Reg Christensen lives in the Midwest with his wife, Carol. They have seven children and seventeen grandchildren. Reg has fulfilled a variety of callings in the Church and he and Carol have been blessed with many service opportunities as Pathway missionaries and service volunteers at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, to mention a few. While living in Jerusalem, they served in the Bethlehem branch, Carol as the Relief Society president and Reg as the branch president. His happy times come from being with family and friends, reading, writing, woodworking, leathercrafting, exploring nature, and blessing lives with his handyman skills. He has published several books including, Unlocking Isaiah: Lessons and Insights that Draw Us to the Savior.

Enter Reg…

A classic Disney movie, Snowball Express, portrays a family who gave up their city life to take over an inherited, run-down, abandoned ski lodge/hotel.

In preparing the ski slope for business, the father finds an old donkey steam engine he hopes to use to tow skiers to the top of the mountain but must first solve the challenge of getting the engine itself installed part-way up the slope. As he goes throughout the community trying to engage various people with equipment to accomplish the task, his young son keeps tugging at his dad’s coat in his effort to speak to him, only to be shooed away with, “Not now son, I am busy.” A t the end of the day, as the father sits down discouraged at his failure to solve his problem, his wife hands him a little note from his son who had long since gone to bed. The note simply asked, “Dear Dad, if a donkey engine can pull a 6-ton log out of the woods, why can’t it pull itself up the hill? Respectfully, Your Son, Richard.”

Problem solved.

They rig and anchor a long heavy-duty rope and pulley system and watch gleefully as the steam engine pulls itself up the mountain.

Unfortunately, we are often like the dad in this example. We scurry around and expend much time and energy in search of solutions to our life-challenges, while the true answers may lie within our simple grasp through a humble, prayerful petition to our Heavenly Father. He stands ready to guide and inspire us in all our worthy dilemmas and life pursuits.

Cry Unto Him

Amulek counseled,

“Therefore, may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you; Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save. Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him. Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks. Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies. Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness. Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them. Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase. But this is not all; y must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.” Alma 34:17-26

Of course, we are not to spend all our time in prayer; after our sincere petitions, we arise and go to work in faith to accomplish the good cause we have prayed about. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught,

“Sometimes we expect Heavenly Father to answer our prayers when all we have done is utter a prayer. The doors of heaven will ever be closed to those who hold out their hands waiting for the blessings of heaven to drop from heaven upon them.“

Amulek affirmed the need for constant effort to remember the Lord and His designs for us, even as we go about our labors.

“Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.” Alma 34:27

Spiritually Creating Our Day

Elder David A. Bednar taught us a meaningful way to approach each day in prayerful petition for our welfare and that of others. He suggested that, just as our Heavenly Parents created all things spiritually before the actual physical creation, we, in our morning prayers, can plan or “spiritually create” our day in such a way that we are more likely to succeed in reaching our desired goals. Elder Bednar said,

“In a similar way, meaningful morning prayer is an important element in the spiritual creation of each day—and precedes the temporal creation or the actual execution of the day. Just as the temporal creation was linked to and a continuation of the spiritual creation, so meaningful morning and evening prayers are linked to and are a continuation of each other.”

Elder Bednar then went on to describe a prayerful way to end our day and prepare for the next:

“At the end of our day, we kneel again and report back to our Father. We review the events of the day and express heartfelt thanks for the blessings and the help we received. We repent and, with the assistance of the Spirit of the Lord, identify ways we can do and become better tomorrow. Thus our evening prayer builds upon and is a continuation of our morning prayer. And our evening prayer also is a preparation for meaningful morning prayer.”

Valued by Heavenly Parents As we live life in our mortal world with sincere desires for the good welfare of ourselves and others, we are often disappointed, undervalued, ignored, and even persecuted and reviled by our fellow mortals. Sometimes we may wonder if there is anyone who will listen to us and help us forward from where we are in life. That is the beauty of prayer—it is always available for us, and we are always valued by our Heavenly Parents.

Elder Juan A. Uceda taught,

“At the very moment we say, “Father in Heaven,” He hears our prayers and is sensitive to us and our needs. And so His eyes and His ears are now connected to you. He reads our minds, and He feels our hearts. You cannot hide anything from Him. Now, the wonderful thing is that He will see you with eyes of love and mercy—love and mercy that we cannot fully understand. But love and mercy are with Him the very moment you say, “Father in Heaven.” . . . He is not one to say, “No, I will not listen to you now because you only come to me when you are in trouble.” Only men do that. He is not one to say, “Oh, you cannot imagine how busy I am now.” Only men say that.”

Just as the young boy in the Snowball Express yearned to be acknowledged and valued by his father, the desire to connect and communicate with our Heavenly Parents is one of our most basic needs and desires. An inspired hymn teaches:

“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 simplest form of speech That infant lips can try; Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach The Majesty on high. “

Faith, Hope and Trust

Prayer is a combination of faith, hope, and trust—faith and hope that we are asking for the right things, faith that Father is there to bless us with the things that are best for us, and trust that we can accept the answers when and how they come.

I have occasionally met people who have never prayed and have no idea how to proceed. When able to help teach, I have tried to assure them that there is no rigid formula—the main thing about prayer is that we do it.

Prayer is beautifully defined:

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”

Elder Richard G. Scott counseled,

“To better understand prayer, I have listened to the counsel of others, pondered the scriptures, and studied the lives of prophets and others. Yet what seems most helpful is seeing in my mind a child approaching trustingly a loving, kind, wise, understanding Father, who wants us to succeed. Don’t worry about your clumsily expressed feelings. Just talk to your Father. He hears every prayer and answers it in His way.”

Over the years I have been amused, but also grounded and encouraged, by this little rendition: An Informal Prayer By Sam Walter Foss

‘The proper way for a man to pray’ said Deacon Lemuel Keyes, ‘and the only proper attitude is down upon his knees.’ ‘Nay, I should say the way to pray,’ said Reverend Dr. Wise ‘is standing straight with outstretched arms and rapt and upturned eyes.’ ‘Oh, no, no, no.’ said Elder Snow ‘Such posture is too proud. A man should pray with eyes fast closed and head contritely bowed.’ ‘It seems to me his hands should be astutely clasped in front. With both thumbs a pointing toward the ground.’ Said Reverend Hunt. ‘Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well headfirst,’ said Cyrus Brown, ‘With both my heels a-stikin’ up, my head a-p’inting down, An’ I made a prayer right there an’ then; Best prayer I ever said; The prayingest prayer I ever prayed, A-standin on my head.”

When our Savior taught us how to pray with what we often call The Lord’s Prayer, His intent was not to give us a strict formula for rote prayer, but rather an example of the basic elements of our prayers. After this manner therefore pray ye:

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” Matthew 6:9-13

First, I want to provide a few clarifications of some things misconstrued in translation. In an inspired, prophetic translation of the above passage, we read,

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Matthew 6:13, Joseph Smith Translation

And it would be folly to petition the Lord to “lead us not into temptation” because to do such is not in His nature—He does not tempt or lead anyone to evil. The inspired translation changed the wording thus: “And suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

The Sacred Nature of Prayer

This classic example of prayer rightly teaches us to pray to our Father in Heaven— even as Jesus did. We also learn that the name of God is sacred and holy— “hallowed.”

Although our prayers are an individual expression of our feelings, as we use sacred language, we better demonstrate our humility before and respect for our Heavenly Father. As we reserve more formal language such as thee, thou, thy, and thine for speaking to our Heavenly Father, our prayers become more sacred.

But even when we address Heavenly Father less formally, He hears us and loves us just the same. Elder Dallin Oaks said,

“I’m sure that our Heavenly Father, who loves all of his children, hears and answers all prayers, however phrased. If he is offended in connection with prayers, it is likely to be by their absence, not their phraseology.”

Our petition for our “daily bread” may include both our physical and our spiritual nourishment. As we focus on our need for spiritual development, we are learning to live the type of heavenly life our Father desires for us, even as we struggle through our mortal temptations and challenges.

As we pray to Father for His will to be done in our lives, we are showing, by our faith and humility, that we trust Him and that we will allow His grace to change our hearts. We need not give Him counsel as we seek His counsel and direction for our lives.

C.S. Lewis said,

“I’ve heard a man offer a prayer for a sick person which really amounted to a diagnosis followed by advice as to how God should treat the patient.”

The prophet Jacob taught,

“Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.” Jacob 4:10

The Lord cautioned us against the use of thoughtless words in our prayers.

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Matthew 6:7

Answers to Prayers

Now for a few thoughts about receiving answers to our prayers. One of my personal favorite scriptures about how our Heavenly Father speaks to us is,

“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.” Doctrine and Covenants 8:2

Mind and heart—we find true direction when our intellect and spirit are in harmony with one another and with the will and decree of God. Revealed truth will make sense to us—and when it does not, we have further seeking to accomplish.

The more we come to understand the mind and will of God, the clearer and more sensible our inspirations will be. Truth does not evolve—it exists. Our understanding of truth evolves. When we come to know something to be true, we need not rediscover it, we just need to remember it. When Oliver Cowdery sought confirmation of a truth he had already received, the Lord told him to remember what he had previously learned and felt.

“If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” Doctrine and Covenants 6:22-23

Recognizing God’s Answers

We are each blessed with our own personalities, talents, thoughts, and feelings. We need to tune our individual hearts to the will and direction of God and come to recognize how He speaks to us. Elder Boyd K. Packer shared an example of how different people may each hear different sounds.

“Many years ago John Burroughs, a naturalist, one summer evening was walking through a crowded park. Above the sounds of city life he heard the song of a bird. He stopped and listened! Those with him had not heard it. He looked around. No one else had noticed it. It bothered him that everyone should miss something so beautiful. He took a coin from his pocket and flipped it into the air. It struck the pavement with a ring, no louder than the song of the bird. Everyone turned; they could hear that! It is difficult to separate from all the sounds of city traffic the song of a bird. But you can hear it. You can hear it plainly if you train yourself to listen for it.”

From The Darkness To The Light

As we are more attentive to our prayers and petitions, we will become more skilled in recognizing God’s answers. The most important message I can share about prayer is that we should do it—and that we make it a constant part of our daily life. Our Savior taught,

“I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.” 3 Nephi 18:15

Praying “always” does not mean, of course, that we are always in formal prayer. We have much work to do that requires our eyes to be open and our bodies and minds to act. But in all we do, we can develop an attitude of prayer—we can learn to live our lives as our Heavenly Parents would have us live. As we so live, we are “praying always.”

Elder Neal A Maxwell taught,

“Prayer, in fact, is to be a reflection of our attitude toward God and life. In this sense, we can always be praying.” (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1980], 92.)

May the spirit of prayer always bless our lives in guiding us through the darkness and into the light—now, always, and forever.

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