Which frequency are you on?

By: Guest
June 24, 2012

Today’s guest post is from An Imperfect Saint.

I am 36 years old. I was born “under the covenant” and was active in the church from the time I was small. I have had a few times where I was functionally inactive, but the longest time was about six months. I was molested as a child, and raped when I was a teenager. I have been married three times. I have four children. At times I have hoped to be part of the wheat and have felt that I was one of the tares.

I was excommunicated at one point, and have dealt with the church disciplinary system on several occasions.

I want to talk in this post about one of the most important lessons I learned during the thirteen (13) months that I was excommunicated.

I met with my bishop a lot during the first few months after I had been excommunicated, and regularly throughout the year. During the first interview with my bishop he asked me if I WANTED to stay active and return to the church. It took me a few minutes to get over the shock that the question brought on. I had made several incredibly personally destructive choices. I knew that I had purposely chosen to break the covenants I had made in the temple, and I knew there was no way to try and lie to myself, or Heavenly Father, by hiding what I had done. Despite those choices, I hadn’t lost my testimony. In fact, voluntarily submitting to a disciplinary council was really a confirmation of my testimony and faith, at least for me.

In tears, I asked my bishop if he thought I should leave the church. He told me that he didn’t think I should, but that he wanted to make sure that it was my choice to meet with him, and my choice to follow the suggestions that he would give me. When I assured him that I did want to know what I could do, I expected a long check list and homework assignments that would make me think about repentance, covenants, and probably a few other topics that I would understand to be important once I had completed them.

Instead of something really complicated, he gave me this simple formula:

1) Read the Book of Mormon every day.

There was no certain amount of time or number of pages that he gave me, just that it must be daily.

2) Pray at least 3 times a day, every day, no matter what.

There were some times that I had only prayed in the morning and found it was 8:00 pm when I was saying my second prayer. The third prayer was sometimes only an hour later. I tried not to cheat on this, but there may have been five or six days I only prayed twice. I really stuck to this goal, even when I was struggling to feel it was anything more than me talking to myself.

There was one really important thing I learned while I was working on goal #2. I learned that there were a lot of times that I was praying, talking to Heavenly Father, and I wasn’t feeling like I got an answer to my prayers. I could feel that someone was listening, I was even pretty sure that someone was talking back, but I couldn’t hear the response. My heart, or spirit, or mind wasn’t accepting the messages coming in. I talked about this several times with my bishop and he encouraged me to keep praying, no matter how frustrating it was to know there were answers out there, but I wasn’t finding ways to hear them, so I couldn’t apply them to my life. I really began to wonder if Heavenly Father was listening and sending answers, or if I needed whatever medicine they give to people who should be hearing voices in their head and don’t, or who hear voices in their heads and shouldn’t.

Creation of Adam, God Distorted

In the end, my answer to this dilemma was deceptively simple. I started reading the scriptures before and after I would pray. I would start by reading the first five verses of a chapter, and then I would pray. Sometimes the prayers were short, and other times I would get off my knees and realize half an hour had gone by. I would give myself time to go get a drink of water or milk, find somewhere comfortable to sit, and then I would finish reading the chapter that I had started before my prayer. It wasn’t magic, I didn’t have all the answers to my prayerful petitions come in the chapter I was reading, and sometimes I still felt that there were promptings I was blocking because I didn’t know how to interpret them. I did start getting some answers though, and that gave me the hope to keep going.

I certainly wouldn’t set myself up as a perfect example to follow. That job was neatly filled by the Savior, and I am grateful that I can follow Him, and suggest His life and teachings to anyone who wants advice on how to live. I will say that I can’t try to follow in the footsteps of Christ if I am not reading my scriptures daily, and am not praying regularly.

About halfway through the year I was excommunicated, my bishop asked me if I knew where a copy of my patriarchal blessing was. I admitted that I hadn’t read it for at least seven or eight years, and I had no idea where it currently was. He had me fill out a form to request a copy, and I received it a few weeks later, in the mail. As I read through the blessing for the first time in years, I was especially drawn to the counsel that told me to pray wherever I am, whenever I need guidance, and to talk to Heavenly Father in my own language and as thoughts came to me. It goes on to tell me to pray as I am driving, studying, cooking or walking down the street. That additional reminder that I needed to see prayerful communication as a constantly ongoing process, not directly tied to time on my knees, was the thing that allowed me to turn the dial on my spiritual radio closer to the position that would allow me to hear Heavenly Father’s messages more clearly.

That is my story.

Creation of Adam, God BlurredCreation of Adam, Adam DisconnectedHave you ever had the feeling that you were talking, but Heavenly Father wasn’t listening? How did you feel during that time, and what changed in your life to make it so prayer was more meaningful?

Have you had a time where you felt like Heavenly Father was listening to you, and was sending messages to you, and you just couldn’t understand? What did you do that helped you to be able to “hear” better?

Lastly, how much of a role does prayer play in your daily life, your relationships with other people, and your faith? If it doesn’t play much of a part in your daily life, do you feel like you need it, and why or why not?

I can’t wait to hear your experiences.

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17 Responses to Which frequency are you on?

  1. Stephen Marsh on June 24, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    Thank you for the guest post.

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  2. An Imperfect Saint on June 24, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    Thank you for the invitation. I look forward to hearing about other people’s experiences.

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  3. Angie F on June 24, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    Thank you for that tender post! There have been times when my prayers “bounce” on the ceiling, when I can’t seem to order my thoughts sufficiently to communicate anything. I seem to find the most success when I don’t look at prayer as discreet time periods on my knees throughout the day, but as one prayer that I open in the morning and close in the night. In that way, I feel more of the give and take of conversation and communion with the Lord. I ask and He answers when I am ready to understand the answer, sometimes in whispers and impressions, sometimes in the words of my children or even in song lyrics brought to mind. I find that prayer is exactly as meaningful in my life as the attention–mind space–I devote to it.

    I can’t remember the conference talk that said that we pray when we want to speak with God and receive our answers through the scriptures (or something to that effect). This thought came to mind as you described your practice of preparing to pray with scripture–both are versions of communion with God.

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  4. An Imperfect Saint on June 24, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Angie #3
    You did a great job expressing the ways I try to follow the suggestions in my patriarchal blessing at this point in my life. I sometimes wish I had found that interpretation earlier, but I don’t think I would have the strength of my current testimony, about how important prayer is, if I hadn’t felt so cut off from the blessings and benefits that come with regular praying.

    I know that the way I do things and the ways that work for other people can be very different. I don’t think that prayers need to be a certain length, and I really like the imagery of a prayer being a continuous conversation with the Lord throughout the day!

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  5. Bonnie on June 24, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    I’m curious how the story turned out. How do your prayers feel after having completed this experiment?

    I discovered that there was nobody on the other end of my prayers when my husband announced to me, age 20 and pregnant, that he was leaving me. I prayed a lot of intense prayers that hit the ceiling and rained disappointment back down on me. But I persisted, and I also began reading the Book of Mormon. I read it, studied it, and in three months I had a testimony of it and God. And the answers slowly began to come. Lots and lots of years and lots and lots of prayers since, it isn’t quite so hard, but then, I pray differently. I think I’m the one who changed.

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  6. Ruth on June 24, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    Two things have helped me clear the static,or even silence… ok three things:
    1. study/research, exhaustive from any source I see as valuable. My own Patriarchal Blessing emphasizes my need to work for my answers.
    2. Trusting my impressions. I have a friend that always tells me the Spirit instructs her in some pretty specific things. I asked her once how she could be so sure it was of God and not her own thoughts. She told me she just assumes her thoughts are the Spirit Speaking to her. He puts voice to the thoughts by saying, “the Spirit told me….” I started trying it, even though sometimes I felt awkward or like I was pretending. But what I was really doing, was learning to trust myself enough to receive personal revaluation. I’m still working on it, but it works for me to grab onto a thought I have while studying or praying and say to myself, ” the Spirit just told me…”

    3. Patience. Nuff said. ;)

    Thank you for sharing your experience, and you honesty with a subject most people struggle with.

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  7. Natsy on June 24, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Prayer has always been a struggle for me. I’ve always felt like I communicate with God throughout the day, as a I keep up a running conversation in my head with Him. I would hear people talk about how they feel the Spirit when they’re actually on their knees praying and I can think of maybe 3 times that’s actually happened to me. I feel the Spirit more through reading scriptures, music, friends, family, etc.

    One time my friend told me that she stuggled with prayers and started setting a timer for five minutes to basically “force” pondering and listening. It worked for her and she has a strong testimony of prayer now. I tried that, and I just ended up getting bored.

    I know prayers are answered but I don’t think I have a testimony of the whole saying “morning and evening” prayers. I know it’s supposed to be a sign of respect to God, but even when diligently doing it, I feel….nothing.

    God answers the prayers in my heart and I’m hoping He’ll forgive my less formal appeals to Him.

    Bonnie – I love the way you say things: “…rained disappointment back down on me.” You’re good at explaining things.

    Guest – Thanks for the post and your example of diligence and commitment.

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  8. Howard on June 24, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    I’ve found daily prayer and scripture reading an effective way to begin to connect with the Spirit.  But eliminating dissonance through deep repentance and insightful psychotherapy and reducing internal noise through meditation eventually allowed me to clearly understand the Spirit’s messages.

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  9. annegb on June 24, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    Wise bishop…..I’m reminded of Jana Reiss’ book Flunking Sainthood.

    There are prayers, unanswered, I’ve said over and over, begging for a certain blessing. Now I sometimes remember to ask for patience and understanding.

    I feel the spirit often as I pray and, like you, pray in many different ways.

    In extremity, I pray “Jesus, thou son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

    Sometimes, I pray “Lord, I believe….help thou my unbelief.”

    I know we’re told not to do that, but I feel close to God either way. Some of my most reverent moments have been holding some tattooed guy’s hand in AA, as we say The Lord’s Prayer.

    Again, wise bishop.

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  10. An Imperfect Saint on June 24, 2012 at 7:19 PM

    Bonnie,

    I am not dead yet, so I am still figure out how the story end. I was rebaptised and am an active member, although not one without lingering questions and emotional scars.

    My real answer to that particular chapter is that I am much more in tune with promptings, whether they are answers to my prayers or that of others. I can recognize the voice of my Savior, and the more I listen to His calls, the easier it is to keep myself “tuned in.”

    With all of that said, I am sometimes very stubborn. Even when I am pretty sure that I have received a prompting, I am resistant when the prompting asks me to do something out of my comfort zone. I have my own Nineva occasions, and sometimes I truly feel like the Lord has sent the message enough times that He gives up on me, and prompts someone else instead.

    After one spectacular fail on my part, I realized that the Lord didn’t need me to follow His promptings, but I need Him to give me the chance to serve Him and those He was prompting me to serve in some ways.

    I am not sure if that really answers your basic question or not. I certainly pray daily and read my scriptures most days. For me the biggest long-term change is in being able to “hear” instead of “talk.” That perspective is what led to the question, Which frequency are you on?

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  11. Kathy Haynie on June 24, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    I taught a lesson to the Young Women at church today, about valuing prayer and meditation. At the beginning of the lesson, I asked the girls to think about how they value prayer and meditation, and immediately one of the girls wanted to know what I meant by “meditation.” We had an interesting discussion about the interpretation in the lesson, using quotes from David O. McKay and Boyd K. Packer – they basically said that we tend to overlook meditation in the LDS church, and that it involves thinking deeply about matters that we are bringing to the Lord. It seemed more of a “wrestle before the Lord” kind of idea than the quiet stillness type of meditation my yoga teacher mentions. The girls were surprised when I told them that I have been wrestling/meditating on some problems for a couple of years. In any case, it was a lively discussion that gave the girls some things to chew on beyond the usual Sunday School lesson on prayer. The lesson and the quotes can be found at http://www.lds.org/manual/young-women-manual-1/lesson-24-prayer-and-meditation?lang=eng.

    Morning prayers used to be so hard for me. I think it’s easier now that I don’t have little children needing me the minute I wake up. I’m an empty nester now, and it seems like something vital is missing from the day if I don’t take some quiet, private minutes to kneel before setting out on my day. I don’t necessarily hear specific revelations, but I often feel peaceful assurance that I am loved.

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  12. prometheus on June 24, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    For me, the way I pray has changed dramatically over the last couple of years. The formula we are taught in Primary of address-we thank thee-we ask thee-close has pretty much vanished from my prayers. Not saying that it was a bad thing to have started off that way, but rather that once I decided I wanted a personal relationship with our Parents, it was no longer at all sufficient.

    My prayers now consist of thinking, listening, talking as I would to someone face to face, offering up praise and worship. I rarely ask for things (and then usually for other people), but instead just share my hopes and desires with my Parents, trusting Them to arrange things (or not) in the best way.

    My whole life, though, I have almost never felt an absence of response. I have always had the impression that I was being heard, even when there was silence in reply.

    On a bit of a tangent, I think that silence is highly underrated in our culture here in North America. We fill it with music, conversation, media, books, planning for tomorrow, whatever. It has been interesting recently to observe in my life how just listening with no other response brings out a focus and a depth to people’s concerns and lets them see more clearly what their most foundational concern is. I think sometimes (not always) we miss the point of silence when we pray (myself still included).

    That being said, I also feel the pain of people who never seem to receive any feedback at all – I wish that I had some kind of comfort to offer there.

    Thanks for sharing such a personal post, Imperfect Saint.

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  13. Henry on June 24, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    I know prayers are answered but I don’t think I have a testimony of the whole saying “morning and evening” prayers. I know it’s supposed to be a sign of respect to God, but even when diligently doing it, I feel….nothing.

    Nasty: Interesting comment.

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  14. Andrew S on June 24, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    Henry,

    I think you meant to write “Natsy”

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  15. CS Eric on June 24, 2012 at 9:32 PM

    I have only recently started doing something like this for myself. After my wife died, my prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling, and I couldn’t concentrate to study the scriptures, and when I did read, they seemed to mock me.

    A year later, and the answers to my prayers still seem kind of fuzzy, but when I got a blessing from my home teacher two weeks ago, it was as if he had heard all my prayers.

    I have also started reading the Book of Mormon again, but I still haven’t really felt the Spirit again yet from that. One of my personal goals is to get to where I love the Book the way I used to. I have a long way to go to recover from my wife’s death, but I think I am finally able to take the steps that will help me do that. Your post gives me hope that I can move forward the way you have. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  16. An Imperfect Saint on June 24, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    Eric,
    I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggles, or in the difficulties that come with losing a spouse. I have not had that particular trial, but I imagine that your entire view of the world changes. I know how difficult it can be to feel cut off from something you know is there, but isn’t there for you right now.

    I think Kathy hit the nail on the head in the conversation with her young women. There are things she continues to struggle with for more than months, and sometimes more than years. When we look back at experiences, and know the final outcome, it is tempting to shrug off the struggle it was to get to that ending.

    I think it is especially important when we are trying to love and support someone dealing with grief, loss, sin or a crisis of faith, that we don’t try to put a timeline on their healing process. I think that is even more vital when we are healing ourselves. We have to let things happen when it is the right time. That may not be the time we had allocated for the “project” or goal we are working on.

    I shared my experiences because I think it is important to know that every member struggles, whether you can see it on the outside or not. It is tempting to think that we are all alone, but it is never true. It is easy to say God doesn’t hear my prayers or answer them, so there is no point in praying.

    I hope that I can be the kind of person who inspires people to keep trudging through the dirty, gritty, painful experiences of life. I certainly can’t tell you that the gospel or praying will take the struggles away, but I can say that you aren’t the only one who has been through that mud, and that there are things to learn along the way.

    I am glad that in the face of a devastating trial that you are still trying. If your bishop asked you, Do you still want to be a member of Christ’s church, you wouldn’t have to answer. Your actions speak loudly enough, in spite of the loss of your wife, that your dedication to the gospel is there, even when some of the gospel’s light isn’t as bright as it has been at other times.

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  17. Jon on June 25, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    @Eric,

    I found reading Grant Hardy’s reader edition of the Book of Mormon to be satisfying. I prefer it over the church’s edition. It’s like a whole new book.

    I too struggle with belief. I like to try and figure out the core issues of things and it makes me question everything. I like to approach things from an intellectual stand point. I’ll see where it leads me. I do think going from a spiritual stand point is good too, but the results are very subjective. Just because one does X and Y happens doesn’t mean the interpretation of Y into Z is true. It would be nice if life were more simple and it seems like the simple solution isn’t a belief in God, but my preference would be a belief in God.

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