All of you may relate to the experience where you can be listening to a Sunday school lesson, a sacrament meeting talk, General Conference, or, even sitting around the dinner table and you hear a comment that just seems to resonate with you. You do not forget it.
On one occasion, I was listening to a General Conference talk by Elder Bednar. He said, “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.”
To me, that is such an incomprehensible statement for my finite, mortal brain to completely understand. The creator of innumerable worlds and hosts of children greater than the sands of the sea – aware of me and paying strict attention to me? Given such a glorious love and interest in me personally, I need to think each and every moment of the day how important it is to seek the Lord out in sincere prayer. How foolish not to!
“And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such. “ (Moroni 7:9)
I am reminded of a poem of sorts by Carol Lynn Pearson,
“This radio set called prayer is designed for remarkably simple repair. When the lines fail there is no doubt which half of the set is out.”
Too many times we fall into the rut of simply saying our prayers without much thought. Sometimes, when others are praying, we are thinking about work, sports, social activities, homework, etc. We should pray intently and listen intently when others are praying. Even though we may say the same things frequently in our prayers, the main point is that we are sincere and speaking from our heart.
We need to cherish the great blessing of prayer. It needs to be a very sacred moment for each of us.
And then, as we pray and after we pray, we need to listen for the Still Small Voice to enlighten us. We need to write things down that come as impressions to us. We need to continue the dialogue with the Lord to know if there is more for us to learn. All along, pouring out our gratitude for the goodness of our Heavenly Father.
Books can be written about the importance of prayer. But, upper most, let’s pray with real intent and with a sure knowledge that the Lord is there and He is listening.
While in South Africa, we met another senior missionary who spent much of his life in the U.S. Navy. Among our many conversations he noted it took him a while to get his “Sea Legs.” I came to understand that meant it took some time on his ship before he got use to the swells of the ocean and did not get sea sick.
A few months ago, a person I like to call “Appalachian Annie” used a term she heard while hiking in Georgia. She had met some hikers that mentioned they had developed “Trail Legs.” That meant they had been on the trail long enough that hiking was not as burdensome as it was when they first started. They developed certain muscles that helped them enjoy the trail instead of begrudging it. There is certainly application of this principle as we contemplate our journey on the covenant path.
We might find our pursuit of the covenant path difficult at times. However, when we use some of the spiritual hiking tips of the experts who have traversed the path already, we can make the journey easier, happier and educational.
When carrying a backpack on the trail, it should contain all the necessary items you need to deal with hunger, darkness of the night, staying on course, thirst, the elements, surrounding dangers, etc. On the covenant path we need to make sure with have all the necessary items to ensure our spiritual success and safety. For example, are we packing our scriptures for the spiritual nutrition we will need along the way? If our spiritual backpacks are light, we may not have the spiritual traction we need for the journey.
Elder David A. Bednar said, “Is the load I am carrying producing the spiritual traction that will enable me to press forward with faith in Christ on the strait and narrow path and avoid getting stuck? Is the load I am carrying creating sufficient spiritual traction so I ultimately can return home to Heavenly Father?”
Can you imagine taking a hiking trip without a flashlight? Or, without matches to start a fire for warmth and comfort? Can you imagine walking the covenant path without the aid of the Holy Ghost? The Gift of the Holy Ghost is priceless. It can be with us so continually that sometimes we do not realize his presence or guiding communication. The Holy Ghost can provide us revelation, witness to us, comfort us, coach us, warn us, inspire us…He is an absolute required part of our trek to eventually reach eternal life.
Marion G. Romney once said, “The gift of the Holy Ghost is an endowment which gives one the right to enjoy the enlightenment, companionship, and guidance of the Spirit and the influence of the Holy Spirit as long as he complies with the commandments of God. The importance of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is beyond expression.”
Good hikers will talk to each other and seek the help of others who have already trodden an anticipated hike. They will seek out experts. They will ask questions and solicit advice on how to proceed. Can we expect to travel the covenant path without constant, sincere prayer? Are we seeking the greatest expert of all when it comes to confronting the challenges of mortality? Prayer is vital to our staying spiritually alive and staying the course. Prayer is the equivalent of having a roadmap on a trip or a compass to indicate what direction we are heading.
President Monson has said, “As we seek our Heavenly Father through fervent, sincere prayer and earnest, dedicated scripture study, our testimonies will become strong and deeply rooted. We will know of God’s love for us. We will understand that we do not ever walk alone. I promise you that you will one day stand aside and look at your difficult times, and you will realize that He was always there beside you.”
Some trails are difficult to follow. Erosion from water and wind, weather, mudslides, avalanches, etc. can make it a challenge to always see the trail. However, good hikers will look for the cairns placed along the way by others who have gone before them. These piled up rocks, conspicuously placed, help hikers see which direction to go to stay on the trail. Likewise, those of us who diligently pursue the covenant path need to look to the spiritual markers the Lord has provided so that we can remain on the strait and narrow path.
“Anchoring our souls to the Lord Jesus Christ requires listening to those He sends. Following the prophet in a world of commotion is like being wrapped in a soothing, warm blanket on a freezing cold day.” -Elder Neil L. Andersen
We are surrounded by a world of thunderous voices and secular rhetoric. Following the Lord’s anointed servants is absolutely vital to our staying on the spiritual trail leading to the greatest gift God can give anyone. We cannot be distracted by the intellectual ramblings of the world. Just because we see many footprints going in one direction along our hike, it does not necessarily indicate the correct way to go. It is really the cairns that designate the true way to go. We must place our faith in what we know and in those things for which we have received a divine witness instead of the doubts deliberately distributed by the antagonists of the Lord’s Church.
Those that persecute the Lord’s Church and his chosen servants are like the little birds picking at the bugs on the back of an elephant. Nothing can thwart the work of the Lord. As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river from its decreed course!
Good hikers will take rests along the way. They know how to pace themselves. On many trails there are locations where hikers can stop and take a “breather.” This helps them not only increase their stamina but also more fully enjoy the vistas and surrounding beauty of the area. In our spiritual journey, resting is important. We are counselled not to run faster than we have strength.
When Grandpa and Grandma McKay were serving a mission in Africa, they had the opportunity to meet with President Hinckley who was there visiting the saints. In a private visit, he praised them for their service to the Lord but also advised them to go home after their mission, take a break and then, go out again to serve.
The Savior said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Getting our spiritual trail legs is vital to us reaching our heavenly goal of eternal life. We must endure to the end and along the path employ all the tools the Lord has given us to develop our spiritual trail legs. As we do so, the journey will be sweet and not arduous. We will savor each moment along the trail and look back on our trek some day with wonderful, amazing fond memories.
Let’s remember what Elder Jeffery R. Holland had to say, “My beloved brothers and sisters, please understand that He who never sleeps nor slumbers cares for the happiness and ultimate exaltation of His children above all else that a divine being has to do. He is pure love, gloriously personified, and Merciful Father is His name.” He knows us by name. He knows the thoughts and desires of our hearts. He loves us with an immeasurable, infinite and while on this earth, an unimaginable degree of love.
We are so blessed with the tools the Lord has given us to experience great joy in the journey, so we can have strong and steady trail legs.