. . . Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.1 Nephi 1:5
Pray to the Lord. And when you do it, pray with all your heart for the people around you.
Since reading this passage I started asking myself who are “my people?” I live in a foreign country watching the antics of my president from a distance. Do I pray for them? What of the country I currently live in – are they my people? Or what about the people of the other countries I have lived in during my life – are they my people? Certainly I could pray for each of them with all of my heart.
But I feel a disconnect from “the people” in general. I’ve been a nomand so long that associating myself with “a people” generally speaking has become difficult. So I considered further: Who are my people? My family. My colleagues and co-workers. My friends. My ward members and those I minister to. They are the people I should be praying for with all of my heart.
And so I do. I pray for them individually by name – one by one – attempting to use “all my heart” when doing so and I am finding a change taking place inside of me. Walls are coming down that I have put up to protect myself. Forgiveness is taking place where it has seemed to elude me in the past. My heart is softening toward each one where it has become bit hard. And I find a small sense of what we call charity developing inside me for each person I pray for by name. I’m certain that with time the Lord will grant me the ability to forgive all things of all people, help me become long-suffering in all life’s experiences, and learn to treat each person I associate with in perfect love.
But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.
Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord . . .1 Nephi 3:15-16
Be persistent in keeping the Lord’s commandments and following His instructions. Some things are not meant to be accomplished immediately or on the first try.
As I have been putting this post together I have repeatedly felt that I should address this particular precept instead of some of the others regarding keeping the commandments and following the instruction of the Spirit. I don’t know why, except to say that this precept involves a longer term perspective to keeping God’s commandments than most of the others which may only deal with what is going on today right now.
I am a perfectionist and therefore really really hard on myself when I make mistakes. This is fairly problematic in terms of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (a subject I hope to address in a future blog post), and if I had chosen any of the other passages I would have written quite harshly about myself.
But with this precept in mind – being persistent and consistent in keeping the commandments over time – it helps me to realize that failures are part of the process – just like with Nephi and his brothers – and giving up is the real problem. Our human bodies are prone to addiction – and as a friend of mine has mentioned – all sin is addiction. This means that when the Lord asks us to do simple things by the voice of His Spirit – “You should stop playing that app on your phone,” “Listen to this session of conference right now,” “Read your patriarchal blessing,” etc – and we fail and doing them it’s not the end. It’s not over. You may have missed out on blessings for being obedient right now in the moment, but keep moving forward and do better tomorrow. There are greater blessings to come for being persistent in the long term.
And that has been my reality over the last couple days since making the post with this precept and realizing my own hypocrisy when it comes to keeping all the commandments the Lord gives me. I have been thinking quite poorly of myself as I consider the simple things the Spirit is currently telling me to do which I am finding so hard to do. But tomorrow is another day and tomorrow I can be more diligent in keeping His commandments than I was today. And what matters is the long term results in my soul and my character.
And that’s what I am realizing about all of God’s commandments – the general ones as well as the personally specific ones. All of them are given to develop my character so that I can one day be like Jesus is now. And when that is my goal, keeping those commandments – and being persistent with them – becomes easier over time and more of a second nature.
And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.1 Nephi 4:6
Listen to the Spirit as you strive to accomplish your goals and God’s goals for you.
I have an on-going personal relationship with this precept. When choosing what to study at university and thus determine what my career would be in I let the Lord lead me, “not know beforehand the things which I should do.” More than once He had to tell me, “You know what your problem is? You want to see the end from the beginning and are not willing to take a step out into the dark.” At key moments in my career the Spirit has directed me to make specific decisions which I have followed unknowing where they would lead me or how the Lord might be answering my prayers. But as I consider my life right now I can see exactly how each of those significant moments have lead to the blessings I currently enjoy – specifically those of marriage and family – and I am grateful for the Lord directing me through His Spirit over time. I know “He will guide the future as He has the past,” and I trust Him with all my heart that He is leading me to my own land of promise. Some days are hard to remember that. But on days like today, when I remember all the Lord has done in guiding my life, my faith is strengthened and I can move forward knowing he is by my side guiding me by His Spirit when I choose to listen.