The title of this post outlines three ways we can approach the Heavenly Father as we deal with the various issues of life. I’ve experienced all three ways of dealing with the Heavenly Father at different times in my life. At times I have sought to counsel Him, at other times I have followed church leaders blindly, and now I’ve learned, at least to some degree, how to counsel with the Lord. Following are a few things I’d like to share.
It is easy to slip into a mode of prayer (prayer is the usual way we counsel with the Lord, but not the only way) where we end up counseling God. I’ll mention three kinds of prayer that fit this description.
1. I’ve got to go—prayer. This is done when we hurriedly give the Lord a list of things to do and then rush off to do something “important”. I think sincerity and thankfulness are absent in this form of prayer. Directing God about the universe to do our will is the least likely prayer to be heard an answered, in my opinion (children and young adults sometimes pray this way and I believe Heavenly Father hears them, but for the average adult, I wonder).
2. I really need an answer this time—prayer. This mode of prayer implies a subtle threat, saying in effect, if you don’t answer me this time I might do something bad like stop going to church, or you owe me one, because many of my prayers haven’t been answered lately.
3. This isn’t really a prayer, but it is nonetheless a form of communication with God wherein LDS counsel Him by resisting His Spirit. I’ll have Amulek describe this mode of “prayer”:
…I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart… Alma 10:6
Of the three, this is the most serious because it is done with knowledge and sophistication, whereas the other two are manipulative, but naive. I chose Amulek to illustrate this point because he repented and became a true follower of Christ. However, there are many others, who were once followers of Christ, but have fallen away because they hardened their hearts towards Heavenly Father and His prophets.
The Book of Mormon details how political differences among the Nephites were often the catalyst for schisms in the government and in the church. The prophets were always being opposed by those (including church members) who had lost their way and would “contend one with another…and…teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 28:4).
This kind of dealing with the Lord is common among those who haven’t developed their talent of reasoning and thinking. My dad used to say there are three kinds of people in the world, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder, what happened. This “wonder what happen” group find comfort in the thought that once church leaders have done the thinking, the thinking is done. They don’t have an opinion because their unaware of the specifics of the issue at hand and are comfortable remaining uniformed and uninvolved, thereby following blindly.
In my church experience I have found very few seasoned members who fit this description. Most of those that start out this way find their footing and abandon this approach. The church’s emphasis on education and participation in the political process make it hard to follow blindly.
In my own experience, I am grateful for the opportunity of serving a mission and graduating from college. This is where I ceased to follow blindly, the ways of my youth, and learned to ask questions and ponder using the scriptures and the Holy Ghost.
Counseling with the Lord
Counseling with the Lord is both a state of mind and process. It is a state of mind in that those who have moved along the path of prayer have experienced its value and know of themselves that the Lord can be near. It is a process because it requires us to do certain things, in a certain way.
To describe this kind of prayer I can say right off that it does not include any of the things that define counseling the Lord, or following blindly as discussed above. One of the aspects of this kind of prayer is to have a certain conviction (state of mind) that we are calling upon God, the creator who knows all things. We also know that we are His children and that we are fallen beings, living in a fallen world. If we’re going to counsel with Him we need to have this understanding. The scripture and the living prophets testify to this continually, now we need to act upon these revealed gospel truths.
Once we understand this state of mind, which is nothing other than humility, then we can begin the process of counseling with God . We knee before Heavenly Father, and in humility ask for that which we need. We can explain in detail why we need whatever it is we’re asking for. We can further explain that we are willing to accept His will, this is the most difficult part of counseling with the Lord. When we can truly say this, then we are on a high spiritual level and will have the Lord’s ear. If we struggle with this, and we all will, then we can pray for the faith to arrive at this level of spirituality. Remember, faith is a gift.
There are many other things we can do, but by understanding these simple concepts we can move nearer to the heavens and have the channels of communication opened to us.