Most of us have had some experience with self-improvement efforts. My experience has taught me this about how people and organizations improve: the best place to look is for small changes we could make in things we do often. There is power in steadiness and repetition. And if we can be led by inspiration to choose the right small things to change, consistent obedience will bring great improvement. (“The Lord Will Multiply the Harvest”, An Evening with Elder Henry B. Eyring, 6 February 1998, emphasis added)While the context for Elder Eyring’s talk was improvements in seminary instruction, it seems like it can easily apply to families as well. There are certain things that we do quite often in families, so if we can find small ways to improve in those things, then the effect of the blessing will be multiplied.
What kind of things happen often (or should be happening often) in families?
- Family prayer (daily)
- Family scripture study (daily)
- Personal prayer (daily and more)
- Family Home Evening (weekly)
- Family meals
- Family chores
- Family discipline
- Conversation during family errands and chauffeuring
I know that President Erying’s counsel is wise and true because I’ve been trying an experiment recently, trying to make two small changes in our family. One is in our family scripture study.
Rather than only wrestling on my own with scriptures that puzzle me, I have begun to ask my husband what he thinks about them. I have enough experience with being taught by the Spirit that I know that Heavenly Father will give me answers when I seek them, but I want to make sure that my husband gets opportunities to teach our family about the scriptures, and what better way to do that than to ask him questions about what we are reading? This might sound patronizing, but it’s not. I ask questions on things I don’t know, so we both stretch together as we think about it.
From preliminary results of this effort, I’ve noticed that our scripture study is more interesting. It feels like we’ve grown together as a couple. And I notice that my respect for him is increasing.
The second experiment I’ve been trying is in my personal prayers. Last Sunday in sacrament meeting the talks were about “praying like Christ,” and I was once again reminded of just how sporadic my personal prayers were. A scripture was read about how we shouldn’t perform anything unto the Lord unless we had prayed that our performance would be for the welfare of our souls and I started to think about how so often I tend to get distracted in the middle of doing something. I began to wonder what would happen if I prayed before every task I did. I wondered if that would help me keep from getting distracted. I also thought about how much time I spent doing certain things simply because I was trying to procrastinate doing what really needed to be done. I wondered if praying before each task would give me the heart and the will to not procrastinate in the first place.
I’m in my third or fourth day of this particular experiment and I can already see blessings. First, I remember the Lord much more. Second, it has made me more mindful of my motive for doing what I do. If I know I want to look at some websites because I want to waste time, I feel I can’t pray for a blessing on that, and if I can’t pray for that activity to be blessed, then I might as well not look at those websites at all. And I find myself not resenting that because I am intent upon doing my experiment: I want to pray and I want the Lord to bless me. It is automatically improving my priorities. I feel happier. It has also humbled me in a way that it is hard to describe, but which has shown me how little I know and yet I don’t resent it because at the same time I’m gaining this sense of how vast the wisdom of God is. It’s something more than rational and I don’t understand how it works; I only know that frequent prayer has brought it.
What experiment will you try? Or maybe there is something you are doing right now. Will you tell me about it?