A few weekends ago, we had the opportunity to watch the Idaho Falls Temple rededication. As I listened to the dedicatory prayer, I thought about my own prayers. I’d been thinking recently that I needed to give more thought to my prayers and make sure it is a two-way conversation rather than a quick, “Thanks for…”, “Help me…”, “See ya later.” Obviously, they weren’t quite that half-hearted, but I was missing out on mighty prayer.
Be Willing to Be Specific
In discussing the idea of not giving the Spirit time to respond, President Hinckley has said, “The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the telephone and ordering groceries—we place our order and hang up.” I think that sometimes even our grocery/blessing list is a little sad. Changing the metaphor to the idea of ordering a pizza, some of my prayers are similar to calling up the pizza place and saying, “I want a pizza” and then hanging up. We all know that you need to include multiple other details—pizza size, crust type, sauce flavor preference, how much sauce, types of cheese, toppings, drizzles, etc.
In our prayers, we may say something along the lines of, “Please bless us that we’ll have a good day.” Wouldn’t it be better if we included some more details on that idea? What details would you add? What types of things need to happen for a “good day”? When setting goals, I’ve heard it is good practice to have a goal in mind and then three mini-goals that will help you achieve it. Would it be beneficial to do the same with blessings—have a particular blessing we ask for and then have three ways in which that blessing could be accomplished that we could ask for help with those things?
In Stand Ye in Holy Places, President Harold B. Lee said, “If you want the blessing, don’t just kneel down and pray about it. Prepare yourselves in every conceivable way you can in order to make yourselves worthy to receive the blessing you seek.” I believe that in addition to making sure our personal worthiness is in line, we need to prepare by pondering what we can do to help achieve the blessing we want and then go forward and do it. President Hinckley has said, “We need to meditate, contemplate, think of what we are praying about and for and then speak to the Lord as one man speaketh to another.”
Be Willing to Do
The Bible Dictionary states, “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 [emphasis added] on our asking for them.” Going back to our pizza analogy, the pizza place is likely to be already willing to put pepperoni on your pizza, but you have to ask for it. I am one of those people that doesn’t like to be a bother and ask for specialized food items, etc. But I wonder how many blessings I have not received because I didn’t ask for them? Changing roles, and thinking of me as the parent, there are times that my children ask me for something and I decline their request but there are oftentimes that if they had only asked, I would gladly give them what they requested. (Promise you won’t tell them to ask for ice cream treats on the way home from school every day.)
In “Lord, Increase Our Faith,” Elder Maxwell states, “Having faith in the Father's macro plan of salvation includes making allowance for His micro plans as well.” The blessing we ask for may be part of the macro plan which may disrupt the micro plans of our day to day life. At times, we need to step back and realize that our micro plans may disappoint us but it is because those changes are necessary in order to achieve the macro plan. (All this talk of “macro” and “micro” is going to give me high school economics class nightmares so let’s move on, shall we?)
Be Willing to Trust
In a great clip from Time Out for Women, Emily Freeman asks, “What if I am the one that is limiting God from truly working in my life because there are places that I won’t let Him go?”
Sadly, I know that I probably limit what God can do with my life. I have areas that I worry too much about to hand over control to someone else. With my pizza, it is the artichokes. I love a chicken, bacon, artichoke pizza that is light on the artichokes—but my version of “light on the artichokes” is different from someone else. If I’m not in control of placing the artichokes, I just order it without artichokes.
In my life, I have things where I think, “Okay, Heavenly Father, I definitely want this blessing and this blessing and some spiritual growth in this area, but, please don’t make me go through ______ to get there.” Can I have a spiritually fulfilling life that is (really) light on the trials? In the talk, “Improving Our Prayers” by Elder Wirthlin, he talks about the need for trust. He says, “The first thing we must do is stop worrying. When we worry about the future, we create unhappiness in the present. Righteous concern may lead us to take appropriate action, but worrying about things we cannot control can paralyze and demoralize us. Instead of worrying, focus on doing all that you can, and then leave the worrying to your Heavenly Father. If your heart is right with Him, He will take care of the worry and the fear.”
Thinking about that desire to keep control and not hand it over to “someone else,” let’s pause and think about how much that “someone else” cares about us. In “Trust in the Lord,” Elder Scott said, “Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.”
Do I trust that? Do you trust that? Why in the world, would I worry about giving Them full control over every aspect of my life? Do they know the best way to get to the best “happily ever after”?
Be Willing to Find a Heavenly Relationship
Elder Wirthlin said, “Every person on the earth today lived at one time in heavenly realms. We walked with our Heavenly Father. We knew Him. We heard His voice. We loved Him. And although we were eager to enter mortality and continue our progression, we must have regretted the separation that would accompany it. We must have sorrowed that a veil would cover our eyes and the bright memories of our lives would be cloaked in the forgetfulness of mortality. How we must have yearned to stay close to our Father in Heaven. How we must have covenanted to ever reach after Him and commune with Him. Undoubtedly our separation from our Heavenly Father was softened when He promised that as we sought after Him in prayer, He would reach toward us.”
Next time you call the pizza place, make sure that you detail out what you actually want and how to make it that way, but also be sure to ask the pizza guy to add any toppings he thinks you may need added.
And, as you say your prayers, reflect on that premortal relationship you had with your Heavenly Father. Take time to think of the things that you appreciate in life and be sure to thank Him for your specific “many blessings.” Share with Him your hopes and your dreams and what can happen to achieve those things. (And make sure you go to work to help them come to fruition.) Have faith in Him and His plan—with all its twists and turns and rough patches. Give Him control and go to work. (And, in my case, read the Wirthlin quote about not worrying every day.) Let Him make of your life the masterpiece He knows it can be.