Sunday, July 27, 2008

From Lewis's talk today

Lewis spoke in church today and shared what he'd learned about taking the Lord's admonitions and examples of how we should work together in our councils (he outlined 7 of them) and using those principles in our personal counseling with the Lord. Here's part of what he shared.

Applying the Seven Habits of Effective Councils to our personal prayers
Is prayer a council? Definitely. “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.” (Alma 37:37) The instruction to counsel should resonate with latter day saints that there is a council involved. How might the seven habits therefore impact personal prayer?
Counsel together often—what more frequently repeated admonition is there in the scriptures than “pray always?” When I find myself getting casual and more distant from the Lord, it is apparent who has moved, said Pres. Kimball. Frequency does not equal effectiveness, but it is a start. “When thou risest up, when thou liest down, goeth in, cometh out” all are times for prayer
Invite the spirit—without the spirit our prayers “bounce off the ceiling” are hollow, or tinny. Yet in other situations, “they did not multiply many words, for it was given them what they should say” Prayer is inherently spiritual communication, so without the spirit, there is only empty words, vain (ineffective) thoughts.
How do we do this in prayer? The things we do in other settings might help—sing, count blessings, reflect on your testimony, start with the scriptures, participate in ordinances (sacrament, temple, etc.)
Counsel about individuals, one by one—we are definitely more able to hear the nudges and promptings of the spirit when the topic is small, defined, limited to a single issue or individual. “Bless us with world peace” gets a different kind of response than “help me to have peace in my interactions with bobby” This is not just due to our inability to take celestial shorthand fast enough, but more likely related to how Heavenly Father looks at his children one by one.
Make assignments, track, etc. We are often eager to ask the Lord things, in essence giving him his assignments. But as we counsel with the Lord, the questions we ought to be asking are, “what can I do about….or would it help if I did….” And as we listen for the inclination or direction back, we are getting Our assignments.
Not many people write down what they pray about—and hopefully we will remember to report back, but actually the reality is that it sometimes takes longer than a day to fulfill one or more of these assignments and we may actually forget what we prayed over and why. The Lord doesn’t of course, but it is harder for him to show us his hand in our lives if we don’t take time to reflect on what our assignments were, what we asked the Lord to do, and then act to do our part. As we look back, we will thus be better able to see that he has also fulfilled his assignments. (Consider Pres. Eyering’s story about the import of recording the hand of God in his life—Ensign Nov 2007—“When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.

He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”
I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.
Return and report—Rarely are our answers or solutions we seek from the Lord had in a single action or assignment. If we don’t come back and report on our progress, we are not as likely to receive the next step of instructions toward the solution. (Imagine putting together a model, and the first instruction says, “open the glue” We do that and assume that’s it for instruction so we go on to put piece after piece together with the glue, only later to find out that we left out an important step involving part A, hole 4, and so forth.)
Rejoice in successes—the Lord saw each step of the creation, “it was good” indicating to me that he was pleased and rejoiced with each successfully completed step in the process. Our faith and testimony is increased, when we allow the Lord to pat us on the back for successfully having followed his stepwise instruction.” And I, God, saw everything that I had made, and, behold, all things which I had made were very agood” (Moses 2:31)
Take the time to be united, one—We don’t wrestle with God so much to persuade him to our way of thinking, to conform him to what we think is right, so much as to learn to adjust our will to his. As the Savior said, “not my will, but thine be done.” Yet at the same time, his greatest wish for us as his disciples, as expressed in the great intercessory prayer (John 17) was “that they[we] may be aone, even as we[he and his father] are bone.”