In preparation, I worked and worked at it, then gradually moved towards one idea, that prayer is perhaps our most vital and valuable tool for problem solving. I love the scripture: Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good. I also love this year’s mutual theme: “Ask of God; ask in faith.”
It has been said that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in their wisdom built the plan of salvation around problem-solving. With that, I would like to address 4 concepts:
1—That we were placed on earth to problem solve and work out our salvation.
2—That we were given a vital and valuable tool—prayer—to help us.
3—That with prayer we are expected to perspire and persevere.
4—That it takes practice to engage in meaningful prayer.
By design, loving heavenly parents placed us on earth, with a number of resources to help us navigate the waters of life. At first, I suspect Adam was just like us. He had to learn that Heavenly Father really did mean what he said: “Adam, Eve, get to work. By the sweat of thy brow you will need to earn a living, feed your family, learn to build a home, shop on a budget, weed the garden, look for a meal, cook a meal, wash clothes, recover from unemployment, keep moving when the chips are down, pick yourselves up when sons lose their temper, and more.
Adam and Eve must have become the ultimate problem solvers. If we think we have problems to solve, think of starting your day, a deer skin to cover your body, a world to conquer, no ready transportation, no cell phone, no grocery store, no employer, no 401K, and that’s just the beginning.
Challenges test our mettle. Challenges provide opportunities for growth. Challenges can re-direct our focus and priorities. Challenges strip away pride and arrogance. Challenges bring us closer to God.
Problems and problem solving are a fact of life. “President Monson said, “wherever we are in life, there are times when all of us have challenges and struggles. Although they are different for each, they are common to all.
Many of the challenges we face exist because we live in this mortal world, populated by all manner of individuals. At times we ask in desperation, “How can I keep my sights firmly fixed on the celestial as I navigate through this telestial world?”
2—We were given a vital and valuable tool—prayer—to help us.
President James E. Faust said, “When God placed man on the earth, prayer became the lifeline between mankind and God. Thus, in Adam’s generation, men began ‘to call upon the name of the Lord.’
Continuing, “Through all generations since that time, prayer has filled a very important human need. Each of us has problems that we cannot solve and weaknesses that we cannot conquer without reaching out through prayer to a higher source of strength. That source is the God of heaven to whom we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Problem solving and working out our salvation is a life-long ambition, fraught with potholes, road bumps, and dusty detours. Through faithful and dedicated prayers we find comfort, solace, and real solutions.
Years ago, my two sons and I headed into the high Uintah’s for a backpacking trip with a friend and his son. After a long hike—several miles in—we set up our tents, fixed dinner, and headed to a lake for a round of fishing. My son Aaron, at the time about 10 or 11, decided to climb some rocks nearby, and situated himself on a ledge where he could look down on us some 15 or 20 feet below.
I had just thrown my line into the water and heard a commotion behind me. I realized he had accidently fallen from above onto a fallen dead tree that had several broken limbs protruding from the trunk. He must have hit one of those broken limbs as he fell, stabbing himself in his stomach area. He was in severe pain.
Within a few hours it was dark and rain began to come down in torrents. We hurried to the tent and he lay in pain for several hours. I knew the hike out was almost impossible especially with the rain, the darkness and the terrain we had just endured. I prayed fervently to know what to do and to come up with some kind of solution to the problem. My only impression was to give him a blessing.
I gave him a blessing and pronounced that he would be OK until we returned home. Days later when he was checked, he had injured his spleen. It was a faith-promoting experience for us as we took note of a needed blessing far from medical help.
While a powerful tool for solving problems, prayer should help build our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sister Carol F. McConkie said, “Prayer is essential to developing faith. We are children of a loving Heavenly Father, and we may enjoy personal communion with Him when we pray “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ.”
In the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2:32:8-9) we learn the importance of consecrating our performance through prayer. Christ becomes the focal point of that performance.
3—With prayer we are expected to perspire and persevere.
Getting on our knees is the easy part. But solutions to myriad concerns or problems we encounter come with persistence and perspiration. Some of you may have heard this story of two frogs:
Two frogs fell into a deep cream bowl,
One was an optimistic soul;
But the other took the gloomy view,
“We shall drown,” he cried, without more ado.
So with a last despairing cry,
He flung up his legs and said, “Good-bye.”
Quoth the other frog with a merry grim,
“I can’t get out, but I won’t give in.
I’ll just swim round till my strength is spent,
Then will I die the more content.”
Bravely he swam till it would seem
His struggles began to churn the cream.
On the top of the butter at last he stopped,
And out of the bowl he gaily hopped.
What of the moral? ‘Tis easily found:
If you can’t hop out, keep swimming around.
My friends, I am sure that many of us have felt the depths of despair or the sting of defeat, and would just as soon give up or give in.
We ask for strength and God gives us difficulties which make us strong.
We pray for wisdom and God sends us problems, the solution of which develops wisdom.
We plead for prosperity and God gives us brain and brawn to work.
We plead for courage and God gives us dangers to overcome.
We ask for favors—God gives us opportunities. (author unknown)
I have heard it said, the Lord rarely gives us revelation about something we haven’t thought much about, questioned, or really studied out in our mind.
Isn’t it intriguing that almost every revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants started with a question, a formed hypothesis, or statement of a problem that needed solving. But we know from history and from our own experiences that it doesn’t end there. The Lord expects us to work through it, sometimes chewing on it for days or months, sometimes years, before the answers come.
Sometimes we may pray fervently and no solution comes to mind. At those times we might feel we need to sit tight or, perhaps Heavenly Father is trusting us to move forward on our own using our best effort and experience. Part of our existence is learning how to choose, and to work through problems on our own. Other times, we may receive explicit direction from the Holy Ghost. Either are meant to help us build faith, and to move forward with confidence.
Even Nephi and his brothers didn’t secure the plates at first. It took three tries, an angel, a good beating, and some clever maneuvering on Nephi’s part to get to the plates.
4—It takes practice to engage in meaningful prayer.
Meaningful prayer happens when we are on our knees. However, we are told we can pray anywhere, any time. In the Book of Mormon a group of people were told they couldn’t pray, and so their hearts became the place of their most meaningful and sincerely uttered prayers.
For about 20 years our family lived in Taylorsville, just a short distance from our church. While serving as Bishop there, I often used my early morning walk—circling the church 15 or 20 times—to pray and ponder on challenges in the ward. Often, days and weeks would go by as I walked, pondered, and contemplated. Problems and situations were carved into my walk as I practiced principles of prayer I knew would bring answers. Sometimes the answers came swiftly, sometimes it took weeks, sometimes I was left to move forward the best I knew how.
Meaningful prayer comes through practice. Elder Bednar said, “As we speak of prayer, I emphasize the word meaningful. Simply saying prayers is quite a different thing from engaging in meaningful prayer. I expect that all of us already know that prayer is essential for our spiritual development and protection. But what we know is not always reflected in what we do. And even though we recognize the importance of prayer, all of us can improve the consistency and efficacy of our personal and family prayers.
Practicing prayer begins when we are young. Each morning and night, family prayer is the perfect place to practice. In the last 32 years I attribute blessings to our family as a result of regular family prayer morning and night. Our homes should be a school, of learning how to practice meaningful prayer.
Meaningful prayer involves asking the right questions. Elder Richard G. Scott said, “A key to improved prayer is to learn to ask the right questions. Consider changing from asking for the things you want to honestly seeking what He wants for you. Then as you learn His will, pray that you will be led to have the strength to fulfill it.”
Brothers and sisters, in summary, prayer is a vital and valuable tool to solving our problems. We are expected to practice to achieve meaningful prayer, sometimes perspiring and persevering. The end result can be confidence in ourselves, confidence in a loving Heavenly Father, having fired our faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that we have done what we can to work out our salvation.
I close with the sacred strains:
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed. The motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast. Prayer is the burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear. The upward glancing of an eye when none but God is near. Prayer is the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try; Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach the Majesty on high.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.