Prayer and Promtings

One of the things that he said but didn't have written down was how this was his first Father's day without his dad.  It was also his dad's birthday.  (by this time we were both crying) He was an uncoventional dad.  He loved him and missed him.   
Prayer and Promptings/To Acquire Spiritual Guidance

Boyd K. Packer, “Prayer and Promptings,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 43–46

Richard G. Scott, “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 6–9

My remarks today come mainly from two conference talks given in October 2009; one by Boyd K. Packer on Prayer and Promptings and the other by Richard G. Scott on Acquiring Spiritual Guidance. The two topics go hand in hand, for the best way to acquire spiritual guidance is to seek it through prayer which is the means by which we communicate with our Father in Heaven to know his will concerning us.

No Father would send His children off to a distant, dangerous land for a lifetime of testing where Lucifer was known to roam free without first providing them with a personal power of protection. He would also supply them with means to communicate with Him from Father to child and from child to Father. Every child of our Father sent to earth is provided with the Spirit of Christ, or the Light of Christ. We are, none of us, left here alone without hope of guidance and redemption.

The Restoration of the gospel brought knowledge of the premortal existence. From the scriptures, we know of the Council in Heaven and the decision to send the sons and daughters of God into mortality to receive a body and to be tested. We have a spirit body housed, for now, in an earthly tabernacle of flesh. A tabernacle that First Corinthians tells us is “the temple of God, wherein “the Spirit of God dwelleth”. (1 Corinthians 3:16).

We are children of God. As children of God, we learn we are part of His “great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8). We were given our agency. We must use it wisely and remain close to the Spirit; otherwise, we foolishly find ourselves yielding to the enticements of the adversary. We know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ our mistakes can be washed clean. We do that each week by coming here and partaking of the sacrament.

Following baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there comes a second ordinance: “Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Articles of Faith 1:4).

That sweet, quiet voice of inspiration comes more as a feeling than it does as a sound. Pure intelligence can be spoken into the mind. Elder Packer teaches that the Holy Ghost communicates with our spirits through the mind more than through the physical senses. This guidance comes as thoughts, as feelings through promptings and impressions. We may feel the words of spiritual communication more than hear them and see with spiritual rather than with mortal eyes.

President Woodruff once told of an experience of being prompted by the Spirit. While on assignment, he stopped at the home of one of the brethren in Indiana and put his carriage in the yard, where he and his wife and one child went to bed while the rest of the family slept in the house. Shortly after he had retired for the night, the Spirit whispered, warning him, “Get up, and move your carriage.” He got up and moved the carriage a distance from where it had stood. As he was returning to bed, the Spirit spoke to him again: “Go and move your mules away from that oak tree.” He did this and then retired once again to bed.

Not more than 30 minutes later, a whirlwind caught the tree to which his mules had been tied and broke it off at the ground. It was carried 100 yards through two fences. The enormous tree, which had a trunk five feet in circumference, fell exactly upon the spot where his carriage had been parked. By listening to the promptings of the Spirit, Elder Woodruff had saved his life and the lives of his wife and child.

Elder Packer shared several scriptural examples that demonstrate that that same Spirit can prompt us. Alma taught the gift of the Holy Ghost operates equally with men, women, and even little children. From chapter 32 “And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned” (Alma 32:23). I can testify that I have been confounded many times by my children.

The Lord has many ways of pouring knowledge into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, to correct us, to warn us. The Lord said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart” (D&C 8:2).

Enos recorded, “While I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again” (Enos 1:10).

This process is not reserved for the prophets alone. We can know the things we need to know. We need to pray that we will learn to receive that inspiration and remain worthy to receive it.

I have had many answers to prayers over the years from things as simple as finding a lost wallet on a mountainside, asking help when studying for school exams, to seeking divine assistance for how best to help a struggling child. I recall an experience where one of our sons had graduated from elementary school and had started junior high. He had always excelled in academics, but the new format of classes and multiple teachers was weighing heavily on him. We could see and feel his increasing anxiety, frustration, and stress. We tried to help as parents, but to no avail. After a few weeks, my wife and I knelt in prayer to supplicate help from our Heavenly Father. We expressed our feelings and the feelings of our son and pleaded for help. We wished there was a way for him to not be alone at school each day, but we knew we could not be there. I distinctly remember feeling awash with the Spirit as a response came that our son was not alone. I felt impressed that there were those across the veil helping and sustaining him and I received clear pictures in my mind of two faces in particular: one was the face of my mother, our son’s grandmother, who had passed away a few years before. The other face was of a man I have never met, but who I recognized from pictures. It was my wife’s grandfather, my son’s great grandfather who had also passed away years before. I felt great peace after this prayer knowing that loved ones of ours were watching over him and us. We observed over the next few days and weeks as our son began to improve in his school work and successfully transitioned into the junior high format.

Experiences of prompting and prayer are not uncommon in the Church. They are part of the revelation our Heavenly Father has provided for us. I’m sure there are many of you here who have had similar such experiences and even more powerful witnesses than I.

Prayer takes effort as do the answers to our prayers. The saying goes, pray like everything depends upon the Lord and then get off your knees and work like everything depends on you. Elder Packer shared the story of a little girl to illustrate this principle. She was upset with her brother, who built a trap to catch sparrows.

Unable to get help, she said to herself, “Well, I’ll pray about it.”

After her prayer, the little girl told her mother, “I know he is not going to catch any sparrows in his trap because I prayed about it. I’m positive he won’t catch any sparrows!”

Her mother said, “How can you be so sure?”

She said, “After I prayed about it, I went out and kicked that old trap all to pieces!”

Learn to pray. Pray often. Pray in your mind, in your heart. Pray on your knees. Find occasions to pray out loud. Prayer is your personal key to heaven. The lock is on your side of the veil. And we should learn adequate humility and trust enough to conclude all our prayers with “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10; see also Luke 11:2; 3 Nephi 13:10).

Elder Packer reminds us not to expect to be free entirely from trouble and disappointment and pain and discouragement, for these are the things that we were sent to earth to endure.

Satan is extremely good at blocking spiritual communication by tempting individuals to violate the laws upon which spiritual communication is founded. With some, he is able to convince them that they are not able to receive such guidance from the Lord. One of the adversary’s sharpest tools is to convince us that we are no longer worthy to pray.

Elder Packer teaches: When temptation comes, you can invent a delete key in your mind—perhaps the words from a favorite hymn. Your mind is in charge; your body is the instrument of your mind. When some unworthy thought pushes into your mind, replace it with your delete key. Worthy music is powerful and can help you control your thoughts.

In preparing for my monthly speaking assignments I try hard to be in tune and to listen for promptings of what to say that might be of benefit to me and to those who may hear. Even when preparing a talk on prayer and promptings, I’m still learning the effort it takes to recognize those prompting at times. This morning I was trying to go over my remarks one last time and kept getting distracted by a tune stuck in my head since I awoke. I was nearing a point of frustration with this distraction when I realized the tune was actually a hymn; a hymn on prayer.

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, Uttered or unexpressed,

The motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear,

The upward glancing of an eye when none but God is near.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice, Returning from his ways,

While angels in their songs rejoice and cry, “Behold, he prays!”

Nor prayer is made on earth alone: the Holy Spirit pleads,

And Jesus at the Father’s throne for sinners intercedes.

No matter who you are or what you may have done, you can always pray and your Father in Heaven will always hear and be there with arms outstretched to receive you.

The scriptures promise, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The Savior said, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (D&C 88:63).

Today, world conditions are changing so much and so fast that it creates a condition where we, of necessity, must be more dependent upon the Spirit to guide us through life’s rollercoaster.

Father in Heaven knew that we would face challenges and be required to make some decisions that would be beyond our own ability to decide correctly. But the Holy Ghost can be our spiritual guide and can help with such challenges and decisions during our mortal life. It is a power, beyond our own capability, that a loving Heavenly Father wants us to use consistently for our peace and happiness.

Elder Scott warned to be careful of strong emotions and said the inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, he said it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.

There is no simple formula or technique that immediately allows us to master the ability to be guided by the voice of the Spirit. Our Father expects us to exercise faith in Him and His Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Were we to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, we would become weak and ever more dependent on Them. They know that essential personal growth and spirituality will come as we struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit.

Gaining more spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration to know what to do. The second is power, or the capacity to do it. These two capacities come together. That’s why Nephi could say, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.”

President Monson tells us to pay more attention to promptings and to act on them when they come. Elder Scott said he believes that we can leave the most precious, personal direction of the Spirit unheard because we do not respond to, record, and apply the first promptings that come to us. The Lord will not force us to learn. We must exercise our agency to authorize the Spirit to teach us. As we make this a practice in our life, we will be more perceptive to the feelings that come with spiritual guidance.

I bear my witness that as we exercise faith through prayer and listening to the spirit, we can learn to be consistently guided by the Holy Spirit in all aspects of our lives. That way, the Savior can guide us to resolve challenges of life and enjoy great peace and happiness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.