Disclaimer: This blog is a way of expressing my personal opinions thoughts and anecdotes, as well as my personal understanding of the scriptures, and conference addresses. It is not meant as a statement of doctrine, and may not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, or doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

10 July 2011

The Power of Premeditated Prayer

Just some thoughts. Please feel free to comment, address concerns, and provide additional insight.

In Sunday School today, there was a discussion regarding the most transcendent event in the scriptures--namely: the suffering, atonement, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One thought that has been coming to my mind and study regarding this is from Joseph Smith.

"The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." ~~~ Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 121

This comment provides a clarity and definition to the main focus of my religion, and hopefully a strong definition for all Christians. It was not the main thought process on my mind today, although it passed through on multiple occasions.

The purpose of this post will focus on one verse that possibly gets skipped over most of the time, and only seems to be brought up by Luke.
Starting in 22:39
"And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing,remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

While it is a very familiar passage, and there are multitudinous lessons to be pulled from here, one that I wanted to address is found in the first line: "
And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives".
Again, I know that there is plenty of important doctrine in these verses, but this part stood out to me, because it contains an important principle to me.

If I am to receive specific revelation and strength from Heavenly Father, if I have a specific pattern, mindset and even a specific place to pray, revelation may come because I am more prepared for it.
Maybe that is still a little complex, and needs to be broken down more. When the Savior went to work out His infinite and eternal atonement, there are a few specific things that He did that are instrumental to our prayer patterns.

1. He did not go to a public place. He went to a place where even His most trusted disciples were "about a stones cast" away.
2. He went to a place where he visited frequently, or "went, as He was wont," which means a place that he was accustomed to visit.
3. He was very specific in His prayer, He did not merely dole out a grocery list of requests, but truly spoke from His heart, and expected a response.
4. He, nevertheless, fulfilled Heavenly Father's will over His own, knowing what needed to be done.

Two of these I would like to briefly address. #2 and #3.

#2 Suggests that there is a power to premeditated prayer.
This doesn't mean that any prayer given without preparation will not be effectual, because true prayer, utilizing the name of Jesus Christ will always be heard and answered in the Lord's time and way. What it can mean is that if Heavenly Father knows where I am at a specific time and place, He sees that I am striving to be disciplined enough to make time to communicate with Him, and will know that I will be awaiting a response from Him. This is an over-simplified explanation, as God is Omniscient, Omnipresent, etc so of course He always knows where I am. It is more so a lesson to make sure that I know where I am, and know a source to receive counsel and instruction. I know that I may not always be in the responsive mode of receiving revelation while listening to the radio on the way to work, or working, or throughout the day, because I get too caught up in the day to be truly receptive. But if I know that at a specified time of day, whether it be earlier in the morning, at night, on a lunch break, or any other prepared time, I will prepare myself for that time.
Jesus, while preparing Himself for the trials in the Garden of Gethsemane, went to a place of comfort, where, it can be inferred, He had visited frequently for communication with His Father.

Another more recent example comes from the life of Joseph Smith. In his own words:
"After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me, I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (Joseph Smith History 1:15-17).
Some of you may not be familiar with this story, but I would encourage you to read his main published history:

This experience is again one with a large amount of doctrinal insight, but for the purpose of the discussion, I will merely address the first line again. In order for the Prophet to have this powerful experience, even though He did not know what would happen through His heartfelt prayer, He was guided by the counsel of St. James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom, Let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him". One thing that he felt to be important to do before praying was to find a place that he could be most receptive to receiving counsel and wisdom. A place where he "had previously designed to go".

Through this, he would eventually become a Prophet and witness of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He would testify and witness of the mission and life of the Savior, including the ultimate experience of the Atonement of Christ.

Another witness of Jesus Christ is found in the Book of Mormon, which was translated by the gift and power of God by Joseph Smith. This post will by no means be able to address much of the tremendous teaching power of the Book of Mormon and it's strength to lead us to Christ, but again, one or two examples will help focus our attention to principle #3:

Specific prayers, expecting responses and trusting in God.

In the first book of the Book of Mormon, Nephi (son of Lehi) finds himself in a tough spot. (again, for those of you who may not be as familiar with the specifics of the story, I encourage you to pick up a copy, or read online. Both are free). Nephi is traveling with his family (roughly about 592 years B.C. and traveling from Jerusalem to what is now known as the American continent) and after constant threats from his brothers, who are quite aggravated with him for multiple reasons, he finds himself "Bound with strong cords, for they sought to take away [his] life". His only hope is to pray, as all other efforts of reconciliation have proved fruitless. His prayer (found in 1 Nephi 7: 17-18) is as follows:

"But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound. And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again."

This is a very short example, but gives a good point. or a couple of good points. One is that if we do not have time to prepare (see principle #2) the Lord will still respond in emergencies. Another main point is that Nephi did not think it necessary to drag his prayer out will lots of flowery sentiments or conditional/theological arguments. He simply said what he needed, acted upon it, and the Lord responded. The last point is that if we need help being delivered from bondage, and are willing to put forth the effort, the Lord WILL RESPOND.

There are perhaps better examples to emphasize these principals, but these have encouraged me to be more specific in my prayers and have a predetermined, reverent disposition when I pray.
This is a rather long first post, but if you made it this far, I am grateful to you, and appreciate any comments or experiences/scriptures that you have for these principals as well.