“Love not what thou are,
but only what thou may become.”
– Don Quixote
Recently a visiting authority in the church called me up from the congregation to give an impromptu testimony. Since my dad is in the stake presidency, it would have been decent of him to have given me a heads up via text or creative hand gestures…but no.
So with heart beating, hands shaking, and a couple minutes to prepare, I made my way up to the front, and the following thoughts came to mind. So I shared.
One time while I was on my mission in Italy, I entered the office of my mission president for a sort of interview with him. These sit-down chats with a mission president are great opportunities to get advice and words of wisdom, so after we sat down and exchanged a few words of greeting and so forth, he asked me if I had any questions for him. I did.
“I’ve been doing my best to be a good person, and a good missionary,” I said. “I look for opportunities to serve, I read my scriptures – but I still feel like there’s something else I should be doing. What am I missing?”
He sat forward in his chair a little and clasped his hands upon the table. “You are not the first missionary to ask me that question,” he said. “In fact, I have been getting that question a lot. And as I have been thinking about it, and praying about it, a principle came to mind. And it all has to do with prayer. I assume you pray every day, is that right?”
“Good. Could you tell me the different steps of prayer – just as if I were someone you were teaching.”
Well, as a missionary, I taught people to pray almost every day. So the steps came quickly and easily to mind.
“You start by Addressing God. Then within the prayer, you Thank Him for the different blessings and people in your life, for things throughout the day, and so forth. You also Ask God for things – ask for blessings for yourself or others, or ask questions. And then you End the prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, and then say Amen.”
My mission president nodded. “Good. Those are usually the four steps we remember in praying. But there’s one other that we often forget….”
And then he told me about the principle of prayer he called “Return and Report”. He said that when we start our days with prayer, along with thanking God and asking Him for what we need, we should also make it a daily pattern to discuss with God our plans for the day – things we need to get done, goals we wish to accomplish, habits we wish to improve upon, etc.
Throughout the day, we do our best, and at the end of the day, we come back to God in prayer, and discuss our day. We evaluate how we did – what we got done, what we did not; what we did well, what we could have done better. We discuss these with the Lord, and we ask for His help.
Those words stuck with me and gave me great food for thought. It reminds me of what the prophet Alma says to his son in the Book of Mormon:
“Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Alma 37:36-37)
In really talking with God, keeping Him involved in our day, we invite God’s power into our lives. We learn to walk with Him and to really feel His presence throughout the day, instead of ceasing communication with Him until the next meal. This leaves the door wide, wide open for Him to step in and shape us.
That’s how repentance works – it’s a process of change, of transformation. Christ’s grace flows into our lives and fashions us into better people by changing our hearts and influencing our actions. By allowing our Maker to step in every day, we are molded and crafted into the instruments He wants us to be. We become who we are meant to be.
And that’s what it’s all about – in the end, it’s not what we do, but who we are that matters to God. He looks at our hearts, not at our schedule or trophy wall. But who we become is influenced by how we act and what we do. It’s in our daily actions that God’s power can be manifest, that we experience the grace of Christ, that we can change.
Prayer is the invitation for God to come in and start transforming us.
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