Learning how to Pray

I have a personal testimony of prayer. I know it works. I can quote you scriptures about it. But I haven’t always practice what I know to be true. I know – this sounds dumb.

There have been times in my life when I’ve prayed a lot. When I was a single mom, I prayed diligently – morning and night. I cried, I laughed, I pleaded: I prayed. Lately, my prayers have gotten sloppy and casual. I knew that there was a problem with this kind of prayers.

I have always been intrigued by the experience of the Brother of Jared:

“And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.” – Ether 2:14

I wasn’t there, so I can’t tell for sure, but it is hard for me to think that the Brother of Jared had stopped praying – completely. It’s hard for me to think that the Brother of Jared hadn’t offered prayers on the food, or nightly with his family. I mean, maybe he even prayed personally.

But maybe he hadn’t really called on God’s name. Maybe he hadn’t counseled with God and supplicated him.

I don’t know…but I feel like I can relate.

It’s not like I don’t pray. I mean, I do: while I’m lying in bed, flirting with sleep; or while I’m driving, running, showering. I pray when I find it convenient. I pray with my family, and I teach them to pray…but I haven’t really prayed the way I should, and I think that the Lord could just as easily give me the chastisement he gave to the Brother of Jared.

A few weeks ago, we studied the story of Enos for Family Home Evening. It was the night before I decided to make my most recent 21-day habit of prayer. It was just the inspiration I needed:

“And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.” – Enos 1:2-4

Throughout the past (nearly) three weeks, I’m finally becoming like Enos with my prayers…

  • My soul hungers – now that I’ve been praying, really praying, morning and night, my soul hungers for those prayers. In fact, the morning and nightly prayers don’t seem to be enough. I have found myself, often, going to my closet, kneeling, and offering a short prayer for needed comfort, blessings, and help. The more I pray, the more I want to pray.
  • I kneel before my maker – I am becoming more cognizant of the real humility required in true prayer. Kneeling – paying reverence to my Heavenly Father, my maker. It is an honor for us to be able to pray. And we’re not just talking to some dude. We are communicating with Him who created us. I have always underestimated the power and need to kneel. Now that I’m kneeling for my prayers, I feel a little ashamed that I have been so casual with my relationship with Heavenly Father in the past.
  • I cried in mighty prayer and supplication – I’m working on this. My prayers aren’t always mighty, but I’m getting better. Prayer, like just about everything else, takes practice. I know that my prayers are getting better. I’m gaining faith as I pray more. The increased faith makes my prayers mightier. I know it isn’t me who is the source of might in my prayer, it is that I trust in God’s power and might.
  • All the day long I did cry unto him – I don’t spend my entire day on the floor in my closet, but I have noticed that through formally praying, day and night, my entire life has become more prayerful.

    Lately, I have been struggling with confidence. I feel very frustrated with my weight. Often, this frustration leads to extremely negative thoughts – about my very self worth. I recognize that this sounds silly, but it happens and has been for several months.

    Before the daily prayers, these thoughts would get the best of me, and I would feel so depressed that I’d kind of give up. I’d get angry with my children, I would be lazy about my duties, I would question my value as a woman. The depressing thoughts would turn into a downward spiral of sadness and negativity. Not good…

    Well, I have started praying. The negative thoughts haven’t stopped, but thanks to prayer, I feel empowered. The other day, the cycle was beginning, I was frustrated, and telling myself that I was horrible. I realized that these thoughts were lies, yet they felt so convincing. I felt prompted to pray, really pray. I set the T-Rex and Sasquatch in their high-chairs, with some food, and excused myself (as if I were to go to the bathroom). I knew I didn’t have much time, but I went into my closet, and kneeled to pray.

    The thoughts didn’t dissipate, but I felt the Lord strengthen me to know the truth. He loves me. I am His daughter. I am a good mother. I am a good and attractive wife. After praying, I knew that I could continue to work on having healthy habits and see my goal come to fruition. It would take time, but I didn’t need to give up hope.

I’m so grateful for prayer. Really. I have had a testimony in prayer for a long time, but I always kind of waited to pray for when I really needed something. I can’t believe that I’ve been going along for so long without giving fervent prayers. I have robbed myself of blessings and, more importantly, an increased relationship with my Heavenly Father and myself. I am grateful that I can repent, and that Heavenly Father is patient and merciful.

So…when you left your room this morning, Did you think to pray? How does prayer help you?

What Am I Teaching? (Enos 1:1-3)

Recently, the following has been a really favorite scripture of mine:

” 1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—

2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.

3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.” = Enos 1:1-3

I love this scripture block because we get an insight on how to be an effective and great parent. Kind of – I guess. Here, Enos tells us that Jacob was just, and that he taught his son in his language and in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

I just realized, I’ve written about this before. But, it is still relevant in my life, as I’m still a parent!

The thing about Jacob and Enos, Jacob’s teaching was effective enough to have an impact on Enos. While Enos is on his own, Jacob’s words sunk deep into Enos’s heart – causing Enos’s soul to hunger. Consequently, Enos “wrestled before God.” This brought upon a change of heart and commitment to the Lord. We can see that Jacob’s teaching and parenting had a big impact, positively, on Enos.

So – here’s the thing, it makes me ask, What am I teaching my children? What do I want to be teaching my children?

There are times when I’m teaching my children things that aren’t great. I teach them (through example) to eat too many sweets. I may also be teaching them to be impatient. There are times, when I teach them to be a slob! Anyways – these things are important to know, but I don’t want to dwell on them.

I want to think about what I am teaching them.

  • I am teaching them how to pray.
  • I am teaching them how to read the scriptures. I hope that they will also learn to love them.
  • I am teaching them to serve the Lord.
  • I am teaching them that motherhood is important.
  • I am teaching them that Christ is our Savior.
  • I am teaching them that they are beloved daughters (and a beloved son!) of God.

I hope to teach them so much more, too. I hope to teach them to be creative, kind, happy, active. I hope to teach them to be curious, hard-working, compassionate, and balanced. I hope to teach them that they have power within them – to be the kind of people that Heavenly Father sees. I hope they learn to stay true to themselves while true to the Lord.

I hope that they will learn how to be truly happy.

What are you teaching your children, or those children that you influence?

Listening to the Prophets

It is almost time for general conference. I, like many other Mormons, love this time of year. I feel so refreshed when I hear the words of the prophets, apostles, and general authorities.

This in mind, I read the following scriptures today…

AND now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold they said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.

2 And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

3 And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.” – 1 Nephi 16:1-3

In this scripture, Nephi is speaking to Laman and Lemuel. He had spent the last few chapters explaining the meaning of his Father’s Vision to them. In teaching his brothers, they were upset by the truth. Because of their wickedness, they took the truth to be hard, even more than they could bear.

Now, think of this in our own current setting. We are about to hear the words of the prophets. They will explain principles of the gospel. They will give us warnings and advice. How will we respond? Are we uplifted by their words, or are their words hard for us to hear?

“…And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.

5 And it speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth; wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil.” – 2 Nephi 33:4-5

These words were written by Nephi – defending all of his words. He wrote this near the end of his life, when he closed his record – emphasizing the point of everything he shared: to persuade us to do good, believe in Christ, and endure to the end.

Sin, however, is not justified in Nephi’s record. In fact, he has spoken very harshly against sin. Those who rejoice in truth and righteousness will not take offense to the words of Nephi. However, if we find problems with Nephi’s words, it is because we have the spirit of the devil within us.

This applies to our current times and current prophets. Are we angry when we hear the words of the prophets? Are we quick to obey? If we are upset, it is not because the general authorities are out of touch. It is because there is an aspect of our own lives that we need to correct.

“For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—” – Words of Mormon 1:17

Here, Mormon retells how the people needed the prophets to speak to them with sharpness – often. This is because of their stiffneckedness. It reminds me of when Jacob was weighed down by the wickedness of the people. He would have preferred to teach them the pleasing word of God, but was, instead, prompted to testify of the wickedness of the people and bring them back to repentance. (See Jacob 2:1-10).

What are our conferences like now? What do the prophets teach us? Do we keep hearing talks on the same old thing? Do the prophets speak to us with sharpness?

***

This year, when I listen to conference, I hope to be uplifted and edified. I hope that I will hear the pleasing word of God and rejoice in it. I expect to be corrected, too. Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained, “…a message prepared under the influence of the Spirit to further the work of the Lord—is not given to be enjoyed. It is given to inspire, to edify, to challenge, or to correct. It is given to be heard under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, with the intended result that the listener learns from the talk and from the Spirit what he or she should do about it,” (The Dedication of a Lifetime).

I must admit that I also hope that my actions don’t cause the prophets to continue warning us about the same thing. I hope that when I hear the word of God, I resolve to do better to do it.

Conversion: Three Book of Mormon Examples

I have been thinking about conversion a lot lately. These three examples really stuck out to me.

Nephi
In the 8th chapter of 1 Nephi, Lehi, Nephi’s father, tells of a dream that he had: The vision of the tree of life. Lehi has gathered his family and is teaching them of the dream in his tent. He is also prophesying to them of the destruction of Jerusalem and Babylonian captivity; he prophesies of the Messiah – including the events surrounding his baptism; Lehi teaches of the scattering and gathering of Israel. (It kind of sounds like some heavy-duty FHE).

After Lehi teaches and prophesies, Nephi has this response: ” And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, … I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 10:17.

Because of Lehi’s teachings, Nephi is inspired to go to the Lord for his own testimony. What follows is Nephi’s own vision of the tree of life – and his conversion.

Of course, Nephi was faithful before he received this vision. However, it is during this revelation that he began to understand the condescension of God, Christ’s life and mission, and what it meant for him and the rest of the world.

Nephi’s experience was miraculous, and because of the faith that he exhibited – it was relatively easy. He knew how to get answers from the Lord. Nephi is an example of someone who sought the Lord. He wanted to understand the mysteries of God, and he knew that if he went to the Lord, then he would receive testimony. His example is stellar.

Enos
Enos was the son of Jacob. The book of Enos is, for the most part, an account of his conversion. Enos states, “Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often hear my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.” – Enos 1:3. Before Enos had the desire to pray to God, preliminary to his receiving a testimony, he began to ponder his father’s words.

We don’t know the details – where and when Enos was taught, but we do know that Jacob fulfilled his duty as a father – to teach his children the gospel. Because of this the seeds to true conversion were planted deep in the heart of Enos.

Enos went about seeking his testimony in a different way than Nephi did. When Nephi heard the testimony and prophecies of his Father, His heart was pricked by the Holy Ghost, and he went away from his father’s tent seeking his own experience with the Lord.

Enos, he seems a lot more like most of us. He seems like a good guy – that probably listened to his dad preach, and then went on with the rest of the day. Finally, one day, when he has a moment to ponder and meditate, his heart is pricked by the Holy Ghost. Then, he is inspired to pray and have his experience with the Lord.

Alma
Alma’s experience is a little bit different than those of Nephi and Enos.

Alma was naughty. He liked to go around with his friends and destroy the church. This came to an abrupt halt one day when he and the sons of Mosiah were visited by an angel. The visitation was not quite positive – as it left Alma comatose for a few days.

Alma explains what happened while he was in this state:

“And now, And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.

And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.” – Alma 36:16-17

Alma, like both Nephi and Enos, was inspired by the words spoken by his father. It is Alma the Elder’s testimony that inspires Alma to pray for forgiveness – having faith that Christ could (and would) save him from his bitter state.

Alma is another extreme example. He began his life in wickedness. Yet he eventually arrived to his conversion in the exact same way Nephi and Enos did – through faith on Jesus’ name and humble prayer. Even though Nephi, Enos, and Alma came to Christ in different ways, what matters is that they came to Christ. And the even better part: Christ doesn’t deny any that come to him.

I love these examples. They inspire me to go to the Lord. They also help me to remember that it is easier to go to the Lord the way Nephi did than the way Alma did. I would rather remember to be humble than be compelled from time to time. Yet, there are times when I’m a little more like Alma the younger than Nephi, and I’m so grateful to know that the Lord loves the repentant sinner no less than the faithful.

A Good Parent

There are a few scriptures that are classic “shout out’s” to parents. I’m thinking of 1 Nephi 1:1 (I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents,…) and also Alma 56:47 (the stripling warriors had been taught by their mothers…).

Today, I came across another scripture that really struck me. I think that it will also be helpful for the talk I’ve been assigned to give in two weeks.

“BEHOLD, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—” – Enos 1:1

I’ve always loved the story of Enos, however, I’ve always focused on what happens next (his wrestle with God, which is a subject for a future blog, I’m sure)…This time, while reading it, I noticed the respect Enos pays to His father.

Jacob taught Enos

  1. In his language
    • I think that there are many theories on this – perhaps by this time the language spoken by the Nephites had varied from the Hebrew that was spoken by the family of Lehi when they left Jerusalem. Who knows?!
    • One thing we do know: the Book of Mormon was written in Reformed Egyptian. I’m supposing that Jacob taught Enos this language so that Enos could efficiently write in the small plates. You may be more keen on theories, so I should stop speculating here.
    • Enos was educated. He could understand the language of His fathers. He could read and write. These are important skills which we must impart to our children.
  2. The Nurture and Admonition of the Lord
    • Not only did Jacob teach Enos secular things, He also taught Enos spiritual things. He taught In the nurture of the Lord. I love this idea – because it is the Lord that Nurtures. Think of all the examples we have of Christ: Living water, Living bread, Bread of Life, the True Vine, etc. It is the Lord that nurtures us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Jacob taught this to His son.

As I review my performance – as a parent – I think that it is good to see if I’m teaching my children the way that Jacob taught Enos. Am I teaching my children the things that they need to know to be successful in this world? Am I teaching them the things that will bring them happiness and satisfaction? Am I teaching them that they can find sustenance for all types of growth when they go to the Lord?

And…

Am I letting them exercise their agency. Jacob taught Enos, but he didn’t choose for Enos. We know, from Enos’s account, that Enos still had to have his own wrestle before God. Jacob simply taught Enos how to navigate this experience.

As I write this, the following keeps running through my mind:

“Lead me, guide me, walk beside me
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with Him someday.” –

  • "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." - Luke 10:42.
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