In the Bible we’re given the first great commandment, which is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30).
But how do we do that?
Love isn’t something that just happens with the snap of your fingers. Genuine love for someone has to be developed. In any relationship, there are three things you must do to develop genuine love for someone: talk to them, listen to them, and do things for them.
The following is how you can do these three things to develop genuine love for God.
1. Pray daily to God.
Prayer is how we communicate with God. And while it can be hard to openly talk to someone who seems so far away from us and who doesn’t physically talk back to us, that’s exactly what we need to do. Honestly talking with God daily is how you begin and continue a loving relationship with Him.
God knows everything, but He wants to hear it from you. He wants to hear about your day, your struggles, and your accomplishments. He wants you to ask Him questions. He’s your Heavenly Father, and He cares about everything that’s going on in your life.
When you truly understand that God is our loving Heavenly Father and we are His children, prayer becomes natural and instinctive. You’ll begin praying with purpose instead of just repetitively praying because you’re supposed to, and you’ll look forward to talking with God numerous times a day.
2. Listen to God.
Communication is two-way: you talk and then you listen. God doesn’t always immediately answer a question you have. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, months, or even a year before your prayers are answered. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you or doesn’t want to answer your prayer. But God’s timing, unlike ours, is perfect, and He will answer you when you’re ready for that answer.
So, how can you be ready? David A. Bednar reminds us that personal revelation most frequently “comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation” (“The Spirit of Revelation,” Apr. 2011 general conference). Keeping yourself worthy, having righteous desires, and being open to receive His answers is how you listen for God’s answers. One way of doing this is understanding how the Holy Ghost communicates with you. It could also mean letting a neighbor be the answer to your prayer or being willing to know a choice you’ve made isn’t the right one and trusting God to change your course.
3. Do things for God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a church of action. God loves us perfectly no matter what we’ve done or what we struggle with. But if we want to show our love for Him, we must do things for Him that express our genuine love.
Here are a few ways you can do something for God daily.
Keep the commandments.
The commandments come from God, and they represent how we’re supposed to act in terms of how we treat God and how we treat one another. If we love God, we will keep His commandments, and God and Jesus Christ will love and be with those who keep the commandments (see John 14:15, 21–23).
Study the scriptures.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf once told us, “We increase our love for our Heavenly Father and demonstrate that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God’s word” (“The Love of God,” Oct. 2009 general conference). God’s word is found in the scriptures. The words, the stories, and the testimonies found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon come from God’s inspired prophets. As we read and meditate on His words, and as we align what we think, do, and say with what we read, we will draw closer to God.
Find someone to serve.
The first great commandment is to love God. The second is to love our neighbors. One of the greatest ways to show love to God is by loving and caring for His children. In an epistle to the Twelve in 1840, Joseph Smith wrote, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” Look for those in your community and worldwide that you can serve.
What have you done that’s helped you develop genuine love for God?