As is often the case, my Sunday Soliloquy for this week comes by way of a book I read. Today's thought-provoking read was "Prayers That Bring Miracles," by Stephen M. Bird. I lived in the same ward with the Birds for a number of years and always found myself looking to them as examples of devotion to family, dedication to the gospel, and diligence in their church service. It was no surprise to me to discover this same integrity of purpose in the book Stephen wrote.
The book begins with an experience Stephen had while serving as a chaplain in the military. One of the men in his care had tested positive for drug use, even though he'd been clean for some time. He was anxious for help. Stephen knew that only the Lord could help this young man, and so he taught the principles of prayer, as guided by the Spirit. The remainder of the book takes us through those same principles, helping the reader to understand the process of prayer more deeply than before.
I first read this book about ten years ago, and as I read it again this afternoon, I reflected on how I've changed in those ten years. I was in a different place spiritually then, as well as in life - then, I only had two children, both very young, while today I'm facing the teenage years with trepidation. Back then, different things about the book struck me than did today. I think that's how it is - we learn lessons when we're ready to learn them. We can read, or see, or hear, the exact same thing on two different occasions, and come away with two different messages. Last time, I was left with a stronger testimony that God answers prayers. Today, I'm more deeply contemplating the experience of prayer, and how we can make our prayers most effective.
I was particularly moved by the chapter which dealt with the manner in which we address God. Do we start our prayers casually, without really thinking about it, or do we take the time to push our other cares to the side and really approach him? Having four children, as I do, those quiet moments are often nonexistent, but I can still create that room in my mind. I can humble myself mentally and come before Him reverently, even when all around me is total chaos.
I've always had a close relationship with God, so much so that I'll often carry on a conversation with Him in my mind throughout the day that lasts for hours. This has blessed my life in so many ways, and yet, I wonder - have I taken this for granted? Have I become so casual in my relationship with Him that I'm forgetting to show Him the honor and the reverence that should always go into my conversations with Him?
I was also touched by the chapter on gratitude. The timing on this comment may seem a little trite, coming the week of Thanksgiving, but this book points out the crucial importance of thanking God in everything. He doesn't give us everything we ask for because we sometimes ask for things that would harm us. We should be grateful for everything we get, and everything we don't get. If all our prayers were answered the way we wanted, we would be miserable people. We wouldn't have grown or progressed at all, and we won't know how to hold our own in the face of opposition. Tonight I'm grateful for the things I didn't get, recognizing that He's the only one Who knows what I really need, and always loves me enough to give it to me.
Those are my thoughts this Sunday. They are thoughts of reverence, of gratitude, and hopefully thoughts of change and repentance, that I can do better this next week and always be aware of His hand in my life and to show proper reverence and appreciation.
You can purchase this book here.
If you'd like to read other reviews on this book, click here and here and here.