Over the years, I’ve learned loads of things at Church. In my adult years, though – like many life-long members of the LDS Church I’m sure – very little has come from the actual words spoken in meetings and lessons. Because those who speak to, or teach us, in Church have to cater for a wide range of gospel understanding, our lessons and sermons tend to be fairly basic in content; with lessons getting recycled every four years.
I still enjoy them, though, for a couple of reasons. First, on odd occasions I’m able to make a contribution to a topic which I hope others find helpful (certainly others make contributions which I find helpful). Second – and relevant for this post – the things I learn are most often from words that are not audible. They are from the words and feelings that come directly into my mind.
That was the case today. The sermons in our main worship meeting were on the subject of prayer and while what the speakers had to say was good, there was something else I learned on the subject; something they didn’t talk about. A phrase came directly to my mind which cause me to ponder quite deeply; to examine myself and my approach to prayer. It is something which will change the way I approach my Heavenly Father when I kneel before him in my solitude. It affects the power of my prayers.
Prophets ancient and modern have repeated the exhortation that we pray. It was one of the Saviour’s repeated commandments both while in his mortal life, as well as in his post-resurrection ministry. We have recorded examples of prayers He gave both in His teachings as well as from His own moments speaking to His Father. There is so much we can learn from that example, although that would be a different post.
So, too, a discussion about how our efforts to keep the commandments, and the covenants we make with Him, can add power to our prayers would be a separate topic.
No, the phrase that came to me while I sat in Church today was quite different from any of these, although I think it complements them nicely. The phrase is this:
The power of our prayers is proportionate to the yearning of our souls.
We often talk about how it’s important that our prayers are meaningful; about how we need to be sincere in what we say lest we fall into vain repetition. But I’d never quite thought of it in terms of yearning before today.
We can think of the ‘yearning of our souls’ in two ways. First, it could be the degree to which we yearn for something. Alternatively, it could be the subject of our yearning. I think both apply.
If we yearn to win the Euro Lottery millions so that we can spend the rest of our lives on luxury cruises, then I don’t think any degree of yearning in prayer is going to achieve heaven’s help. Equally, if our yearning is for righteousness, but that yearning is inconsistent, and isn’t accompanied with a will to act, then our prayers will also lack power.
If, however, the object of our yearning is a righteous one, and is strong, then surely our prayers will be earnest and will be answered with an increase in God’s power manifest in our lives (even if the when, and how, may not be what we expect).
And that, I think, is the key to making my own prayers more effective. What are the things my soul yearns for? These are the things that should be the focus of my prayers. My mind certainly can’t wander if I am expressing those things that bear the greatest weight on my heart. If vocalising them to my Father in Heaven causes me shame or embarrassment then that is a clear indication that my soul is focussed on the wrong things. On the other hand, if my heart’s greatest desires are things the Lord would smile upon, then surely my prayers will have far greater meaning if those are the things I talk to Him about.
At times in my life that may be that the suffocating despair and hopelessness that encompasses me be removed. At times less dark it will be for angels to protect my family, and for a greater capacity to do what is right.
For the prophet Nephi, it was for his people, “For I pray for them continually by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.” (2 Nephi 33:3) Hundreds of years later, several of His disciples desired that when their ministries ended, “…we may speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom.” (3 Nephi: 28:2) For the Saviour Himself, it was, “Thy will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
And so it is that I am grateful for the voice of the Spirit that spoke to me at Church today, whispering those words so clear. It was certainly a message for me, that will help me to focus more in those precious moments when I address my Heavenly Father. And as the years pass, I hope that my yearnings will increasingly grow aligned to His. For that is when our prayers truly will call His power into our lives.