This week I received an email from my sweet cousin Emily. She had told me about her week and how recently in seminary they have focused on prayer. She asked some questions about my experience with prayer and how I’ve gained a testimony of prayer. I felt to share this with her and I feel to include it in my email this week.
This was my response to her.
[Since being on a mission I have had to rely on prayer a lot. I’ve experienced a lot with prayer and it’s amazing what can happen when you understand and have faith in something like prayer.
I think a couple of the biggest things we need to understand about prayer is first “what it is”… If we don’t understand what praying is, then, just like anything else in the world if we don’t understand it, we won’t know what to do with it.
So what is prayer… Well to me, prayer is a form of communication. Just as we use a cell phone to talk to someone we can’t see or be with in a moment, we use prayer to communicate with someone very special, someone very important to us, in moments that we feel we need to.
And I’d say the second but really the first thing we need to understand is... “Who it is “ that we are talking to. When we pray, we are speaking to our Father in Heaven. We pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ (3Nephi 18:19). Our Father in Heaven looks forward to hearing from us and he will never grow tired of hearing from us. Just like our earthly parents want to know what’s going on in our life so does our Heavenly Father (even though he knows exactly what’s going on) he still wants to hear from us and see us exercise our faith in Him.
I had a really neat experience with prayer just before coming home halfway through my mission. I had just finished meeting with my mission president in a chapel in Stamford Connecticut. I had just found out in that meeting with my mission president that I would be coming home. When we left the building he told me, I need you to drive this mission car and I need you to follow behind me. You’ll be alone but you’ll follow me. While you have this opportunity to be alone I want to invite you to think about the things that we just talked about, I want you to role-play with God what you will say to your parents when you call and tell them that you’re coming home.
I have prayed aloud before many times; alone, in front of my family, even at church in front of a congregation. But it wasn’t until this experience that I really understood what it should be like to pray with real intent. The scriptures say to come before the Father with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In that moment I had a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I had faced my sins head on and came clean of that which kept me from the Spirit. I was uplifted, I was weightless, but I knew it wasn’t over... I knew that I had to go home, face my family, face my congregation, my friends, people that supported me going to serve a mission and my fear was their view on my early return home.
While driving behind my mission president and in a separate car that day I had never felt so much comfort, so much peace, and so much love in that moment then ever before.
I followed the invitation to speak aloud to my Father in Heaven and tell him of the things that I was worried about, the things I feared, but that I was willing to do it anyway.
For over an hour I had a conversation with God. I can’t say that He spoke words to me aloud, but the feelings that overfilled my heart allowed me to know that I wasn’t alone in this. One of the greatest things I learned that day was to give Heavenly Father time to reply.
So often we pray when we need something or when we are frustrated… Etc. but how often when we pray, do we stay on our knees and give Heavenly Father the time to place in our hearts and in our minds feelings and ideas for the things that we need and that we request.
Prayers aren’t always answered immediately, but they are always heard and in due time are always answered. God’s timing is far better than our timing. So we must give Him the time to respond to us through the spirit, even if it’s not going to happen immediately. Show Him you’re willing to listen, because that’s what a conversation is. A TWO-way discussion.
There are a lot of things we can learn from prayer. As you pray for experiences of your own you will come to have a stronger testimony.
I know that prayer is one of the greatest gifts we have been given in this life. It has blessed me abundantly and I am so grateful for it. Through my experiences with prayer I have felt my relationship with Heavenly Father grow and I know as you pray more often and with specific needs you will be blessed with divine help and guidance as you wait and listen to the Holy Ghost.]
This week has been good! Our mission has been picked to pilot a program to make contact with media referrals (meaning the people that go online and request a Free Bible or Book of Mormon make contact with missionaries online, who then refer that person to the mission of where they live). This alone has kept us busy. We haven’t had too much consistency in meeting with specific people but we’ve been out looking up, making a first contact with referrals, and lots of phone calls.
As part of this program, we get sent a lot of referrals, usually about 6 a day. We will figure out where they are located. We look up their address and determine which area they live in and we will send them to the missionaries that serve in that area. When we have referrals that live in our area we will make a few attempts (if necessary) to contact them. In our 1st attempt to contact them we deliver their requested item and seek to find their interest. We like to ask what lead this person to seek out a bible or Book of Mormon. It usually leads to a great and personal experience, where we have the opportunity to offer them a follow up appointment to come back and see how they are understanding their readings...
It’s been really busy! Going around trying to find those who have real intent to follow the Savior.
Today I felt like we had a pretty cool experience. Elder Patterson knew this family that moved into the Olmstead Ward in Hunts Point when he served there. They reached out to him and we met with them this evening at Panda Express. While we were eating, the husband, Brother Grace, asked Elder Patterson a question… He said “what is one of your greatest take-aways since being a missionary?” He said, “other than serving God and being able to share the gospel, what do you feel you’ve benefited from in your experience?” After Elder Paterson gave his response, he turned to me and said what’s yours? … Same question but what’s your thoughts? I thought about it for a second, I said similar to what Elder Patterson said (he mentioned maturity and how that’s been a big part of his change and experience as a missionary) I would have to say experiencing on a different level, independence. Being a missionary we are dependent on the funds we receive monthly and even at times the people back home supporting us out here. Learning to be thrifty with that money has impacted the way I see money and I see how I can better use it. I don’t like the thought of relying on people financially; I don’t like asking for money or handouts. So I’ve tried to focus on being independent.
I liked being out with Brother Grace and his family; I got a chance to think about how else the mission has impacted my life other than spiritually. The things I’ve learned while serving a mission apply in life after the mission.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been blessed with to have the experiences I’ve had that have brought me to where I am and have molded me to who I am today.
Patience. Love. Faith
Click here to see a wonderful video put out by the Mormon News Room about Religious Freedom, featuring a picture of my cute missionary!