February 19, 2009

He Died For Me

While in Jerusalem, one of my favorite places to visit was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Most felt it was too dark, or too old and cold, but I found it to be a place filled with a sense of holiness. This is not because I believe this was the tomb of Christ (though it may have been), but I do believe that through the devotion of millions it has literally become hallowed ground. Millions have crawled on their knees to this place, or bowed in awe as they could barely hold back the tears. Many have grown to know of their Savior by coming to this place.

This song, which speaks of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, was a piece I wrote back when I was about sixteen. It is one of the ways I can express my love for the Savior and His life and mission.

February 16, 2009

Mighty Prayer: The First Vision

The first vision by Walter Rane 
The word “cry” is perhaps the most common phrase found in connection with the word prayer in the scriptures. There are numerous examples of crying unto the Lord for His help and guidance. In fact, the word cry is often used instead of the word prayer to show an even greater level of sincerity. Thus, one of the ways in which to increase the power of our prayers is to learn how to “cry” unto to the Lord.

In the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary the word cry means: “To utter a loud voice; to speak, call or exclaim with vehemence; in a very general sense. To call importunately; to utter a loud voice, by way of earnest request of prayer.” Notice how each of these definition includes the aspect of vocally imploring unto the Lord. To better understand the reason that vocal imploring is so powerful let us observe several examples found in the scriptures.

The first example of this can be seen with the experience that the young boy Joseph Smith had in the year 1820. Joseph was confused because of the many religions in the area and thus came to the determination that the only way to find truth was to ask God. With this resolve, he went to a small grove of trees in upstate New York and began to pray unto the Lord. He states that this was the first time he had vocally prayed out loud. Prior to this he had personally prayed on numerous occasions, but as a family his father was always the one to offer vocally the family prayer. Thus, on this beautiful spring day he came to the Lord to “cry” unto him that his prayer might be better heard.

“While thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God, he, at length, saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which, at first, seemed to be at a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and, as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness, and magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around, was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner….It continued descending, slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and, immediately, his mind was caught away, from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness.” [1] “One of them spake unto [him] calling [him] by name and said (pointing to the other) ‘This is my beloved Son, Hear Him.’” (JS-H 1:17)

In answer to his prayer Joseph was told by the Lord that he should join none of the churches of his day. He was told that though they spoke of Christ and taught the Bible, they had lost many of the truths of the gospel. He was also told that the day would come when he would help to establish the true church of Christ on the earth.

We can note from his account that Joseph Smith did several things to better cry unto the Lord. First, he vocally prayed to God. Second, he poured “out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God.” And third, he came to God with a question (that of which church he should join). Earnestly desiring and imploring of the Lord for questions we have will help us to better receive answers to the desires of our heart.

February 10, 2009

Charity of Christ

The Earthquake by James Tissot
In a class we were discussing charity and how it is the true love of Christ. As I was thinking of Christ's last days, I realized how much he did for others while he was in pain and agony. He gave comfort to his disciples who were fearful. He healed the soldier's ear that had been cut off by Peter. He sought to give comfort to the woman as he carried his own cross. He told the thief hanging with him that the man would be in heaven. He asked John to care for his mother. The only time in this entire period in which he cared for himself was when the scriptures say that he complained of thirst. This is true charity. To care for all others before self, no matter what may be happening to you. This is what Christ taught. This is what Christ lived.

February 1, 2009

Mighty Prayer: The Lord's Prayer

It is interesting to note how many times the Lord has commanded His people through the scriptures to “watch and pray.” To be exact, six times. And of these six times, five had reference to overcoming temptation. The sixth, having reference to watching and praying for the Savior’s Second Coming (see Mark 13:33). When the Lord repeats a saying six times it is in a sense the way the Lord tells us to note something of significance. Thus, watching and praying can have a considerable impact upon our lives.

How then can we learn to pray with the power and intent that the scriptures teach? How can we pray with such devotion that we cannot only avoid temptation, but receive answers to our prayers? How can we, through prayer, become one with the Lord? Like anything else in the gospel, the best way to learn something is by looking to others who knew how. Modeling our own prayers after those who knew can help us to gain the same strength and power that they had.

Not long after calling His disciples, Jesus ascended a mount and gave perhaps the most profound sermon ever recorded (see Matthew 5-7). Like, Moses of old who climbed Mt. Sinai to receive the Law, Jesus, the very Law Giver, ascended the mount to teach of the New Law. There on this small hill, overlooking the beautiful Sea of Galilee, the Lord taught of prayer. Those who had followed Him up the mount had climbed to see the Galilean, but those who listened with a pure heart, heard more than just a man; they heard the Son of God.

While upon the mount, that today is called Beatitudes, the Savior taught the Lord’s Prayer. In this prayer He said: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in 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).

Let us examine each part of the prayer, that we may better use it as a model for our own. The first thing the Lord does is to address the Father “Our Father which art in heaven.” Whereupon, He praises the name of God and acknowledges His role as Father and Ruler; “hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come.” This act of praise is often missing from our prayers. Praise helps us to elevate our minds to the greatness of God that we may better realize that we may place our faith in Him, for He is all-powerful and all-knowing. Praising Him helps us to recognize who He
really is.

The third step is to align our will with Him; “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” In the heavens the angels obey the voice of God ("Thy will [is] done ... in heaven"). On earth man more often than not, ignores and disrespects the will of God. Thus, to pray with mighty prayer we must learn to align our will with that of God; in doing so we gain His attributes of power and knowledge. This means that when faced with challenges we can know that we will succeed because the Lord is on our side, “for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).

Fourth, we are to ask for those things we need, both spiritual and physical,
and we are to realize from whom these blessings come; “give us this day our daily bread.” It is significant that Jesus asks for daily bread, for the only time that this had been previously done was when the Lord fed Israel with “daily bread” or manna (see Exodus 16:14-15). Later, Jesus compared Himself with this “daily bread” in His discourse on the Bread of Life (see John 6). Thus, to pray with mighty prayer, we are to ask for both our physical substance, but to also ask for the daily renewal of our spiritual substance.

Fifth, we are to forgive as we have been forgiven; “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” We each have sinned before the Lord, and thus each need the grace and power of the Lord. How oft has He offered us His forgiveness to us? How oft has He extended His arm in mercy towards us? Thus, to be able to pray with true power, we must forgive others that we may gain His grace and forgiveness. This does two things, first it helps us be clean before Him, that we may stand spotless before Him. It also helps us to become like unto Him; and in doing so, we gain His attributes and His power.

The last step is to pray that the Father will “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Again, the Lord teaches that it is through prayer that we are delivered from temptation. It is through this unity of God and Man that we can gain His kingdom. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” In these verses, note the placement of the colon. It is placed between “deliver us from evil” and “For thine is the kingdom, and power, and the glory.” We are released from temptation because it is through His power and through His glory. It is not on our own merits that we are saved, but through His. Note how here again the Lord teaches us of the importance of praise and of acknowledging the power of God. Thus, twice the Lord uses praise to gain access to the Father; He begins and concludes with words of praise.

By using the Lord’s Prayer as a template for our own, we learn that we must first, address the Father, then praise and recognize His power and divine role. We then are then to accept His will and ask for both our spiritual and physical substance. Then we are to ask for our own forgiveness and to then pardon those who may offend or hurt us. Finally, we are to pray that we may be lead not into temptation, but unto His Kingdom. As we learn to pattern our prayers after that of the Savior, we will truly learn how to become “mighty, even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20).