Sunday, November 23, 2014

Talk on Prayer and Gratitude

This is the talk (sermon) I gave today in the Potomac Midsingles Ward. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said that one of the greatest sins of which the Latter-day Saints would be guilty is the sin of ingratitude.” I presume most of us have not thought of that as a great sin.

While a member of the Presiding Bishopric, then Bishop Henry Eyring said, “Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation and thankfulness for blessings or benefits we have received. As we cultivate a grateful attitude, we are more likely to be happy and spiritually strong. We should regularly express our gratitude to God for the blessings He gives us and to others for the kind acts they do for us.
“To find gratitude and generosity when you could reasonably find hurt and resentment will surprise you. It will be so surprising because you will see so much of the opposite: people who have much more than others yet who react with anger when one advantage is lost or with resentment when an added gift is denied.
“Whatever we get soon seems our natural right, not a gift. And we forget the giver. Then our gaze shifts from what we have been given to what we don’t have yet.”
In the book, “All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience” by Elder Neal A Maxwell, he states-
There is little doubt… that a goodly portion of our pride proceeds from some assumptions we make about ourselves and our lives- assumptions that are at first soothing but very wrong. We think, for instance, that we “own” ourselves. It is perfectly true that our individual identity is guaranteed, that we are agents for ourselves, and so forth- but this truth, when it is torn away from other realities, gives us a very lopsided view of things. Without the ransoming atonement of the Savior, we would be stranded souls, doomed to die with no hope of the resurrection of or individual immortality. We were literally purchased by Jesus. Quite true, we do not yet have to acknowledge that reality, though someday we will. Nor are we now even forced to follow the conditions that the Purchaser laid down. So in a sense, we are quite free to do as we please, just as if we were our own. But it is a terrible illusion, an illusion that will be shattered by His second coming and the judgment. Meanwhile, the illusion is kept alive because some want to believe it. CLOSE QUOTE
We have a natural resistance to feeling owned. To not want to give the Lord credit for our personal accomplishments. We want to believe that we are responsible for all that we have. We want the credit for our talents, time, and possessions.
“This illusion underwrites the false assumptions that we make about our time, our talents, and our possessions that each of us sees as “mine.” We may even feel noble when we give of our time and means, and we are apt to be somewhat grumpy if anyone, especially a prophet, reminds us that all that we have belongs to God anyway.”
And are we thankful? Do we properly express our gratitude for all that the Lord has given us?
We must give credit to the Lord through our obedience, and by thanking Him through prayer. The Lord does not ask us for monuments or gifts. He only asks us to pray and obey.
When you pray, do you picture a heavenly, mysterious being in a far off place? Or do you picture the person who has given you all that you have, sitting in the room beside, always with you, as He has promised to do? Do you picture the Father who’s name just a few minutes ago you covenanted to take upon you?
When I picture a loving Father, in the room beside me, who knows me better than I know myself, and I truly believe loves me, and wants me to be happy, I find it much easier to pray and share the true contents of my heart. And when I think of this loving Father in the room with me, there with His arms around me as I pray, as the person who has given me all that I have, it isn’t hard at all to thank Him and show my gratitude.
The greatest single piece of advice I was ever given came many years ago from a friend as I went through a difficult struggle. She challenged me to not kneel down and pray for help and guidance and for the long list of things I needed in my life. Instead, she challenged me to offer only a prayer of gratitude. I told her I didn’t have anything to be thankful for, things were too difficult. She said then to start with the simplest basics- to thank the Lord that I was alive, that I had shoes on my feet, clothes to wear, and that there was food in the cupboard. Her theory was that the more we focused on what we had to be grateful for, the smaller our problems would seem to be.
I have put her advice to the test many times in my life. During my darkest days after three years of unemployment, and discovering what ‘rock bottom’ really looks like, I would stop my prayers and pleas for help. And instead, I’d kneel down and pray a list of things I had to be grateful for. There were days the list was too short, but I could always find something.
President Monson said, “Our most significant opportunities will be found in times of greatest difficulty.”
Prayer and gratitude an intrinsically linked. You cannot truly express your gratitude without prayer.
In Mosiah chapter 4 we learn about prayer and repentance. In verses 11 and 12 it says that if we pray with a pure heart, “ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”
When we pray, we are accompanied and filled with the Holy Ghost, who brings back memories of what God has taught and given us. One of the ways God teaches us is with his blessings. And so in a way, expressing our gratitude for our blessings, brings about more blessings.
President Monson expanded upon what the Prophet Joseph said. “If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.”
Elder Richard G. Scott said, “We live in a unique time in the world’s history. We are blessed with so very much. And yet it is sometimes difficult to view the problems and permissiveness around us and not become discouraged. I have found that, rather than dwelling on the negative, if we will take a step back and consider the blessings in our lives, including seemingly small, sometimes overlooked blessings, we can find greater happiness.”
I bear my testimony that I know these things are true. That obedience to the Lord's commandments, and showing our gratitude to Him will only lead to greater happiness. 
I have seen rock bottom. I know what it looks like, and I know how painful it can be. But I also know that in those darkest days, where nothing seems fair, or like it will ever end, that we can find happiness by focusing on those small and simple things that we can be grateful for. 
I know that sometimes dark days don't end. That there is no rainbow with a pot of gold at the end to congratulate you for making it through. The truth is that sometimes they don't end. Sometimes the challenges go on forever. But we can find happiness in those times by being grateful for what we do have. And one day you won't feel so dark. You find light and happiness amidst the troubles around you. I've been there. My dark days only ended a year ago. It's still very raw and painful in my mind. But I know that I only found my way out by focusing on what I did have to be grateful for. 
I know my Father in Heaven loves me. I know He wants us to be happy. I know that we do not go through dark days as a punishment. They are things that just have to happen. But we can find joy and we can go on if pray and show our gratitude. 

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