When There are No Words, God Still Hears

God Still HearsLet’s face it, there are sometimes when we kneel to pray, and the words don’t come. There are times when someone else is suffering so badly that we can’t begin to know how to help, let alone respond. There are times when despite our best efforts, nothing works, and there is nothing we can do about it.

It’s at those times, I remind myself of this simple principle: when there are no words, God still hears.

I remember once talking to a woman once who was afraid to pray. It seemed that every time she tried, something would go wrong. Her life itself had paralyzed her from the ability to kneel and speak to God.

Though I couldn’t pretend to know what she was going through, I was having a pretty tough time myself at the time. Not knowing what else to say, I told her that I too, have had times when it was difficult to pray. For me it was never out of fear, but out of frustration, anger, guilt, or dismay.

“At those times,” I told her, “all I can seem to do is listen. If I have no words to say, I simply address my Father in Heaven and then listen in my heart. I know that our Father in Heaven can hear the words that we cannot say, and will answer those prayers. But pray to Him, even if all you can do is listen.”

At that time, I discovered the truth of Elder Packer’s words that “In your emotions, the spirit and the body come closest to being one,”* because as I spoke, the Spirit grew very strong, and I wept.

I know now that at those times of struggle, when I felt that there were no words to speak in my prayers, and I simply opened my prayer and then listened—my heart was speaking, even though my mind was silent. Since that conversation I’ve thought about that concept often. Sometimes my heart feels so empty that I feel that there is nothing to say. Sometimes I feel so ashamed that I can’t bare to speak a word—even in my mind. Sometimes I feel so hurt that I can’t find the words to speak.

Through such experiences, I have discovered something about our Father in Heaven. He is the most perfect listener in the universe. He can hear words that are not even spoken in the mind. I wonder sometimes if the spirit of a person communicates in a different way than by language. I wonder if it speaks through feelings and concepts. Whether or not this is the case, I know that our Father in Heaven hears those feelings as clearly as if I’d shouted them out loud.

I wouldn’t suggest that our prayers ought not include words. I believe that these things are necessary to building and strengthening our relationship with God, especially in offering thanks, petitioning for the Lord’s help, and in the repentance process. I believe that prayer should include entire conversations with Heavenly Father. But on those rare moments when we cannot seem to say the words, whatever the reason, if we open our prayer and simply listen for a few minutes, we will hear and learn things that we may have never been able to learn in any other way.

By our becoming acquainted with God’s beautiful power to listen to the words we do not speak, we will learn to listen to the finer, purer, wordless messages that He sends so regularly to our hearts.

(Boyd K. Packer, “Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” Liahona, Jun 1997, 8)

If You Knew Who You Really Are…

If you knew who you really are…

You’d forgive.
You’d love life.
You’d smile more.
You’d stop hesitating.
You’d give more freely.
You’d never doubt again.
You’d never fear the future.
You’d be willing to make the hard choices.
You’d recognize others for who they really are.
You’d be content with the reflection in the mirror.
You’d turn every day into something worth remembering.

If you knew who God really is…

You’d make every day something for the world to remember.
You’d be confident with the reflection in the mirror.
You’d see Christ in the face of everyone you meet.
You’d make the hard choices without question.
You’d be excited about the future.
Your faith would move mountains.
You’d give Him your everything.
You’d forever move forward.
You’d make people happy.
You’d radiate love.
You’d forgive all.

If you don’t know who you are, ask God, and He will show you to you. Do what He says, and He will show Himself to you.

And you’ll never be the same again.

Preparing for General Conference

 If you want a great pattern for preparing for LDS General Conference, re-read Mosiah 2. This is the chapter where King Benjamin is about to present his son as the new king and give his last sermon. But the first part of the chapter talks about how the people prepared for his talk. Check out what they did, and notice how it can apply to us as we prepare for conference:

1 And it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.

The first thing they did? Show up! They came! We’ll read later that the words were written down for those who couldn’t hear, but the people didn’t wait for it to come out in the Ensign. They were present. That doesn’t mean you have to be at the conference center, but it will help a lot if you are at your TV or radio at the time it’s taking place.

3 And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;

Obviously we don’t do animal sacrifices, but do you remember what Jesus said replaced burnt offerings? A broken heart and a contrite spirit. Approach general conference in a spirit of humility, repentance, and sacrifice, and not only will the experience be awesomer, but you’ll change what the Lord asks you during conference to change, and you’ll be what the Lord asks you to be.

4 And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.

Carry a spirit of gratitude. If you’re struggling to feel spiritually motivated, either about the gospel or the things taught in the gospel, take a half hour and go for a walk, or find a quiet place to kneel. Pray to your Father in Heaven and just list off to Him the things you’re grateful for. “I thank thee for…” “I thank thee that…” “I’m so grateful that…”

At first it may feel forced, but keep it up until you are filled with gratitude. You’ll be amazed how powerful gratitude is in increasing spiritual desire. Approach general conference with a spirit of gratitude, and you’ll see a huge difference.

5 And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another.


Involve the family. If possible, watch together, and don’t shoosh people when they interrupt to say something relevant to the talk. They are likening the words to you and your loved ones–that’s what you’re supposed to do. Experiencing conference together builds the family up, and reminds all how much the Savior is a part of your family. And, yes, conference bingo is good, too.

6 And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them;

However you are watching, face the speaker. Face the TV, radio, or computer, where the talk is happening. Not only will it send a message to your own brain that this is important (thus helping you pay attention), but it will help others see how much you want to be involved. They are less likely to ask you to come help them clean up the garage, because they will see that doing so would interrupt. If you’re listening passively to the background radio, your likely to get distracted and/or interrupted.


8 And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words.

Don’t just suck in the words and expect them to stay. Take notes! Bring a notebook, portable device, or computer to write down things that catch your attention. Even more important, write down thoughts that the Spirit gives you while you listen. That is God’s revelation to you personally. You can trust that the guidance will come, but if you have no way to record it when it happens, you’ll forget. Believe me, no matter how powerful the experience, if you don’t record it, you will forget.

If for whatever reason you can’t be present for conference, take advantage of the many means the church has provided to review it. The Internet archives are available immediately, so you don’t have to wait for the Ensign. The video is up within minutes after the session ends. The audio will be available within a day or so, and the text will be up within a week. Don’t miss conference. If you can’t attend, make sure a week doesn’t pass before you’ve watched or read the entire four sessions (or five, if you’re a guy).

Never in the history of the world has there been such remarkable tools for reviewing the words of God. Even after you do watch the whole program, either live or afterward, go back through and read more carefully. The first time through is a marathon. The second time through, go through carefully, deliberately, taking the time necessary to learn all that you can from the talks. If you have a portable device or laptop, download the audio and listen to it often. Read the words, cross-referencing with the given links.

Do these things, and this may be the best conference you’ve ever participated in.

How to Pray Sincerely when You REALLY Don’t Feel Like It

Image by More Good Foundation on flickr

The scriptures talk a lot about keeping prayer sincere – about praying with all your heart, with real intent, and that we should pray fervently every day. We know that an insincere prayer is not as meaningful or as beneficial as the heartfelt, faith-filled prayer.

So what do you do when it’s time for evening prayers, and you’re just not feeling into it. Of course it might help to just start praying, and see if you start feeling better about it, but if you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to be “fervent” when you’re exhausted or in a bad mood. What do you do then? How can you pray sincerely, or with real intent, if you’re just not feeling it?

Our Heavenly Father is a person. He’s human – albeit a perfect, all-powerful, omniscient human, but he’s a human being. He knows that we will not constantly have a burning desire to be constantly serving and demonstrating love. But He does want us to talk with Him, openly and honestly. Besides, the commandment is not, “Feel really spiritual inside so you can pray with real intent of heart.” The commandment is, “Pray with real intent of heart.”

If you can’t pray with all your heart because your heart doesn’t feel like praying, tell your Heavenly Father something like, “Father, I know I need to pray with all of my heart, and I know I need greater motivation than I do so I can do what’s required of me, but I’m not feeling it right now. Please bless me with that motivation. Please bless me with righteous desires. I don’t feel it, Father, please, help me to feel gratitude, love, and whatever feelings are necessary for my prayers to be truly sincere. Help me know what I need to do to have the motivation and love to fulfill my assignments in a way that is beyond just going through the motions. And if not, please bless me with the character to do what I’m supposed to anyway.”

Fish Philosophy

Imagine you are a fish in a pond.

While in school, your teacher tries to convince you that it is impossible to see through water.  Of course this seems ridiculous to you at first, but then he stirs up the mud at the bottom of the pond.  Soon the entire pond is completely clouded.  You cannot even see the fish around you or the teacher.  “See?”  Your teacher says, “you are in water and you cannot see.  Now you know that it is impossible to see through water.”

Some of you and your classmates recognize that it is not water that is blocking your vision, but the mud that your teacher spread in front of you that makes it impossible to see.  You recognize that when the mud settles, you will again be able to see again like normal, because the mud and water will again be separated.

But some of the fish begin to feel confused and lost.  In panic, they turn to the teacher for help.  The teacher replies, “The only safe place is the bottom of the pond.  At least there, you can feel something beneath you.”  They follow, because they don’t know what else to do.

As the mud settles, they are buried in the mud.  Their “new perception” that mud is the same as water is therefore confirmed in their minds, and they remain in the much ever after.

Though unhappy in their new state, they pride themselves on their new understanding, wondering how they could have ever been deluded into thinking that what they once experienced was sight.  They scoff at the fish above, swimming happily about the pond.  They mock them, telling them that their childish belief in “Clear” water is just a tradition that their parents convinced them of.  They say, “Yeah, we once thought as you do, but now we see what water really is.  Sight is an illusion.  You cannot trust your senses.  The only safe place is the bottom of the pond.”

The wise know the difference between the mud and the water.

AudioBlog/Passing Thoughts: 30 Sep 2010

Passing Thoughts 28 Sep 2010

I think I’ll call my audio blog entries Passing Thoughts, just because the word AudioBlog sounds blah. This time a share some passing thoughts on fulfilling dreams and bucket lists.

Whatsoever you shall ask the Father… it shall be granted you

There are few messages repeated as frequently in the scriptures as this; ask and ye shall receive. But have you ever noticed how often this similar message is written in the scriptures – “Whatsoever you shall ask the Father… it shall be granted you”?

It’s in there a TON. So how exactly does it work? Do we just ask? You might say, “What’s the catch?”

Well, there’s no catch. The scriptures make that clear. But there are conditions, or qualifiers that must be in place for the promise to be fulfilled. What are those qualifiers?

A few years ago I compiled a list of all the scriptures I could find that carried this message, with all the qualifying statements. In other words, if the verse said, “whatsoever ye ask in faith, ye shall receive,” then I would write down, “in faith,” and count how many other scriptures listed faith as a qualifier for the promise.

In the end, I came up with a list of all the qualifiers I could find, and this was the result:

They are listed in order of their frequency.

7 Times (meaning there are 7 different scripture verses that list this as a qualifier)

Ask in the name of Christ

Believing that ye shall receive

6 Times

In faith

3 Times

Doubting nothing

2 Times

If thou wilt turn unto me

Which is right

Hearken unto my voice

Believe

Repent of all thy transgressions

Be baptized

Ask not amiss

Ask according to the will of God

Ask in the Spirit

1 Time

Believe in Christ

Which is good

Being united in prayer according to my command

If ye are purified and cleansed from all sin

In prayer

Know good and evil

Not harden your hearts

With diligence in keeping my commandments

It shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you

Be thou humble

Now I can’t say that the importance of each qualifier is based on how many times it’s written in the scriptures. I don’t know if that’s the case or not. But the things that are repeated over and over in scripture aught to get our attention. Things like believing that He really will answer, asking in the name of Jesus Christ (we sometimes underestimate the power in that), and asking in real faith. Sometimes it’s that last one that throws people, so they think they don’t qualify for the promise. But remember faith is strengthened as it is exercised in righteousness.


Beauty is in the Eye of God

I’m not sure where media came up with the idea that beauty has something to do with weight, but it’s not true. Actually, I think media has knowingly taken upon itself the role to make sure that the general population is ugly. In reality, they know nothing about beauty at all. The problem is, they’ve convinced us that their “standards” of beauty should be sought at all costs.

As a rather ugly guy, I’ve actually thought a lot about this. The world’s whole approach is to create totally meaningless standards that can only be met by the consumption of products and services that only they can provide. The only way they can keep the demand so disgustingly high is to make sure that 90% of the population is way below the expectation.

All the while, God keeps telling us, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; …for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

Of course, the world has to make itself louder than the voice of the Spirit in order to maintain it’s powerful status. But Beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder. It is in the eye of God. God cares nothing about physical attractiveness, but he cares a great deal about the beauty that comes of bearing children, which naturally causes some flabbiness and increase of skin and weight.

Have you ever noticed that a mother carries a brightness in her eyes that is very obvious and beautiful – and unique to mothers? It first shows up when she is pregnant, and those who know the feature can often figure out she is pregnant before the slightest belly begins to show. And it’s beautiful! So why do we not see it? For the same reason that we turn our heads at the sound of a coin drop, while not noticing the dozens of bird songs surrounding us. The world has done its job well, training us that beauty is in features that it has chosen, and we are the unhappy recipients of its lies. There is a reason that satan is called the father of lies, as well as the prince of this world. He directs the world in its quest to keep the population depressed.

But you can be the exception. You can learn to see beyond the world’s ridiculous aspirations, and see beauty, including your own, as God sees it! The moment you ask God for His view on things, He’ll open to you a whole new vision that is so much more beautiful, so much more exciting, and so much more fulfilling than ANYTHING the world has to offer.

Once you see things that way, you may glance back, and see all the myriads clamoring for another lost pound, another lost wrinkle, or another face-lift. There’s a reason those clamorers are depressed. There’s a reason they can never seem to grasp what dangles just before them at every moment, and it’s not because they are too ugly or too fat, or even too sinful. It is simply because they have let satan distract them from something that he can NEVER have – true, eternal beauty.

Under his direction, the world shouts, “You’re too baggy, you’re hideous, you’re too wrinkly!” All the while he is silently scared to death that you will notice the real beauty that is you, because the moment you see that, he has no power over you.

That is the moment when life becomes grand and beautiful. That’s the moment that you realize that you are already living your “happily ever after.” That’s the moment you realize that all of your dreams are already being fulfilled.

Don’t let satan distract you from that. God knows who you really are, and is anxiously waiting for you to ask Him about it so He can explain it to you. You may know it already in theory, and you may have heard it over and over in Sunday school, but you should hear His personal explanation of it to you. I promise it’s worth the asking.

– and don’t let up until He tells you everything.

When the Night Came: The Meaning Behind the Music

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When the Night Came

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Enos

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.

4 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.

5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.

6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.

7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?

8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.

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