Sunrise in Punta Cana

Give us this day…

Give us this day…

I realized recently that the way I pray is different from the way people pray in the scriptures. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with how I’ve prayed, but comparing the differences has brought new insights into my relationship with God.

My recent HWN has come in pondering these insights.

Help vs Give

For most of my life, I’ve prayed for “help to accomplish” things… For God to “help” me find a job, or “help” to do well on a test, or to “help” to travel safely. But when Christ taught us how to pray, he said:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

Rather than asking for “help” to earn daily bread or to receive forgiveness or for “help” to avoid temptation, Christ prayed that His Father would “give” Him bread, “forgive” Him of His debts, and “deliver” him from evil.

Jesus looking back

The wording in Christ’s prayers seems to highlight that God is the source of our blessings.

Over the last several months, wording in other prayers recorded in scripture has stuck out to me as well. In Nephi’s psalm for example, among other things, he prayed:

O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul?… deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies… make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin… encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness… make a way for mine escape before mine enemies… make my path straight before me!

2 Nephi 4:31-33

At a different time, Nephi asked:

Give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.

1 Nephi 7:17

Another example is when the brother of Jared asked God:

touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness;

Ether 3:4
Brother of Jared with Lord touching stones

Alma the younger prayed:

…wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities… wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ… grant unto me that I may have strength… comfort my soul, and give unto me success, and also my fellow laborers who are with me… Wilt thou grant unto them that they may have strength… give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee.

Alma 31:31-35

Clearly, Nephi, the brother of Jared, and Alma also understood that God is the source of their blessings.

I don’t think God is put off when I or anybody prays for “help” to accomplish something. I think He loves to answer these sincere prayers at much as any. I just know that I tend to rely too much on myself, and this is a shift in focus that I’ve needed.

I can relate to the children of Israel when they prayed…

The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God.

Exodus 15:2

And King David who said:

The Lord is my strength and my shield.

Psalm 28:7
The object of prayer

I think a couple sentences about prayer from the bible dictionary also help in this context. There, it says:

The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them... Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.

If God is already willing to grant blessings, why do we need to ask? What does prayer do that is so important for receiving these blessings.

I think it’s that…

God doesn’t need me to ask Him for blessings, but I need me to ask Him for blessings.

This acknowledgement of God as the source is a key that helps bring me to the right place to be able to receive blessings.

Elder Dale G. Renlund said:

When you receive any blessing from God, you can conclude that you have complied with an eternal law governing reception of that blessing. But remember that the “irrevocably decreed” law is time insensitive, meaning blessings come on God’s timetable.

Abound with Blessings

Elder Renlund pointed out that the “reception” of a blessing is contingent upon our obedience.

My obedience doesn’t convince God in any way to give a blessing — as the bible dictionary says, God “is already willing” to give it. Rather, it’s that my obedience in asking God for a blessings brings me into a place to be able to receive it.

Even though God is willing… Even though He wants to give me blessings… even more than that, He wants me to choose to receive the blessing from Him — to acknowledge His hand.

plane shadow in rainbow circle on clouds

Another thing that helps me understand this is gratitude…

I’ve already been in a habit of giving God credit for everything I accomplish in this life. When I travel safely, I thank Him for protecting me as I travel. When I finish a hard task at work, I thank Him for giving me strength and intelligence to do it. When I develop a new friendship, I give God credit for bringing us together.

The shift in my prayers from asking for “help” from God to asking for Him to “do” things on my behalf is an acknowledgement that He is the source of all blessings. I can acknowledge that in how I ask before the blessing comes just like how I thank Him afterwards. In both of these cases I’m being obedient to God’s invitation to:

…[ask] for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always [return] thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.

Alma 7:23

I want to emphasize God’s hand in the miracles that happen my life — both before and after they happen.

I need God

Now when I pray, I ask God to do things on my behalf. I ask God to change me and to change the world around me. And when I ask, I acknowledge that although God doesn’t need my efforts to make them happen, I need His. 

I can’t accomplish anything without God, just like…

As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:4
grapes on vine

It’s like math.

If God’s efforts are infinity and my efforts are any finite number. No matter how large, there’s no amount I can add that will increase the sum above infinity. Conversely, without God’s infinite effort, no matter how big my finite number is, if you take away infinity, the outcome is negative infinity and never enough. 

My efforts are for me… They’re to help me recognize that I need God.

Justified by his grace

I am subject to the same truth as everyone else that…

…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God

Romans 3:23

Because of that, I’m so grateful that I can…

…[be] justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…

Romans 3:24

I don’t just want help to justify myself and help to find forgiveness. I want God to justify me. I want God to forgive me. That’s the only way those things can happen. There is no forgiveness or redemption without Christ.

Ultimately, there is nothing without Christ.

p.s. It’s been a while since my last post! Feel free to check out some photo albums of recent adventures:

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