Prayer is a time where can hang out with God. It's not about perfecting a method. It’s about seeking a relationship with the One who loves us beyond measure.
In my years of working with those discerning a possible call to religious life, this issue often comes up. I think a lot depends on timing.
Retreat is a time to learn the sound of your own soul, to tap into the wisdom you have within, and to listen to the precious voice of the One who knows you.
When we spend time with God regularly we begin to become attuned to God’s voice, and slowly over time we learn the nuance of that voice.
Remember these words: “I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
In spiritual direction, both the “directee” and the spiritual guide listen together for the direction of the Spirit as you open your life in God’s presence.
God speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, and it’s that deep-down listening to your heart that will let you “hear” God’s loving call.
As far as courses you can take in college or graduate work, I recommend a good Scripture course or two—especially on the Gospels.