Sacrament Talk – Ineffective Prayers

by | Mar 11, 2021

inside lds chapel

See also: Sacrament Talk Help

Topics: prayer, well-being, difficult people, timing

Time: 7-8 minutes plus up to 10 mins worth of possible add-ons (in purple).

Introduction

Stories from The Book of Mormon remind us that difficult circumstances and difficult people are woven into the framework of our mortal experience. For example, the wicked high priest Amulon enslaved Alma’s people and put miserable, heavy burdens on their backs. Even the “most blessed” of us navigate challenging people and situations repeatedly. While this might seem like bad news…it’s not.

Part of our spiritual journey is reaching out to heaven for help and relief through prayer and faithful living. Prayer is powerful. Prayer changes things. However, have you noticed the answers to our prayers rarely match our desired, well-thought-out remedies?

Optional: (2-4 mins) Share an experience that brought you to your knees and what was the result? And/or share an answer to a prayer that didn’t happen how you expected or wanted – but you knew it was the right answer. Avoid the temptation to share rare, “wow” miracle stories. Those are seldom applicable or helpful to others.

There’s a learning curve to prayer and to receiving personal revelation.

Zap Them with Lightning

Story: After a lifetime, I’ve discovered the kinds of prayers which, guaranteed, don’t work. For example, when I was much younger, I used to pray that the Lord would zap completely awful people with lightning or send fire-breathing dragons their way as a relief to my hardships (true story). It never happened once. ~Shawnie Cannon

Prayers that Work

On the other hand, Alma and his people unveiled the Universe’s secret key to happiness and well-being. Their prayers did get results. Listen to what the Lord said to them, even though Amulon – the wicked high priest, completely deserved to be zapped by lightning:

14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage [or dealing with any unpleasant situation]; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions [or awkward, tough circumstances].

15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

Mosiah 24:14-15

It was more important for the people of Alma to become stronger than it was for Amulon to become weaker. Similar to their experience, the prayer which works every time is, “Heavenly Father, please make me equal to what I face.” Challenges don’t disappear but how they look and feel improves remarkably. Our sense of capacity increases and the weight we feel decreases.

Parable of the Beam & the Mote

The parable of the beam and the mote also clues us into better prayer and better outcomes. The Savior told us to worry about what is in our own eye rather than anyone else’s (Matthew 7:3-5). Not necessarily because ours is the bigger fault or guilt because many times they are not. Instead, it’s because the beam-sized business between you and the Savior is…you. Specifically, growing you. What others are doing is the mote. Life isn’t so much about what happens to us, as much as it is how we respond to what happens. The bottom-line message? Let Christ worry about the misdeeds of others, you have enough on your plate.

Besides, we’re miserable when we focus on the guilt of others or worry about what other people deserve. Like noise-canceling headphones, indignation and resentment quash happiness.

Optional: (2-4 mins) Share a personal story about being upset with someone else and realizing you were the one who needed to be proactive, move on or change your focus. If possible, share the relief and/or empowerment you felt. This can be a meaningful, but sensitive topic. Be careful not to share any story which would embarrass anyone present, hurt someone’s reputation or single them out. Guaranteed this chases the Spirit away.

Submitting to Christ means calling on Him, pulling Him into the picture and trusting Him. It means conquering your knee-jerk reactions toward others or even yourself. “Submitting” does not imply adopting the degrading story of your oppressor or your hard situation. Alma’s people found their strength and their sense of well-being by deferring to Christ, not anyone else. Amulon could bind them down for a time but he couldn’t break them. The process of strengthening and conquering ourselves despite afflictions catapults us upwards.

Summary

Elder Holland sums up the purpose of difficult times beautifully in his Conference Talk “Waiting Upon the Lord” (Oct 2020):

“one’s life … cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free.” It simply will not work “to glide naively through life,” saying as we sip another glass of lemonade, “Lord, give me all thy choicest virtues, but be certain not to give me grief, nor sorrow, nor pain, nor opposition. Please do not let anyone dislike me or betray me, and above all, do not ever let me feel forsaken by Thee or those I love. In fact, Lord, be careful to keep me from all the experiences that made Thee divine. And then, when the rough sledding by everyone else is over, please let me come and dwell with Thee, where I can boast about how similar our strengths and our characters are as I float along on my cloud of comfortable Christianity.”

Optional: (1-2 mins) Share your gratitude and/or testimony about prayer in hard times.

May your prayers strengthen you, grow and bless you and may you feel the powers of heaven in times of need.

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