A couple of things this weekend have turned my mind to deeper thinking about prayer. The first is a conversation that may have likewise occurred at your house this week. Tim Tebow has certainly become a household name here, not least because my husband is a Broncos fan from way back, but also because he might be an actual anomaly: the man who seems to have it all and still wants to put God first.
My dad has followed this young man's career for some time and became an instant Broncos fan two years ago for his recruitment there. I was less enthusiastic, as I am about most things related to pro football, and never gave him much thought until I saw him on John Stewart during this year's NFL lockout. I was blown away. Self-deprecating. Candid. Smart. Unflappable. And, well, he projected an aura of humility that is utterly disarming in a person of his standing and with his fame. I came away from the interview thinking, "This is guy might be the real deal." Even Stewart seemed fazed by his genuine and magnetic niceness.
Fast-forward to the non-lockout part of the NFL season. A couple of Sundays ago, I happened to be in the Denver airport, where many down-in-the-mouth Denver fans in full fan-gear lamented that no "miracle" had happened that week. And I found myself rooting for the young man who puts God in the center of his life even when it would be so easy to put himself there. And yes, for the Broncos too. It makes Plantboy happy when they win and I like my man happy.
Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not one of these folks who thinks that God is a Broncos fan. (I think there is plenty about professional football and its cultural accompaniments that He would love to see go away entirely.) I do, however, think He is probably a Tim Tebow fan. Isn't He always on our side when we attempt to do what is good and right and persuade others to follow? Doesn't He want young people to have a role model who is more likely to point to the Savior than to himself?
Plantboy and I, in a role reversal for us, have different opinions. Plantboy is skeptical . . . particularly in Tebow's claims of chastity. He also patently disapproves of Tebow's public "tebowing." As he pointed out the other day--aren't we to pray privately? And, as the scriptures say, God who sees in private will reward in open? I'm not so sure. I think there is something refreshing about such a display of public devotion. If it disconcerts me then perhaps I am the one who needs to rethink my level of commitment.
On to the next topic, which is closer to home and much closer to my heart. Last night we showed the boys the movie 17 Miracles. I hadn't seen it so I wasn't quite prepared for the level of "disaster peril" in which the characters would be placed. It was a very emotional experience for all of us. My four year-old was a little bit less enamored (it was largely over his head) and at one point he asked my teary-eyed seven year old, "Why are you so sad?" Padawan looked at him and said, "Sometimes you can have a happy cry." I think it was his way of describing the Spirit, for he wasn't particularly happy at that moment. Nor was he sad. I think he was in that area where your emotions are so profound and unexplainable they just leak out your eyes.
At bedtime, Plantboy asked Padawan if he would pray for us. I always enjoy Padawan's prayers. He rarely repeats. Each phrase is deliberate and carefully thought out. His prayers are actually relevant to what is happening in our lives. And he does this without prompting. Last night, however, Plantboy did prompt him to remember the pioneers in his prayer. We all bowed heads and there was a very long pause. Padawan's tender seven year-old voice was infused with emotion throughout his simple prayer. He didn't specifically pray for the pioneers, though I could tell from the "happy cry" he had going on that he was thinking about them. He said at one point, "We are thankful for the Spirit. Help us to remember who we are . . . and who we are meant to be." The last phrase was slow, deliberate and almost whispered.
It isn't phrasing I've ever used. The idea was original, or at least originated from the Spirit he was feeling. I marveled at the gift of this little spirit in our home, and prayed that I would know who he is and who he is meant to be. God surely will hear his prayers in secret and reward him openly.
These thoughts led me this morning to the place where I'm ready to choose my goals for the year. Some time ago (18 months?) I posted about a visit that Elder Whitney Clayton made to our area. He was at a meeting for Stake Presidents where I was serving. In an effort to keep the noise down during his talk, they asked the kitchen folks to refrain from washing dishes until he was done. He then asked us to join the group. It was a unique opportunity to be tutored intimately by a man so close to the apostles. As the church grows, no doubt such experiences will become more and more rare. I listened very carefully, and in a talk filled with wisdom and love and good humor, there was one moment that stood out to me above all others.
I will paraphrase Elder Clayton now. He said that there was no way that the councils of the Church could ever hold enough meetings to address the needs of those in the stake/ward/Church/etc. There are just too many problems. Real problems. However, he pointed out, the Lord could take care of those needs and use our service where He needed it the most if we were in tune enough to know what He needed us to do. To that end, Elder Clayton counseled, we must do everything we can to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost in our lives. He gave just three suggestions for keeping the Spirit daily in our lives:
1. Maintain and nourish your relationship with your spouse.
2. Read the scriptures regularly. Daily if possible.
3. Pray regularly. More than once daily if possible.
This will be the framework for what I want in 2012. I am ridiculously busy and over-committed right now. However, I don't know yet what might be cut out. That is another long story, but suffice it to say that my current commitments need to continue for at least a while longer. There is no way for me to accomplish what is needed without additional help. Divine help. There is no way for me to logic my way into the decisions that we will need to make in the next couple of years. Ephiphany, as has been given in the past, is the only thing that will show me the way forward. Seldom in my life have I felt so keenly the need for spiritual guidance. It has not been forthcoming. It is time for me to take ownership over that state of affairs.
This year I will:
1. Maintain and nourish the relationships within my immediate family. I will continue all those good things I have going with Plantboy (the one place in my life I feel truly successful). I will encourage my boys to be each others' best friends and I will foster an atmosphere of trust and love in my relationships with them.
2. I will work out a regular scripture reading plan, including making time to study the Book of Mormon regularly with a recently baptized friend who is heading to the temple later this spring. She is shy and still adjusting to Mormon culture. Our study times, when we get them, are marvelously valuable to both of us. I will not let this opportunity go.
3. I will learn to pray like my seven year old. Sincerely. With the spirit filling my heart and mind with just the right words. I will pray more often.
I'll check in from time to time. I'm grateful to those of you who are still along for the journey. I have lately felt rather a dearth of sincere friendship.