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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Question: How do you "prep" yourself for prayer?

OK, all of you "The Perfect Day" readers.  Here's a question for you from one of our anonymous readers:
"One of my own personal difficulties, in relating to prayer, esp. evening prayers, is that it's so hard for me to get into the frame of mind to pray in a way that I really feel close to Heavenly Father in closing out my day. I think it has to do mostly with 'well...I set out this morning with all these great ambitions and look how I didn't achieve it, again.' Is there anything you do to 'prep' yourself for prayer? I've tried reading my scriptures and singing hymns before I pray but for some reason those nightly prayers -- reporting back when I always have something that I've messed up on (even though there's good stuff in there too) -- are always harder to feel the closeness for me.

Just wondering what you think. How can I let go and prepare myself better to pray when every night I just feel disappointed in all the things I've done wrong?

Thanks,

M"
OK, my friends, let's ponder an answer to help M, and post replies via the "Comments" link below.

I look forward to reading your thoughts as soon as possible!

-- The Perfect Day

P.S.  If you have any more questions or comments you'd rather not post here, feel free to use the new "E-mail The Perfect Day" link to the right.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Have you been forgetting this in your evening prayers?



What is *not* known by most members of the church are three words which, when heeded and lived, will transform your life significantly and practically ensure daily spiritual experiences for the rest of your life: RETURN AND REPORT.

When I was on my mission -- and I don't know where I learned it, I just did -- I learned the importance of 'return and report'. In my nightly prayers, I went to Father and said, 'Here's what I did today. Here's what I was proudest of. Here's where I think I botched things up'. What was interesting was when I'd wait to 'sense' feedback. It was so beautiful. I'd sense enthusiastic words and phrases at my accomplishments, and gentle and tender understanding at my failures. It was almost as if I were sensing, 'That's okay. What are some of the things WE can work on to turn this into a success?'

After discussing options with Heavenly Father, I would notice my heart would change. I would want to do better. I would then recommit myself to do better when that situation arises again, and ask Father to bring to my recollection that I am re-encountering a scenario which I had failed earlier, giving me both the insight and strength I need to emerge the victor over a situation I had previously failed in.

This "evening return and report" concept is nothing new. Pres. N. Eldon Tanner once stated:
"I can never begin to express my gratitude to my parents for teaching me this important principle. My father really knew how to talk to the Lord, and made him seem so real and near to us. He would pray in the morning: "Let thy blessings attend us as we go about our duties, that we may do what is right and return tonight to report to thee." (N. Eldon Tanner, "Importance and Efficacy of Prayer," Ensign, Aug. 1971, 2)

"This always gave us greater strength to meet and overcome temptations for we knew that we would be reporting to the Lord at night. I am going to report to the Lord tonight, I used to think. And this thought helped me to live a better life during the day." (N. Eldon Tanner, "Friend to Friend: Reporting to Father," Friend, June 1973, p. 8)
During these Return and Report sessions, 
"We can monitor our own progress and discern the gains we make and the patterns in which we are vulnerable to temptation. I am indebted to a wise old friend (both in years and in association) of another faith who taught me to take an active interest in learning about the patterns in my life and how temptations occurred. He struggled a long time with some of his temptations and finally decided to take a proactive interest. He tried to anticipate where in his life he might encounter that "old trickster devil" again. He became a good scout. He watched the terrain of his life and could tell where it looked like his own form of quicksand might be. He rerouted and gave up trying to see how close he could get to that quicksand without getting caught." (Marie Cornwall and Susan Howe, eds., Women of Wisdom and Knowledge: Talks Selected from the BYU Women's Conferences, p.114)
As we do this, we not only draw closer to the Lord, but we also find ourselves becoming more empowered to forsake and overcome sin. "We find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord" (President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Oct. 1989, p. 5) -- thus fulfilling the promise made in Ether 12:27 -- "… if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.… my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

In fact, because we are not being compelled to repentance, but are actively seeking to do so, we gain a confidence, an assurance, a positiveness denied to most mortals.  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once stated, 
“Repentance is not a foreboding word. It is, following faith, the most encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. Repentance is simply the scriptural invitation for growth and improvement and progress and renewal. You can change! You can be anything you want to be in righteousness.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” BYU Devotional Address, 18 March 1980).
Also,
"As you kneel in humility before our Father daily, tell him openly of your progress, and also of your fears and doubts. As you draw near to Him, He draws near to us. He gives us peace and encouragement. He heals our souls." (Elder Bruce D. Porter, "Searching Inward," Ensign, Nov. 1971, 65).

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Just "Read" the Scriptures


I'd like you to open up your scriptures to D&C 1:37.
"We read: 'Search these commandments,' [It doesn't say, 'Read these commandments,' it doesn't say, 'Study these commandments,' it says, 'Search.' That includes the footnotes.]

‘for they are true and faithful’  [which means dependable or trustworthy]

‘and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.'" (Elder Jacob de Jager, "Perfecting The Saints", BYU Fireside talk, Feb. 5, 1989).
"SEARCH the scriptures" is a commandment (see John 5:39), not a suggestion.
John 5:39 -- "Search the scriptures..."
Acts 17:11 -- "searched the scriptures daily..."
2 Tim. 2:15 -- "Study the word of truth..."
Jacob 7:23 -- "Searched the scriptures..."
Mosiah 1:7 -- "Remember to search them diligently..."
Alma 33:2 -- "Ye ought to search the scriptures..."
3 Ne 10:14 -- "he that hath the scriptures, let him search them...."
3 Ne 20:11 -- "Search them..."
3 Ne 23:1 -- "Search these things diligently..."
D&C 1:37 -- "Search these commandments..."
And this, from The Prophet Joseph Smith:
“Search the scriptures—search the revelations … and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 11–12.)
Also,
It is not enough to read the scriptures. Random reading results in reduced retention. We must search for specifics. We must seek for truth and increased understanding of its application in our lives.” (Elder Lionel L. Kendrick, “Search the Scriptures,” April 1993 General Conference; emphasis mine)
"Searching" does not imply reading a book from the beginning to the end. How often have you read “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents …” (1 Ne. 1:1) and not gotten to the end?
"The word 'search' means to inquire into, study, and examine for the purpose of discovering the meaning. Searching implies more than just reading or even memorizing." (Marion G. Romney, "Records of Great Worth," Ensign, Sept. 1980, 3; emphasis mine).
A few questions:
  1. What should we search for?   
  2. What are we commanded to seek for "earnestly"?
  3. How is that earnest seeking for that particular thing (or things) coming?
  4. What did I NOT mention about seeking the scriptures?

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Satan Can't Read Your Mind


The Lord commands us to "… pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private" (D&C 19:28). 

I believe this scripture is telling us that there's a time to pray vocally, and a time not to.  I would think those times when it's appropriate to pray vocally include church meetings, family prayer and other instances in which more than one person is participating in the prayer. 

However, there are also times when we should pray in our heart.  I would think these times are more individualized in nature.

Perhaps for those who have received their endowments, the concept that Lucifer is able to hear vocal prayers carries added significance.  

We also learn in the scriptures that "there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and intents of thy heart."  (D&C 6:16)

Thus, it stands to reason that if we want Satan to hear something, vocalize it.  Conversely, if we only want God to hear something, utter it non-vocally.

"It is clear, then, that Satan and his followers, who have been cast out of God’s presence and are dead to His Spirit, are excluded from those who, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, may know the thoughts and the intents of our hearts.

So, in his wisdom and mercy, God has provided a channel of communication between him and his children on earth that Satan, our common enemy, cannot invade. This is the channel of secret prayer. The significance of this to the Latter-day Saint is profound, for by this means we are able to communicate with our Heavenly Father in secrecy, confident that the adversary cannot intrude.

Often, we talk too much. We say things that need not be said or should not be said; for in saying them, we may open a crevice which enables Lucifer to wedge his way into our lives. We learn from 2 Nephi that Satan “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Ne. 2:27; emphasis mine)

Satan and his followers are persistent in their quest to drag us down to their level. They will use any device or artifice to accomplish their end. If they see from our words or actions evidence of animosity or hatred or discord among us, they may capitalize on them in ways which will be detrimental to us.

Wisdom suggests, therefore, that we suppress words and actions which might enable Satan to harm us or whose tendency might be to create discord or enmity." (Elder Francis M. Gibbons, The Dual Aspects of Prayer, Ensign (CR), November 1991, p.78)

Indeed, as the hymn states,

There is an hour of peace and rest,
Unmarred by earthly care;
’Tis when before the Lord I go
And kneel in secret prayer.

[Chorus]
May my heart be turned to pray,
Pray in secret day by day,
That this boon to mortals giv’n
May unite my soul with heav’n.

The straight and narrow way to heav’n,
Where angels bright and fair
Are singing to God’s praise, is found
Thru constant secret prayer.

When sailing on life’s stormy sea,
’Mid billows of despair,
’Tis solace to my soul to know
God hears my secret prayer.

When thorns are strewn along my path,
And foes my feet ensnare,
My Savior to my aid will come,
If sought in secret prayer.

Some observations:

a.      Sometimes, we find it difficult to pray because evil is present in our home. If so, before you begin your silent prayer, pray OUT LOUD that evil may be cast from your area, that the spirit of the Lord may be clearly heard and discerned, and that light and truth may exist in your area, pushing away that which is darkness and evil. Then, when you feel light, when you feel warmth, begin your silent prayer.

b.      Silent prayer requires a tremendous amount of focus or discipline. Rarely are you going to succeed in giving, say, a 20-minute silent prayer right off the bat without some amount of mental drift. Therefore, approach silent prayer like weightlifting (for in a sense, silent prayer is SPIRITUAL weightlifting). Start with smaller weights, for example, focusing in silent prayer for 2-3 minutes. Then the next time, try to do a silent, focused prayer for 3 minutes. Take it step by step.

c.      In order to stay focused, you may want to try this technique: Visualize Father on His throne, looking down at you, listening attentively. Focus on HIM. By doing so, you will see Him in your mind's eye (as distinguished from actually being in His presence). 

It is no small thing to visualize yourself approaching the throne of a God. When Father is with you, evil is nowhere present. It cannot be.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How To Conquer Any Overwhelming Obstacle

In Numbers 13, we read that Moses sent 12 spies representing the 12 tribes of Israel to scout out the land of Canaan and give a full report to the congregation. After the scouts had explored the entire land, they brought back samples of the fruit of the land; most notably a gigantic cluster of grapes which required two men to carry it on a pole between them. The scouts then reported to Moses and the congregation that "the land indeed is a land flowing with milk and honey," but 10 of the 12 spies discouraged the Israelites from even attempting to possess the land, for they reported that the men -- the Anakim (or Anakites) -- were taller and stronger than the Israelites, and that they felt like grasshoppers in their presence. 

Hence, in Deuteronomy 9:2, we read, "A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak!"

Despite their overwhelming size, the Book of Joshua states that Joshua finally expelled them from the land, excepting a remnant that found a refuge in the cities of Gaza, Gath (ever heard of Goliath?  He was from Gath) and Ashdod.

We hear similar reports today.  In modern-day terms, it would be,

"You've heard the news: the economy is down. The stock market is low. You can't be blessed. You can't be successful this year."

or

"You've heard what the medical report said -- you're never going to get well now."

or

"You remember what the coach said about you -- you're not talented enough.  You don't have what it takes to play on the team."

The next time someone says something is too big to be conquered, or the next time your own thoughts try to convince you how impossible it all is, just answer back that, "Yes it may look impossible!  Yes, they may be bigger!  All the odds are against me.  I'm not denying the facts of the truth.  But I'm not worried about it.  I know God has the final say, and he is bigger than all those giants combined."

We all face situations that seem as impossible as conquering a giant.  It's easy to get discouraged and think things are never going to work out.  The scriptures talk about how God is going before us, making our crooked places straight.  That means you may not have the connections right now to accomplish your dreams. But you don't have to worry; God is going before you, lining up the right people. He's arranging the right breaks, the right opportunities. You may have lost your job or had your hours cut back.  It's easy to get negative and think nothing is ever going to change. 

You have to realize that loss is not a surprise to God. He's not up in the heavens, scratching his head, going "Oh no, what am I going to do now?" No, God has already written every day of your life in His book.  He knew exactly when that setback would occur. And the good news is, He's already arranged a comeback.  Before you had a problem, God already had a solution.  He is
going before you and promised He will fight your battles.  He is preparing the next chapter of your life. 

Just know that sometimes, God's solution to your challenge may not be one that you've anticipated.  I've found that usually, God will provide one of two solutions: He will either calm the storm, or He will let the storm rage, and calm His child.

Stay in faith. Keep the right attitude. When those thoughts come saying "you'll never accomplish your dreams" or "you're never going to be happy at work," just turn it around and make a declaration of faith.  Say, "I'm going to overcome this addiction quicker than I think", "I'm going to get better quicker than I'm told", "I'm going to accomplish my dreams much quicker than I think."  THAT faith will determine your destiny.

If you will stay on the high road, constantly declaring your faith (even if it's to yourself) and just keep being your best, you will see the hand of God -- and more -- in amazing ways.  It may not happen overnight, but at the right time, in your due season, God will not only move the wrong people out of the way, but He will also pay you back for every injustice.  He will make up for lost time and get you just where you're supposed to be.

"Who can stand before the children of Anak?"

With God on your side, you can.  And you will.


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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Symphonies

There is a story about a five year old boy who loved the piano.

Although he'd never had lessons or any kind of formal training, anytime he got a chance, he would sit down and play it.

He was often told that he was too small, too young to play the piano. But despite those comments, he continued to practice and practice.

In time, the only song he knew how to play was "chopsticks".

Just a very simple tune. But he played it again and again.

One day, his father surprised him. He purchased tickets for them to go to the symphony and hear a world-renowned Italian pianist -- one of the greatest piano players alive.

As they were walking to their seats there in the auditorium, the little boy saw the beautiful grand piano behind the curtain. While no one noticed, he snuck over and sat down on the piano bench and began to play his childlike version of chopsticks.

About that time, the curtain began to rise. Even though everyone thought they were going to see this world famous master pianist, they instead saw a little boy hunched over the piano playing "chopsticks".

He was so caught up in his world, he didn't know anybody was watching. When he realized what was happening, he was nervestruck.

Then, just as he was about to get up and run offstage, he felt two big arms reaching around him with the hands landing on the piano keys.

It was the master pianist.

And as the little boy continued to play his simple rendition of "chopsticks", this world renown pianist began to play a Beethoven symphony piece that was scored in the same cadence and the same key.

Under the direction of the master, he brought the rest of the orchestra in.

First he brought in the woodwinds, then the brass, then the percussion.

The boy's father sat there with tears coming down his cheeks.

He couldn't believe what he was hearing.

He never dreamed that simple tune that he heard in his living room each day would no longer sound like "chopsticks", but now it would become a full, beautifully orchestrated, Beethoven symphony.

What was the difference?

The Master stepped in.

These blog posts are of, by and for you -- that scared, lonely child who at one time or another may have felt like you didn't have the talent, the wisdom, the know-how, in fact the worthiness, to be worthy of the presence of the Master.

They're also about the what happens when your fingers combine with our Elder Brother's, and the exquisitely beautiful symphony that will chime in, at just the right times, that will leave you not only awestruck, but also able to personally testify that the Master indeed lives.

For your natural abilities, combined with his super abilities, can and will bring about supernatural wonders in our lives.

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