I suspect the typical Biblical answer here would be along the lines of "God is not a performing monkey, doing magic tricks for your benefit", or "if he openly revealed Himself, it would undermine the value of faith", or "God does talk to me, but in subtle ways, such as outcomes" (which, when you think about it, could also be compared to how astrology "works"). There's also a category of people who claim a very literal "God talks to me", but it is very tricky to know where to draw the lines between each of "prophet", "blessed", and "delusional", when they present identically.

If you are genuinely interested in re-kindling your faith, then there is almost certainly a local preacher you could talk to. You might want to consider what the origin of your doubts were - it may be the Catholic position on things was part of that. That said: I am entirely of the (non-scriptural) view that people can lead very happy, satisfied, constructive, productive, and (for want of a better word) "good" lives both with and without religion.

Since this is Christianity.SE, I should of course note that the Christian position would be that turning your back on God means you're doomed to exclusion from God in the afterlife. As a "threat", this presumably means more if you actually believe in God and an afterlife in the first place, which it sounds like you don't.

I will, however, make a small objection to:

People who believe look appear happier.

Frankly, I've never been happier than when I formally and finally renounced religion. The release of cognitive dissonance, and the realisation that I am doing good things for their own sake (and not on the instruction of some "higher being", or as "credit" towards some elusive promised goal) are very liberating and powerful. There's another common view on this, too: hypothetically (I'm not talking about Christianity specifically here): just because a view makes someone happy, that doesn't by any stretch make it true.

But it seems empty, no sense to give to it.

There's a conflict here, if (as per the question) you are viewing the world without religion-coloured glasses. Indeed, the conclusion must be that there is no pre-destined purpose or sense to our existence - one would have to conclude that we're the product of a combination or randomness and "survival of the fittest" from primordial slime. That, however, doesn't mean that our lives are without purpose or sense: we can make our own purpose. Welfare and happiness of others, ourselves and the planet, and furthering our understanding of the universe would be good starters. As would be: taking simple joy in what is, and the company of friends and family.

Whichever path you choose, be happy (after all, this might be the only life we get). Whatever your philosophy, the Golden Rule (which is present in Christianity, but also in pretty much every other belief system) goes a long way.

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If I am the product of a combination or randomness and "survival of the fittest" then my only goal is to survive and adapt to my environment. If God doesn't exist why I would be nice with the other humans around me ? They're just a "product" from primordial slime. On the contrary if they are God's creation, and I am too, I have a duty toward them. –  jmn Jul 18 '12 at 16:38
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@jmn that is probably the goal of your species. Not you personally. You as an individual might want to set yourself some more interesting goals. –  Marc Gravell Jul 18 '12 at 16:40
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@jmn - You're a social primate--and postulating that you're a result of a long evolutionary process--and you think you shouldn't be nice to other humans?! People routinely report that the most rewarding things in life--those things that impart a feeling of meaning--include raising children and being part of a strong community. Pretty reasonable for social primates (evolved or otherwise). You have plenty of social duties and related goals, God or no. –  Rex Kerr Jul 23 '12 at 5:45

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