"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
November 28, 2012
The Promises and Processes of Prayer
by Marian Stoddard

Ellen White, who was the point-of-origin person for the Seventh-day Adventists, said, "The relationship between God and each soul should be as distinct and as full as if that soul were the only one to share his watchcare, the only one for whom He gave His Beloved Son." In my last column I talked about what that means in terms of our worth to him in his infinite love.

I want to talk now about what it means as a relationship between God and us as his children.

Patricia Holland gave the most wonderful talk several years ago. She said that we are supposed to not just be with God, but be like Him. She asked, how can we become like Him without spending time with Him?

How do we spend time with Him? There are two basic ways: through immersing ourselves in the scriptures, and through prayer. Each is worth several sermons by itself. The help of the Holy Ghost is our teacher and companion in both. Reading the scriptures brings us the accounts of others as they have been given truth and spiritual experience, and gives us the chance to learn from them. Prayer creates our own experience with Him.

We teach our children how to pray, beginning when they are very small. We teach the important concept that we pray to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, his Son. We teach them that it is important to offer thanks as well as seek the help we need.

Although we do not use set prayers, it is easy to fall into automatic patterns of praying. It is not necessary to find new words every time we pray, but we should pause to quiet our minds and mean what we are saying. It is that quiet pause in our busy distraction that matters, and the ongoing acknowledgement that we receive all things through Him.

So we learn that prayer comes from our own heart and thought, but there is still the sense that prayer is meant to be composed, for lack of a better word. Personal, but logically lined out, considered, and preferably calm.

Where does that leave us when there is a gut-punching crisis and all that lines up in our head is shock and pain? Then we need to abandon concern for the ordinary daily litany of thanks and please-blesses and just pour out our hearts to God, who loves us and knows every bit how bad this is. He may be the only anchor we have in such a circumstance as we find ourselves in.

A mother with a child suddenly in grave condition at the hospital, while doctors fight for her life, can only pace back and forth outside the hospital room, her heart crying out, "Save her! Save her! I can't lose her!" over and over. A father feeling powerless to affect the destructive choices his rebellious child is making; a husband or wife blindsided with the announcement that his or her spouse is leaving: these and many, many other situations completely overwhelm us. Suddenly we’re near drowning in shock and fear. Where do we turn? Do we turn away from God — that way lies bitterness — or to Him?

If we throw our arms out to our Father, even if we are just flailing about at first, His lifeline will be ready. We can reach out to Him and He will reach back, becauseHhe is actually reaching first. We may not be able to hear or feel His answering assurance at first, but He will continue to pour it out on us until we weary of panic and let it in.

His love and help will bring us healing, and often they are the only things that can. Then He will give us direction, and we can find our way. Though it may seem slow, and it may take time, and we will have our ups and downs, He will stay with us through it all.

Or, do we feel sometimes that our small troubles are not worth bothering Him about, with all the problems in the universe?

Ellen White, above, said that anything that is sufficient to disturb our peace is important enough to bring before Him. Sister Holland said that He is the one friend who will not become bored with us, and He is never too busy.

He does not wish for us to leave him alone and deal with it ourselves. He can offer peace where there seems to be no peace, and He can heal all things. As if we were the only one to share His watchcare, He will guard us. As if we were the only one for whom He gave His Beloved Son, He will attend to us and our need. His love for us is without limit, and His promises will not fail.

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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