It was Elder Glover’s last District meeting prior to leaving for home. It was a great meeting!
It was one of the best District Meetings we have participated in: Elder Broadbent taught a wonderful lesson on becoming better missionaries, and dedicating our lives to the work. He is really hitting his stride as a leader.
The following is the handout Elder Broadbent gave out as part of his lesson:
All of the missionaries are beginning to have great success in teaching and bringing people to the waters of baptism. They each stood and talked about the success they were having in their areas.
At the end, Elder Glover took a few minutes to share some of the things he had learned during his mission–an effort to share with other missionaries lessons learned. As it turned out, much of what he spoke about was included in my weekly handout.
After the meeting closed, we shared a meal of black bean stew and fresh french bread. There was a LOT…and all soon gone!
We are all excited to see what changes will come with the transfer next week.
The following is the handout I shared with the group:
The Power of Prayer
One of the most useful tools that a missionary is given is prayer. Prayer can be used to obtain forgiveness and gain strength. It can be used to obtain knowledge and inspiration concerning doctrine you don’t understand. It can be used to send blessings to others. It can be used to receive instruction from the Lord as to where to find those who are ready to hear and accept the gospel. Let me share a few stories about the power of prayer.
Pray for Strength
When I first came out on my mission, I set a few goals. One of those goals had to do with obtaining the physical strength and endurance needed to fulfill the other goals I had set: I wanted to be able to get up at 5:00 a.m. so I had more time to study and prepare for the day’s work. I had an alarm to get me up, and the willpower to get up when it went off, but actually staying awake and being able to concentrate was another thing. I prayed every day for the ability to stay awake and study without falling asleep or forgetting what I had studied. In a short time, the Lord answered my prayers. Not only was I able to get up early and stay awake, but the clarity of my thoughts and my ability to remember what I had read was magnified many times beyond what I could have imagined. Almost daily, I was surprised to find the things I had studied that morning were needed during a discussion later that day. I began to feel as though I had daily personal study with the Savior himself. Not only was it no longer hard to get up in the morning, I actually looked forward to this study time with great anticipation.
Pray for the Spirit
One of the important reasons to pray every day is to obtain the Spirit of God. We have discussed how important it is to have the Spirit of God at all times. It is the Spirit that touches people’s hearts. It is the Spirit that converts. It is the Spirit—the countenance of God—that shines forth from you like a candle on a candlestick and touches everyone with whom it comes in contact. But before you can let your light shine, before you can obtain His countenance, before you can literally expand your spiritual aura to touch others, you, yourself, must have that mighty change of heart. You must become converted.
And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell? Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them? And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true. And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved. And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye Spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5: 10–14)
Alma understood the importance of obtaining the Spirit of God. Notice he was speaking to “my brethren of the church!” He was not trying to bring new members into the gospel; he was trying to convert members of the Church. He laid out the process, step-by-step, so we could understand it:
- We must believe. We must gain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- As we grow in faith our hearts are changed and we become converted.
- Our conversion produces physical changes in our appearance; we take upon ourselves the countenance of God himself. This countenance, or presence, is the Spirit of God that dwells within us that people can see and feel whenever they are around us.
And how do we as individuals know whether or not we have had this “mighty change” in our hearts? How do we really know if we have been spiritually “born of God?”[i] King Benjamin gives us the answer:
And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. (Mosiah 5:2)
We know we have finally been “born of God” when all desires to do evil have been banished from our hearts, when we begin to live the commandments of God willingly, and when we begin to live the mission rules without complaint or regret. All God requires of us is to keep His commandments[ii] and willingly obey our leaders and the Spirit of God within us that testifies each day of the truth. If we do this, we, like Alma, will have the testimony of God in our hearts and the countenance of God in our faces.
And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the Spirit of revelation which is in me.
And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the Spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God. (Alma 5:45–47)
Each morning after you get up, every evening before you go to sleep, and in your mind during the day, pray for the Spirit of God to be upon you and your companion. By the sheer force of your will, expand the aura of that Spirit around you so others will see and feel the Spirit of God for themselves. Let your light, the very countenance of God, shine for the entire world to see!
Pray for Blessings Upon Those You Teach
As you progress in becoming a true servant of God, your thoughts will turn from focusing on yourself to focusing on those you teach. This is a natural progression that should not be forced. In the beginning, you need to focus on yourself. You have to learn the discussions, you may have to learn a language, and you have to become acclimated to mission life and fully living the mission rules. In addition, you have to become converted yourself in order to convert others. But once you are prepared, and once you begin to see that mighty change take place in your heart, you will also find the need to share that light and love with others. Like Enos, your heart will turn to your brothers and sisters, and your desire to bring them to God will grow and expand.
And he said unto me: “Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen . . . thy faith hath made thee whole. Now it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them. (Enos 1:8–9)
Brother Brown: Part II
Teaching Brother Brown and his family was a spiritual feast. Each discussion was filled with insight and revelation. Truly the scripture was fulfilled which says:
Therefore, why is it ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. (D&C 50:21–22)
All who were present at those discussions were filled with the Spirit, understood the revelations of God as never before, and were edified by the entire process. But, as missionaries, we had to close the deal. We had to bring this wonderful family into the waters of baptism, but Brother Brown was a stubborn man. He would not commit until he knew the gospel was true. We were determined to give him that testimony! Finally, when all other options seemed to have run out, we decided to fast and pray that Brother Brown would obtain a witness for himself that the things we had been teaching were true.
Our regular appointment with the Browns was on Thursday. We decided to fast all day Tuesday. As we got up that morning, we knelt in mighty prayer, each of us taking a turn praying for God to accept our fast and sacrifice and give Brother Brown a testimony and witness of the truth. That night, as we closed our fast, we again prayed with great fervor that God would answer our prayers. Little did we know the power our faith had generated. Little did we know how powerful prayer really was!
On Thursday, we arrived at the Browns’ home, as usual, but as soon as Brother Brown came to the door we knew something had changed. Instead of taking us into the living room as usual, he ushered us into the basement to speak to us in private. He then told us a wondrous tale: He had seen a vision. God had granted him a vision, a revelation of knowledge and power few people ever have an opportunity to experience! He told us that one night he had been reading the Book of Mormon in bed and pondering the things he was reading. Suddenly the Spirit of God fell upon him, and he was given a wonderful vision concerning who he was and what he could become. He saw himself standing among great leaders in the pre-mortal life, arranging the great plans of God to move forward. Then his mind was moved quickly ahead and he saw his future state: living as a God in the Kingdom of Heaven!
As he spoke to us, he was visibly shaken. We had never talked to him about becoming Gods. Though our discussions covered almost every conceivable subject, we were never foolish enough to delve into the “mysteries.” Nonetheless, this powerful doctrine had been revealed to him, and he wondered if he was crazy or being deceived somehow. It was clear to us by the way he talked and the knowledge that he had received, that this vision was from God. Brother Brown saw my expression and asked why I was smiling. I told him I knew what day this wonderful experience had happened. It had happened to him on Tuesday. The shock of my knowledge made him actually step backward. Without his asking, I answered the question he had on his face: How did I know? I related that my companion and I had fasted and prayed for him to receive a witness from God on Tuesday. It simply made sense that this great manifestation would have occurred as a result of our prayers. He confirmed what I had said—it was Tuesday night he had experienced this vision.
After this experience things changed rapidly. The Browns began to come to Church for the first time and openly began to prepare for baptism. Brother Brown was still stubborn—he would not be baptized until he had a few more questions answered—but their progress increased and the Spirit of God continued to pour out upon this wonderful family.
Pray to Know Where to Teach
The culmination of your spiritual progress should be the ability to know where you should teach. If you remember, this was one of the goals for my own mission—one I never thought I would achieve. But an event occurred that changed my life and forced me to reconsider the relationship I had with God.
I had just been transferred from Altoona to Pittsburgh to become a district leader. In Altoona, we had smashed every mission record for teaching and had worked like madmen just to keep up with the work. In Pittsburgh that all changed. Suddenly we were teaching one or two discussions a week, instead of five or six a day. We struggled for months, our only source of spiritual food being our weekly discussion with Brother Brown. Eventually, even that ended and we were left with nothing but tracting, day after day, through the cold of winter. We were looking forward with great anticipation to the next zone conference, if for no other reason than as a break from the daily grind. I would be able to talk to President Pinnock again (this shows you the powerful effect a good mission president has on his missionaries—they actually look forward to meeting with him, knowing they will be uplifted). To our surprise and eventual delight, we had a guest speaker at this conference, a Regional Representative who shortly was to become a General Authority, and is now an Apostle. He talked to us about the power of prayer and shared with us a personal story of how he had used the power of prayer, like Alma the Elder, to help his own son.
He had read how Alma the Elder had prayed for his son and how God had responded by sending an angel to intervene.[iii] He did not expect anything so dramatic, but he did expect God would answer his prayers. In fact, he demanded it! Yes, we were all shocked to hear the words, but as he related the story it began to make sense. As this great leader knelt in prayer, he reviewed with God all the time he had spent in His service; how he had always fulfilled his callings; and how he had been absent from home so much doing the work of the Lord. He called to mind the scripture, “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10). He realized he had done what the Lord had commanded him and therefore God was bound by law to help him. So he cried unto the Lord to live up to His part of the covenant by hearing his servant’s cries and helping his son. God heard his prayers and shortly afterward answered his request.
I was shaken to my very soul by this great man’s talk. For the first time in my life, I recognized how powerful and binding the covenants were I had taken upon myself in the temple of God. I realized that if I lived up to my part of the covenants I had made with God, He was bound by eternal law to live up to His part of the covenants. I could see that as we grow in spiritual strength, as we take upon us the countenance of God, we do become like Him. We move from being servants to becoming friends, and as friends[iv] we can speak to God man to man, face to face, and friend to friend.
I then took a long look at my own life. Had I lived up to my part of the covenants I had taken? Was I worthy to approach God and develop the kind of relationship that this great leader had developed with his God? I realized I was ready for this step, at least I was ready to try. I knew I was not perfect, but I also realized that no one was—so it wasn’t necessary to be perfect to develop this kind of relationship with the Savior. Then what was it? It had to be one’s attitude. It had to do with becoming confident in the presence of God. It had to do with that mighty change of heart that comes with conversion! A time when we no longer have the desire to do evil but only the desire to do good continually. It did not mean we were perfect but meant that our hearts had pure intent. With this change of heart, we could approach God in a new way. We could not only learn from God, but we could learn about God—about who and what He really is. We could become His friend!
And so I decided I must also experience this great friendship with God. I must place myself in a position to develop a personal relationship with the Savior of the World. But how? And for what reason? Both Alma and this Regional Representative had a specific reason to approach the Lord. What was my reason? And then it came to me, as though God himself had planned it all along. What was it I needed most at this time? It was to find people to teach. And what was the one goal I had not yet fulfilled while on my mission? The ability to receive direct revelation from God concerning where to find people to teach! And so it was that I started on a journey of discovery. How would I communicate with God? Not just in some vague feeling but in a way that would specifically direct me to people who were ready to be taught the gospel. How did others do it? The answer came to me through the story of the Brother of Jared:
And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessel? (Ether 2:23)
God did not, would not, simply solve the problem the brother of Jared was having. God wanted to make sure that the brother of Jared knew He had solved his problem. If God had fixed the problem without the brother of Jared asking Him for help, he might have thought it was just a coincidence, or good fortune, that the problem had been solved. No, God wanted to make sure the brother of Jared knew it was Him to whom he should look for blessings! By making the brother of Jared choose what God would do, the brother of Jared would not be able to deny it was God who performed the act when it actually happened. After the brother of Jared decided how he wanted the Lord to fix his problem, the Lord answered his prayer and request:
. . . touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in the darkness . . . And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger . . . (Ether 3:4, 6)
Now, not only did the brother of Jared have his problem solved, but he knew it was God who had solved it! And his testimony and faith grew as a result of this process. I realized that I would have to do the same thing. In order for me to know that what I was receiving actually came from God (and not by imagination or coincidence), I would have to choose how I wanted God to communicate with me that which I wanted: finding people to teach. Now I knew what I had to do, but I still had to decide how I wanted God to do it. The brother of Jared had asked God to touch stones with His finger to make them shine. I had to choose some specific way that God would communicate with me the knowledge I needed—where to find people to teach. My next answer came from a revelation given to Oliver Cowdery:
Yea, behold, 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. Now, behold, this is the Spirit of revelation . . . (D&C 8:2–3)
This is how I would have the Lord communicate with me the information I needed. I would have him tell me in my mind the area in which I was to work to find the people He wanted me to teach. Before I knelt down in prayer to communicate with God, I would review the different areas to which we had been assigned and bring them before the Lord; then, I would ask God to somehow let me know into which specific area we should go.
The first morning I attempted this great experiment was a real struggle. I had never attempted such a thing before and had no clue whether it would really work. However, I felt good about the process I had worked out and had faith that somehow God would work with me, even in my weakness. So I knelt down and began to pray. I prayed fervently to the Lord, explained my plan to communicate with Him, and begged him to agree. I tried to approach the Lord with confidence. I reviewed with the Lord how I had lived my life since I had come back into the Church, how I had faithfully followed the mission rules—even going the extra mile by getting up early and working hard. And, finally, I expressed my true conviction that I was not asking this for myself, but was asking so I could magnify my calling and bring souls to Him.
As I prayed, I could feel the presence of the Spirit and thus grew more and more confident before the Lord. Then I made my first request: I asked God to somehow help me picture in my mind the area He wanted me to work that morning. Then I simply began to run through my mind the different townships, boroughs, and even streets we had in our area. Time went on and nothing seemed to happen, so I concentrated harder. I focused all of my energy in trying to discern some difference in the names and places that ran through my mind; something, anything that would make one name stand out over another, but there was nothing. Finally, it became almost embarrassing. I had been on my knees for quite some time, and I knew I had to go out and work. So, almost as a guess, I picked the name of an area that seemed to be “brighter” in my mind than others. As I got up from my knees, I was greatly disappointed. I had expected so much more. As we prepared to leave the apartment to go to the area I had chosen during my prayer, and almost as an afterthought, I looked through my appointment book to see if we might have forgotten something. This was just a habit from my last area, since we had been getting in so few doors and none of them had been more than a one-discussion visit. To my surprise, we actually had a call-back visit written down for that day, a woman we had tracted who told us to come back in two or three weeks, so I had written it down and forgotten about it. And then it hit me. The call-back appointment was in the very same area I had chosen that morning during prayer! Hallelujah! God had indeed answered my prayers, in spite of my struggles and my doubts. I would not doubt again! When we went to that call-back, the woman let us in and we taught her the first discussion. It was the beginning of a miraculous transformation.
I had been in this area for about three months. In that time, we had taught hardly anyone and had not one family we could put down in our teaching pool, but that all changed. I began to pray three times a day seeking the Lord’s guidance as to where we should teach, in the morning before we left the apartment, at our lunchtime break, and at our dinnertime break. Each night, I would get on my knees to thank the Lord for the answers He had given me during the day. Within 30 days—one month—we had over 15 families in our teaching pool, all progressing towards baptism! We began to teach every day, almost all day long. Each day, my communication with the Lord became more and more clear, and the amount of time I had to spend on my knees to get the answers I sought was less and less. It never failed. From the first day I tried it until the end of my mission, it never failed me. Even after my mission, as I sought for and found my eternal companion and married her in the temple, it never failed me. Even now, the legacy of that moment, of that time of discovery, still lives on in my life.
You must do the same. As a missionary and servant of God, you can do the same. However, do not try to duplicate specifically what I did. I have learned over time that different people receive revelation from God in different ways. If you were to try exactly what I did, it might fail. You must find your own stone for God to touch with His finger. The process will be the same: choose a method with which you feel comfortable communicating with God, making it as simple, yet as specific, as possible. Do not make it complicated! What I mean is that if you get too complex, your mind will get lost in all the detail. For example, if you were to try and pick the specific house to go to, you would have so many houses to run through your mind it would be impossible to pick one. But if you make your request more general, like an area or a subdivision—something you will be able to do in a day’s time—then there will not be as much confusion in your mind and you will have better success. But make sure you do it your way. As with the brother of Jared, God wants you to choose how you will receive the answers to your prayers and requests, so you will know it comes from Him.
There is one more key to prayer you should understand. It is the importance of learning to use the great spiritual power that resides within us. First of all, we must ask God in the name of Christ. We have been told specifically to “seek ye earnestly the best gifts.”[v] We have been told specifically to ask so we can receive. God wants us to develop our faith. He wants us to be successful and experience the great powers we have at our disposal. It is part of His eternal plan for His children, so He will do whatever He can to insure our success.
To ask is one thing; to seek is a greater thing; and to knock at the very doors of heaven assures that those holy portals will be opened and that the desired blessings will be forthcoming. Those who take no thought save it be to ask are denied the blessing. “Let him ask of God . . . But let him ask in faith” is the divine decree (James 1:5–6; D&C 9:7–9). Nothing is withheld from those who seek the Lord with all their heart. Those whose search falls short of the utmost bounds to which it should extend shall not find the desired treasure. (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, Vol. 3, p. 188).
What does this mean? It means that when we pray for an answer or a blessing we must do so with great desire and intensity! It is not enough to say our prayers like we did as children: “Now I lay me down to sleep. . . .” We must consciously increase the power and mental exertion of our thoughts so we can break through the veil of heaven and insure our prayers are both heard and answered! This is not easy. It takes great desire and effort for someone to pray “with all their heart.” But if we truly desire to know, if we really need that blessing from God, then our faith will be effective and we will receive the desired result.
How to Pray as a Group
One of the most misunderstood principles about prayer is why we pray as a group and how to properly pray as a group. The most exalted form of prayer is to pray as a group within a prayer circle. Why? What is it about praying as a group that is better than praying as an individual? The answer is all about power.
Proper and intense prayer is nothing more than a person focusing his spiritual and mental powers on a subject or person. If his prayers are righteous and appropriate, they will be accepted by God, who will then enhance and magnify his personal power so that his prayers will be answered. When a group of people is praying, their combined spiritual and mental powers have more effect than one individual has. However, group prayer must be done correctly in order to be effective.
Just as any organization needs a leader, just as God has organized His Church with one Savior and one prophet, and each family has one head, when group prayers are said there must be one speaker. For example, if both missionary companions pray to find where to teach, there would inevitably be conflict and confusion. Therefore, only one companion should be designated to pray for guidance and thus only one companion should be expected to receive an answer. But what then does the other companion do? What does the rest of the congregation do when there is one person praying? The answer leads us to understand the proper way to conduct group prayers. It all has to do with power and focus.
The Prophet Joseph Smith first taught this principle to Hyrum Smith. Joseph explained that the other members of the group should focus their prayers and mental energy upon the person praying. Their spiritual power should be directed to the person praying with the intent that his prayer will be heard and answered. The person acting as voice becomes the conduit for the spiritual power of the group. The person praying also acts as the receptor for any knowledge or revelation coming to the group from God. As a group, we focus on the individual praying in order to insure he will receive an answer to his prayer on our behalf.
For example, we as a Church focus our prayers and spiritual power upon the prophet of the Church. Why? Because we want to insure the prophet will receive revelations from God for all of us. Each individual does not pray that God will reveal to each of us doctrine and direction for the Church. This would lead to chaos! Instead, we focus our prayers and powers as a group upon one person, the prophet. In return, God answers this group prayer by giving that one person, the prophet, the answers we are seeking. This is the proper way to proceed; this is how group prayer is supposed to be performed.[vi]
Let me give you a personal example of how this works. One day while looking at some land on which to build our home, we lost our 2-year-old daughter. We were in the middle of a heavily wooded area and when we turned around, she was gone. After some time of fruitless searching, we decided to kneel and pray as a family. Each of us knelt and tried to get an answer as to what to do and where to look for this child. After we each ended our prayers, each of us had a different answer as to what to do! This left us more confused and anxious! Just then, my wife remembered reading the story of Hyrum Smith and after she explained the principle of group prayer we decided to try it. It was decided that I would pray and all the other members of the family would focus their prayers on me. As I prayed to God for an answer, my family prayed for me, that I would receive the answer I was seeking. This time our group prayer worked. I was told very clearly to go to a phone and call the police immediately. We went to the nearest home and called the local police. They told me they already had our daughter and that she was sitting in a police car at the end of the street! One minute later, we were reunited with our daughter who was calmly devouring an ice cream cone (the family that found our daughter had immediately called the police to come get her). We learned a great principle that day, which will never be forgotten.
The Book of Prayers
One way to learn how the Spirit of God works and to learn whether your prayers are being effective is to keep a prayer book. This is a principle I learned from a little old lady in Cleveland. She was a faithful member of the Church who had the wonderful desire to help others. She was too old and poor to do anything else, so she turned to prayer. She had faith in God and knew He would do what she could not. Her faith was so great, she began keeping track of all of the things she prayed for, just to make sure everything was covered. She prayed for members of the ward who were sick or who were facing problems at home or at work. She prayed for her family members, neighbors, and friends—even perfect strangers, if she knew they needed help. She wrote down all of her prayer requests in a book, and each day she began her prayers by reciting each name and request that appeared on her list. As people were made well, as problems were solved, as friends and neighbors had their wishes and prayers answered, she put a check by their name: one more item off her list.
Of course her list was never completed, because she always added someone to the bottom of the list as she was made aware of new problems. Most people didn’t even know about this dear woman and her “prayer book.” She did it quietly, just a humble servant of God working behind the scenes to make people’s lives better. My wife and I had the privilege of being the recipients of the power of her prayers. We were moving back to Utah and, unknown to us, she put us on her list to have our home sell. We had been struggling for months to sell our home, but a short time after our names had been placed in her “prayer book” our home sold and my family was able to move. One more prayer answered, one more check in her book, one more item on her list completed.
A short time after our house sold, this good woman called my wife to chastise her. She complained we had not called to let her know our house had sold. When my wife told her yes, it had sold, and how grateful we were, this dear lady explained to my wife how she had put our names and the desire to sell our home into her prayer book. She explained it was very important she learn when her prayers had been answered so that she could check us off her list and thank God for answering her prayers. We learned a great deal from this sister.
This humble woman knew how to get things done. She knew how to pray and get answers to her prayers! By keeping track of her prayers and God’s answers, she learned how the Spirit of the Lord worked, she learned what didn’t work, and she learned the difference between them. She had also learned that gratitude to God was an important component in completing the prayer circle. A true prayer is not complete until we acknowledge that the answer to the prayer came from God—that it was not just a coincidence. We make that acknowledgement when we express our thanks to God for answering our prayers. She learned there are steps to prayer: asking, persistence, patience, receiving answers, acknowledgement, and gratitude. She had perfected a God-given talent and used it fully and graciously for others.
If the idea of a prayer book seems new, it isn’t. The Prophet Joseph Smith talked about this principle in learning how to receive and understand revelation:
A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the Spirit of Revelation; for instance, when you feel pure Intelligence flowing unto you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas—so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow unto the principle of Revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 151).
As you attempt to communicate with God by keeping record of your prayers and the insights you receive, and then watching for the signs that God is answering you, you will be able to learn how the process works. This is not easy; it takes time and great effort. But it will work if you persist.
After reading this section, some may have mixed feelings. Was I arrogant to think I could do the same thing as the brother of Jared and Alma? Some may consider themselves unworthy even to attempt this great blessing, as they look back on their lives and recognize the many sins they have committed. Perhaps you have not been living the mission rules as you should, or working as hard as you should. All of these thoughts are just excuses. It comes down to understanding the real meaning of humility.
Most people do not understand the real meaning of humility. They see humility only in one way, as Christ described it for two men praying:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:10–14)
Based on this scripture, many people believe the only way to be humble is to beat up themselves, emotionally and spiritually.[vii] They berate themselves about even the smallest transgression, thinking this abusive behavior will make them humble. In fact, it does just the opposite. It lowers a person’s self-esteem, destroys their self-confidence, and places them in a position of depression and sadness, ultimately leaving them vulnerable to the power of Satan. Not exactly the attitude a good missionary should have!
It (humility) is not self-abasement—the hiding in the corner, the devaluation of everything one does or thinks or says; but it is the doing of one’s best in every case and leaving of one’s acts, expressions, and accomplishments to largely speak for themselves. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 233)
God is kind and judges men with knowledge and love, not with a desire to punish and/or destroy. He can see within our soul, knows the intent of our heart, and understands that even though we are imperfect we are capable of doing great good. He permits us to serve Him, knowing that even though we may make mistakes, the good we do edifies both us and those we try to serve. There are times, after we have committed serious sins, like the publican in the scripture above, that we must smite our breasts with despair and let the pain we feel motivate us to repent. But most of the time, we simply need to beware of pride. We need self-esteem. We need self-confidence.[viii] We need to understand that as children of God we have inherited abilities far beyond our mortal understanding. We have the ability in this life to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. We have the ability to use our faith for good and to experience spiritual gifts and blessings. We have the innate ability to become like God; therefore, humility cannot be something that destroys our self-confidence and self-esteem. It cannot be something that will injure us. It must be something that has a positive effect on our lives.
Among the cardinal virtues of the gospel is the praiseworthy virtue of humility. . . . I interpret humility as being strength. Humility expresses itself in lowly service, in volunteering for any service which will ameliorate the conditions, particularly the spiritual conditions of mankind. Humility does not mean to grovel, to be a sycophant. Humility is inward strength outwardly expressed in good works. Great souls attain to humility. (Charles A. Callis, Conference Report, April 1942)
True humility is nothing more than seeing yourself as God sees you. If you see yourself as more than you really are, you have pride. If you see yourself less than you really are or, if you think that you are not worthy to receive the love and blessings of God, you are being self-destructive.
Like most things in life, the extremes at either end of the spectrum are never good. There is a straight and narrow path through the center of life that provides balance. This is the path we must find. This is the path the Savior walked. Christ did not think himself more than he was—he did not have pride. But neither did he think of himself as a terrible sinner, incapable of receiving the love of God. He knew who he was and what he was capable of. He knew when he needed help and when he could handle things himself. This is the same balance we must have in our lives.
In our time and in such settings, our need for virtues like humility and obedience will be very great. Humility is not the disavowal of our worth; rather, it is the sober realization of how much we are valued by God. Nor does true humility call for the denigration of what truth we already know; rather, it is the catching of one’s breath, as he realizes how very little that which we mortals presently know really is! (Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, p. 127)
Humility has the ability to see through both the flattery and derision of others. A servant of God seeks to please the Master, not others, and as a result becomes comfortable in the presence of God. A person with self-confidence before God is humble because he knows his place in life and does not worry about what others think or say.
When a person sees things as they are, flattery and reproach are all the same to him, he sees no difference. If he finds that he is pleasing God and his brethren, he is exceedingly rejoiced, and feels an increase of humility and resignation. When a man is proud and arrogant, flattery fills him with vanity and injures him; but it is not so when he is increasing in the faith of God. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 228)
Humility is not weakness but strength. One can be bold and meek at the same time. One can be courageous and humble. If the Lord was meek and lowly and humble, then to become humble one must do what he did in boldly denouncing evil, bravely advancing righteous works, courageously meeting every problem, becoming the master of himself and the situations about him and being near oblivious to personal credit. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 232)
How does one get humble? To me, one must constantly be reminded of his dependence. On whom dependent? On the Lord. How remind one’s self? By real, constant, worshipful, grateful prayer. . . . Humility is teachableness—an ability to realize that all virtues and abilities are not concentrated in one’s self. . . . (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 233)
As usual, it is only through inspiration that we can see ourselves as God sees us, and therefore have true humility. Only God can show to us our weaknesses and turn them into strengths.[ix] Only God can draw us out of our self-pity, shower blessings upon us, and give us the inward strength to go forward with faith.
[i] “The nearer we get to our heavenly Father the more are we disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls to take them upon our shoulders and cast their sins behind our back.” (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith, pg. 123)
[ii] Mosiah 2:22
[iii] Mosiah 27:14
[iv] John 15:14–15; D&C 84:63
[v] D&C 46:8
[vi] “There are times and places when all should vocally repeat the words spoken, but in our prayer meetings and in our family circles let every heart be united with the one who takes the lead by being mouth before the Lord, and let every person mentally repeat the prayers, and all unite in whatever is asked for, and the Lord will not withhold, but will give to such person the things which they ask for and rightly need.” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 44–45)
[vii] “Some of the company thought that I was not a very meek Prophet; so I told them: ‘I am meek and lowly in heart,’ and will personify Jesus for a moment, to illustrate the principle, and cried with a loud voice: ‘Woe unto you, ye doctors; woe unto you, ye lawyers; woe unto you, ye scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites!’ But you cannot find the place where I ever went that I found fault with their food, their drink, their house, their lodgings; no never; and this is what is meant by the meekness and lowliness of Jesus.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 270)
[viii] “Instead of pleading with the Lord to bestow more upon you, plead with yourselves to have confidence in yourselves, to have integrity in yourselves, and know when to speak and what to speak, what to reveal, and how to carry yourselves and walk before the Lord.” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, pg. 93)
[ix] Ether 12:27