Sunday, October 24, 2021

Wanting the Right Thing

Two decades before Jesus's birth, a prophet named Nephi preached the gospel of Christ and the coming of the Messiah on the American continent. The people among whom he labored were proud and stubborn. Few of them accepted Nephi's words. Nevertheless, he worked diligently and fearlessly for years to bring the people to repentance.

At a particularly low point in his ministry, not knowing what more he could do to bring righteousness to a benighted population, Nephi heard the voice of God. The Lord encouraged Nephi to continue his efforts and gave him this blessing and promise:

Photo by Monstera from Pexels
And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
--Helaman 10:5

The most powerful prayers are those that align with God's will. Though I am certainly no prophet, when I learn to pray for what God wants, and I want the same thing in all sincerity, He is unrestrained in granting my petition. The key to getting what I want is to want the right thing, which is the thing God wants for me. So, a good start to a powerful prayer is to ask, "Lord, what do you want for me?" When I get that answer, the rest falls into place.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Stronger in Humility

The prophet-author Mormon editorialized on the situation of the Nephites in a period in which the "pride cycle" was spinning faster than usual. The Nephite people had just experienced a brief period of peace and prosperity in which the church of Christ had grown and flourished even to the astounding of the priests and prophets. And now, because of their prosperity, many Nephites were sliding down the slippery slope of pride and persecution. 

A minority, however, remained faithful to the faith. They stayed on the path of righteousness. How did they do it? Mormon tells us, and what he says about the Nephites in their day also applies to us in our day:

Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.
--Helaman 3:35

An interesting choice of words: "stronger in humility." I take this phrase to mean that humility became a more powerful force in the lives of the believers. It became an enabling power. As they became more humble and teachable, they acquired more power from heaven. 

As their humility grew, so did their faith in Christ. It became firm, then solid, then unbendable, then unbreakable. 

Humility and faith go hand in hand. The more humble I am, the more I see the need to depend on God. The more I depend on Him, the more He can help me. The more He helps me, the better I come to know Him. And the better I know him, the more I trust him. Trust is another word for faith. I act with growing confidence in my beliefs. 

The more thoroughly I trust God, and the more evidence I acquire of His love for and interest in me, the more joy I experience. How can one not feel exquisite joy when he recognizes that the Supreme Being in the universe knows him and cares about him?  How can he not rejoice in knowing this earth, life itself, and the grand plan of salvation were created to lift him to exaltation with God? 

Note that I do not purify and sanctify my own heart. I can only yield it to God. It is by His power through Christ's Atonement that my heart is changed. 

The key to this marvelous transformation is prayer and fasting. I start by reaching out to God, even blindly at first, but with hope. Prayer initiates the humbling, refining process in me. Once I make space for God in my life, He can go to work.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

A Full Heart

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels
I addressed this verse of scripture previously, but it so rich in content and meaning, I return to it with another insight that affects my prayer life.

Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
--Alma 34:27

My heart being the figurative center of my thoughts and desires, it should be occupied with constant communion with God. When my heart is constantly filled by the Holy Spirit, I will be drawn instinctively to prayer, for the Spirit teaches me that I must pray always (see 2 Nephi 32:8).

Sunday, October 3, 2021

A Place for Quiet, Calm Prayers

Amulek concluded his teachings to the Zoramites about prayer with this injunction:

Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
--Alma 34:27

Amulek makes a distinction between crying to the Lord and offering constant, silent prayer. To cry is to beg and beseech with strong emotion. I face times when I must be fully engaged in prayer, when a sedate and pleasant prayer will not do. When my heart is broken and my limits are stretched and the depth of my soul heaves very close to the surface, a cry to God is the most direct route to aid and comfort in desperate moments. 

I cannot constantly be wrought up, however. When the crisis has passed and peace has come, I still have to function in the world. In the routine of daily life, quiet, calm prayers of gratitude are also acceptable to the Lord. Like Teviah in Fiddler on the Roof, I find myself speaking to God throughout the day. A "thank you" here and a "please help" there keep the lines of communication open between me and my Heavenly Father, with Jesus and the Holy Ghost always listening in on the party line.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

In My Closet

Recall that Alma and Amulek were trying to teach the Zoramites to pray. The two missionaries wanted to help the people of Zoram overcome their false traditions of vain public prayer. As part of Amulek's instructions, he included this statement.

But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
--Alma 34:26

When I am in my closet, I have removed myself from the distractions of the world. Closets are not always physical, and they don't always have walls and doors. Nevertheless, in my proverbial closet, I can be alone, quiet, focused, undisturbed, and unobstructed. I can say what is in my heart without anyone judging or criticizing. Though I may be physically restricted and restrained in my little closet, my soul and heart can be free to commune with my God.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Nothing Too Small

The two missionaries, Alma and Amulek, first taught the apostate Zoramites about Christ, and then they turned their attention to the people's perverted method of prayer. Rather than repeat a rote and mean-spirited public prayer once a week, they taught the Zoramites to pray sincerely and often. Speaking of the topics appropriate for a sincere prayer, Amulek taught:

Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies. Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness. Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them. Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
--Alma 34:21-25

Amulek's great discourse on prayer teaches that there is nothing too small, temporal, or mundane that we cannot pray about it and seek the Lord's blessing. When I think I have a problem too small to bother God about, I think of these verses. He is willing to help me in every aspect of my life. 

Does God want me to be hopelessly dependent? Ultimately, no. In the interim, however, while I am mired in mortality, Christ pleads with me to come unto Him, lean on Him, share His yoke, drink of His living water, let His light guide my feet, follow His example, learn of Him, and listen to His words. I am, in truth, in this life, hopelessly dependent on Christ. I can admit my true condition and take Him as my partner, or I can deny it and struggle through life alone. My mortal struggles don't change, but whether I face them alone or not is entirely up to me. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Call for Mercy

Two great missionaries, Alma and Amulek, answered the call from God to preach repentance to an apostate group called the Zoramites. The first thing these two men observed was a form of false worship in which one person at a time stood on a tall stand so they could be seen by their fellows and shouted a memorized prayer, every worshipper saying the same words. The two missionaries wanted to correct this faulty prayer practice, and so they taught the Zoramites a mighty sermon on true prayer, ending with these words:

Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you.
--Alma 34:17

I may pray in many situations, at many different times, to offer up thanks for many blessings and to put forth many petitions. The most important prayer I can offer, however, is my personal, private prayer for mercy. If I could secure God's mercy, all else would take care of itself. Everything I need flows from God's mercy and grace.