25 March 2013

The process of praying and receiving answers

Let me share some things from my mission or from other bookshelves of the library of my life that may just help someone in your mission. I recently thought a bit about an analogy given by one of my fellow missionaries in Port Elizabeth (during 1973), with some additional thoughts of my own that I shared with someone that I home teach. I can’t actually find the analogy that I think was written by Michael McLean, but it is about answers to prayer.

Suppose that I was in a maths class and the teacher gave me a problem to solve for homework. I would be expected to go home and work on the problem and come up with a solution.

It would not be appropriate for me to go back the next day and say that as I am entitled to an education and that we are all entitled to equal rights, that I ought to be given full marks even although I did not try. Examine this thought for a moment – if everyone received full marks regardless of their efforts and capabilities, how would one ever know for whom to vote to be president of the country? Or who to appoint as managing director of a company. Or - when you need that heart surgery, who to choose to do open heart surgery? There would be no way to measure individual capability for anything. So let us accept that each must put in personal effort to demonstrate his or her capability.

So then I do work on the problem and go the next day to show the teacher my solution. If I have the correct solution he can mark it correct and that can be the end of it. I am probably ready to write the exams later. He may give me other similar problems to enable me to sharpen my skill in solving that specific kind of problem.

If I do not have the correct answer, he would suggest that I work on it again. I try and return once or twice until I get the right answer. If, after a second or third attempt, I do not have the correct solution, he may show me how to solve the problem. I could be given another chance to work on the same problem under his tutelage.

He would then no doubt give me one or more similar problems to go and try to solve using the principles that he has repeated in his instructions to me. This would continue until I have developed the skill in solving that kind of problem.

Once I have mastered the application of the principles to solving that kind of problem, I would be ready to be examined and assessed in that kind of problem. The same procedure would be used to help me to develop skills in solving each kind of problem in its turn in the maths course.

Similarly, Heavenly Father is like the teacher. He gives us problems to study out and solve. He would allow us to work out the solutions ourselves, and return time after time for confirmation that we have the correct solution, or to be sent away with the same or similar problem to solve until we master the skills in that kind of problem. He would then give us different but related problems until we develop that skill, and then proceed with the next skill.

We are working to become Gods, so we cannot expect to not have to develop each skill that would be required of a God. We will not be ready to sit as peers with Adam, Abraham, Noah, Jacob or other great leaders if we have not developed the same kind of problem solving skills that they had to develop under their real and specific set of challenges. We are learning to become like deity and cannot hope to have an easy course, or to be simply given a passing grade because we think that we all deserve equal rights and privileges.

I remember several times that I went to the Master Teacher asking for confirmation that I had come to the right solution to a question or problem, only to be left with a stupor of thought indicating that I had not yet solved the problem. On at least one occasion I continued to have the stupor of thought until I changed the question to one that was pretty well opposite to my first question! I was working on the wrong premise and could not receive a confirming answer until I change my thinking, and then, immediately after I changed course, the stupor of thought went away and I felt right. I have had many such experiences when something just felt right, or whole, or complete. I am not sure that I have ever had a ‘burning in my bosom’. But then, maybe I have generally been in a warm spiritual ‘climate’ and so a warm feeling in a ward climate is really difficult to discern! But a clarity and the feeling of wholeness or completeness as opposed to an uneasy or unsettled feeling is a real experience that I have had often enough to know that each is real – stupor of thought versus peace being spoken to my soul.