Thursday, September 30, 2010

Small Positive Changes in Families Can Multiply the Harvest of Blessings

Here’s a quote from Elder Eyring that particularly struck me today:
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)
I can also think of some things that are not considered spiritual in nature, but which happen (or could happen) often enough that small positive changes could still multiply blessings.
  • Family meals
  • Family chores
  • Family discipline
  • Conversation during family errands and chauffeuring
I’m sure that you can think of more that are individualized to your family. I want to challenge you to seek for inspiration about what small changes you could make that would multiply the blessings in your family.

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?


Anonymous said...

great post - as usual.

As for an experiment...I have been experimenting with mighty prayer. I hate to admit how casual my prayers are. I heard this great show on Mormon radio (conversations with Dr. Kelly Ogden). He spoke a little bit about mighty prayer - and how he would often get up, during his prayer, and write down inspiration as he received it.

I have a problem with focusing during prayer. My mind wanders, and then, after the prayer, I find that my prayer was mediocre at best. I've started really thinking before i say a morning prayer (when I have time to myself). I write down things I want to remember - gratitude, reports on some things in my life, blessings i feel i need, blessings for others, etc.

Writing this list helps. It gets my mind ready for prayer. I have to admit, sometimes, when I'm losing focus during the prayer, I'll take a peek at the list. Maybe that seems wrong, but it is helping me.

And I have a question for you - I think that I need to do better with scripture study with my spouse. What do you do? How often? can I get some ideas. We have scriptural discussions. We have family scripture study, but we don't have "couples" scripture study. I feel like we probably need the inspiration that comes from study. Any ideas?

Michaela Stephens said...

thatgoodpart: What an awesome experiment! I don't see anything wrong with peeking at a list during a prayer if it helps you stay focused.

On the companion scripture study:
My husband and I started out by reading just one chapter in the scriptures everyday, but in the last year we decided that we also wanted to keep up with the Sunday school lessons too, so we also read the chapters assigned for the lesson. Right now we are trying to read the whole Old Testament (we are churning through Proverbs), but the Sunday school lesson for this next week is on the first six chapters of Isaiah. Today we read Proverbs 28 and then Isaiah 4. Multiple chapters from different places is good for couples study because you both have more patience and maturity to take that time.

I hope all former missionaries will chime in and tell us how they got discussion going on their companion study readings during their mission. I'm still a beginner in that respect.

Something I aspire to do eventually is problem-solving by couple scripture study. (Or maybe that is something that should be in a family home evening or family counsel venue..)