Yesterday I spoke in my own ward for High Council Sunday. My assigned topic was Family and Personal Prayer so I gave this little message. I have had a few requests for a copy so I am posting it here for those who would like to review the thoughts. It is slightly different than I gave (as always happens) but the gist of the talk is the same. Hope it helps. MW
|The Perfect Example of Prayer and Action|
PRAYER AND ACTION
Constitution Ward – May 2015
Often I come into contact with members of the church who are struggling with different aspects of the Gospel of Christ. Some are finding it difficult to maintain a testimony they have developed over the years because of challenges from family and friends. Others wonder if certain principles of the gospel have outlived their usefulness and need to be changed to conform to the times in which we live. And, frankly, there are even times when my own understanding of the Lord’s work leads me to ponder carefully aspects of the Church that I just don’t understand very well. It seems there are so many questions being shouted from the housetops that it’s difficult to keep focused on what is really important.
While considering what to say and do when we have these experiences I am reminded of a verse in scripture that has been one of my favorites over the years:
Pray always that ye may come off conqueror, yea, that ye may conquer Satan
and escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work. (D&C 10:5)
Questions of doctrine in the gospel can be effective learning tools if we use them properly. Joseph Smith set the example when he went to the Sacred Grove and asked about his own concerns. Our Heavenly Father delights to have us call on Him with our questions and problems. As we ask for help, He can offer us light and truth that will overcome the doubts the world would have us focus on in our lives. Prophets thru the ages have promised that we can know the answers to all our questions if we will ask them of God, with a real intent to listen and learn, and relying on the Spirit of the Holy Ghost to guide us to the truth.
So, why are there still so many who are unable to find out what they want to know?
Are they being ignored by our Father?
Has he stopped speaking to individuals and expects us to get answers solely from the prophets and leaders?
And, when we can’t find answers, is it because we are in a state of wickedness and unworthy of an answer?
The answer to all of these questions is an emphatic NO!!!
A basic principle of the doctrines of God and Christ is that each of us has the right and privilege to ask questions and receive answers for our own needs. Personal revelation is God’s way of helping us push through the questions that come up so often. We need prophets to guide and regulate the Church doctrine, but we have the obligation to seek out answers pertaining to our own circumstances and for those we love and serve in this life. Nothing is withheld if we ask in faith and listen carefully for the answers.
Today I would like to speak a little on how we can improve our own conversations with our Heavenly Father – especially on a personal and family level. The principles I will share are applicable in both areas and will help us all to invite more revelation and guidance in our journey through mortality.
First, let me confess that I sometimes struggle with the quality of my prayers. There are a variety of reasons but none are good. I find that there is a constant need to evaluate how I address Heavenly Father AND how I listen to His answers.
Prayer is a personal experience that connects us with God as we express our feelings and desires. But it is much more than a chance to report or to make a request for help in our efforts. I have always appreciated this paragraph from the Bible Dictionary topic “Prayer”:
Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.
Several years ago, Elder David A. Bednar dedicated two consecutive conference talks to the subject of personal and family prayer. His opening message began with this statement:
I invite the Holy Ghost to assist us as we consider a principle that can help our prayers become more meaningful – the gospel principle of asking in faith.
As I have pondered his counsel there are a few things that I believe will prepare all of us – individually and as families – to improve that quality and effectiveness of our regular prayers. Let me begin with what I believe to be the most important principle of any prayer we offer and a follow-up principle taught by Elder Bednar:
For our prayers to be effective we must ASK IN FAITH AND THEN ACT!!
Joseph Smith taught that “faith is a principle of action in all intelligent beings.” Faith is not just believing something sincerely, it is believing and then acting on it as if it is true.
Brothers and sisters, the biggest deterrent to receiving answers to our prayers is directly related to this principle. Most of us do very well when asking in faith for help or guidance in our lives. We love and trust Heavenly Father and have confidence in His ability to direct us in the ways that will solve our problems. Often when we pray for specific blessings, our expectation is that God will take over and guide us to the answer we are seeking. And often He does. But remember what the Bible Dictionary said? – Prayer is a form of work!!
While our prayers are engendered by our faith in the power of God, we will have greater success in receiving answers when we listen to and offer the words that come to our mind and heart (D&C 8:2) as given by the Holy Ghost. Our words of prayer will then reflect the desires Heavenly Father has for us in regards to the questions or problems we are trying to solve.
But when we rise from our knees at the end of our supplication, our duty is not to turn everything over to God. We have a part in the answer to every prayer we offer. Our part is to ACT – to go out and do our best to help the prayer be answered.
I am reminded of the story of Ammon as he determined to take the gospel message to the Lamanites. His prayer, and that of his brothers and friends, was to help a fallen, degenerate people find peace through the Atonement of Christ. Ammon prayed in faith with all his heart. But then he ACTED!! He gathered all who would go with him and went to the land of Nephi and did all he could for the people he wanted to help. Things were tough at first, but over time his actions changed the hearts of a wicked people and led them to be more righteous than many of the Nephites.
Every day we pray for help in a myriad of ways. I wonder if we might find more success if we followed Elder Bednar’s counsel and got up off our knees and acted in a way to see the answer to our beseeching’s.
Think how our personal prayers can be improved as we learn to act on the desires we feel and express to our Heavenly Father. When we need physical or spiritual strength we can ask for help in the specific areas of weakness and then rise from our knees and act in faith to build that strength by practicing those things that need improvement.
As a family, when we pray each morning and night, our thoughtful consideration for the needs of family and friends can become more effective if we discuss some of the ways we can bless the lives of others in our lives.
Many times, as you and I kneel to pray, we are impressed to offer words seeking help for those who are suffering in body, spirit, or other ways. We plead with God, in faith, to bless these good people to have comfort or relief in their afflictions and challenges. But if we stop there we are depriving ourselves and those we have prayed for the true gift that can come from effective prayer. Fulfillment of these prayers only occurs as we rise from conversation with our Father and carefully look for ways we can be the direct answer to that prayer.
Some questions we might ask ourselves as we complete our prayers (personal and family):
What do we know of the struggles endured?
What talents, gifts, or assets do we have that might relieve the sufferers of their challenges?
Who else can we invite to help bring to pass the answer for those involved?
As we pray in faith, act in faith, and let God guide us to become involved in the completion of our requests, we will usually see that our efforts result in the fulfillment of the prayers we have offered.
Why usually? Because we are still mortal and not all-knowing as is Heavenly Father. What God desires is not always the same as what we are looking to see. There are times when our hearts must be filled with the tender, faithful refrain – THY WILL BE DONE.
Our actions can be sincere and effective, our faith strong enough to move mountains, and our every desire is to bless those we love, but Heavenly Father knows what is best.
Remember, the purpose of prayer is to find how to receive the blessings God is already willing to give us if we will but seek for them.
Brothers and sisters, I commend to you the gift of prayer as an essential tool in knowing what it takes to become like our Heavenly Father.
He will answer us as we are faithful and act to receive truth.
He will guide us to those who need our help as we act to do His will.
He will whisper important truths, from time-to-time, as we are faithful to Him and the doctrines of His gospel.
I bear witness that prayer unites families as they learn to act together in fulfilling God’s will.
I promise that prayer changes individuals as they learn to exercise faith by DOING what is necessary to see those prayers answered.
Prayer changes hearts and minds and gives peace to the troubled soul.
These things are true.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.