Monday, February 27, 2012

Prayer can be a sacred grove experience

Two days ago, my husband and I were reading February’s home teaching message by President Eyring “Exhort Them to Pray” in preparation for giving it to a fellow who was in prison. Somehow I found myself somewhat puzzled by the concluding statement of the first five paragraphs.

When I was a little child, my parents taught me by example to pray. I began with a picture in my mind of Heavenly Father being far away. As I have matured, my experience with prayer has changed. The picture in my mind has become one of a Heavenly Father who is close by, who is bathed in a bright light, and who knows me perfectly.

That change came as I gained a sure testimony that Joseph Smith’s report of his experience in 1820 in Manchester, New York, is true:

“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16-17).

Heavenly Father was in the grove on that beautiful spring day. He called Joseph by name. And He introduced the resurrected Savior of the world as His “Beloved Son.” Whenever and wherever you pray, your testimony of the reality of that glorious experience can bless you. (Henry B. Eyring, “Exhort Them to Pray”, Feb 2012 Ensign, 4, bold added)

That last sentence puzzled me—“Whenever and wherever you pray, your testimony of the reality of that glorious experience can bless you.” It seemed too general to me to be helpful, so I asked my husband what he thought about it. "How can our testimony of the First Vision bless us?" My husband came back with this great thought: whenever and wherever we are, we can pray as if we are Joseph Smith in that grove of trees and have our own little sacred grove experience as we think of Heavenly Father close by listening.

I think this is what President Eyring is getting at. Because of his testimony of the First Vision, he no longer prays imagining Heavenly Father far away. He prays imagining Heavenly Father present in a pillar of light exactly over his head with a brightness and glory that defy all description, ready to speak and answer.

Elder Erying writes, “He hears our prayers as He heard Joseph’s prayer—as clearly as if they were being offered in His presence.” If He hears our prayers that clearly, then to all intents and purposes, He is in our presence, and we will benefit more from remembering and imagining that when we pray.

This week I’m trying to remember that when I pray. So far it has made prayer a very powerful experience. Will you try this experiment with me this week?



Becca said...

Wow, I read the message, and I remember reading that our testimony of the First Vision could help us in our prayers, but I didn't really make that connection.

See, this is why I love your blog :)

I am going to try this, too.

Our Relief Society lesson last week was on the First Vision/Joseph Smith, and if I didn't have a testimony before, I surely do now. It's stronger, at least. So this is the perfect time to try this out!

chococatania said...

Love this blog post.

Lately, I've been intrigued by the idea of seeing the Savior "afar off" ...and how eventually through our faith we come closer to Him. I love Elder Eyring's testimony and experience he had with prayer and the example of Joseph Smith. I've never made the connection, but it is really great.

Jenni Taysom said...

When I was a child I had a difficult time keeping my mind from wandering when I would pray. I don't know if I came up with the solution on my own or if someone suggested it to me, but I started imagining myself kneeling at the feet of God as He sat in His chair, maybe something like what Lehi describes, but no concourses of angels. Then I would just talk to my Father and prayer became a personal experience rather than a struggle.