"There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah"
2 Nephi 2:8 (The Book of Mormon)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

All Things Which Are Good...

This week a good friend asked me the following question,
"How can I know when I am being prompted by the Spirit?"

I feel it is important to to firmly establish this principle before moving forward into the New Testament this year.  Learning to seek, identify and heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost is foundational in the effort to draw closer to the Savior.  Developing a companionship with the Spirit is a process which take consistent, persistent effort over time.  Like anything else worth while... practice makes perfect.  The good news is that God receives us where we are and patiently and lovingly feeds us, "line upon line, precept upon precept".

I am confident that the ways that different individuals receive promptings are as numerous as the precious souls on this planet.  I will share today with you what I have learned to this point in my process.  I invite you to comment on how it works for you.

Years ago, I used to struggle with this same question... "How can I really know that the thoughts I am having are from the Spirit and not just thoughts I am making up in my mind?"  One Sunday, a leader in my church women's group answered this question.  She opened her scriptures to, Moroni 7:16.

...Every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. 

This truth sunk deep into my soul that day.  I have learned since then to identify the little ideas that pop into my mind through out the day... and even the night, which invite me to do good, as promptings from the Holy Ghost.  Frequently, as I will pray, a thought to call a neighbor... to write a thank you note... to express love to a child... will come into my mind.  For a long time, I would actually have a pencil and paper in hand while I prayed so that I could write out all of the different thoughts that would come.  I would then check each one off of the list as I followed through on the prompting.  Sometimes, to my awareness, nothing significant would result because of my action.  Often enough though, a friend would receive my act with gratitude and sometimes even words confirming that I was used to answer prayers they were offering.  This was kind of my experimental phase.  I wasn't really sure if I was interpreting His will correctly... but I was giving it my best effort.  Each time I received the fruits of my actions, either good or bad, I learned more accurately to  differentiate between His voice and my own mind and will.

When seeking guidance for my own life or for those in my family, I have similarly learned to recognize His guidance.  For me, this is how it works.  I will pray, asking openly and honestly, for light and understanding in an area of my life clouded with uncertainty or darkness.  This includes both my formal, kneeling down by the bed prayers, as well as continual prayer and effort through out my daily activities.  I strive to make these prayers conversational, where I speak and then pause to listen and then respond to my impressions and listen again.  I will open my scriptures, asking for God to teach me through the Holy Ghost, each and every time.  I will pay attention to thoughts or ideas that come, as to what the next step He would have me take might be... and then I strive to act on those.  

When I first started doing this, I would move forward not really knowing if I was being guided by Him or my imagination.  With time to experiment on... and exercise this spiritual muscle... I have come to a place where I have learned to identify His guidance with confidence and surety.

Understanding that God rarely gives big, grand or final solution answers is important.  Typically for me, He gently guides me step by step, prompting by precious prompting through a sometimes lengthy process, before bringing me to final resolution.  I have learned to cherish this process, because I recognize this is for my maximum learning, growth and development.  It is beautiful!

So here is my invitation for you.  Begin to actively seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life.  Begin to act on ideas or thoughts that come to you... which invite you to do good or persuade you to believe in Christ.  Evaluate the fruits of your actions and begin to distinguish between His promptings and your own thoughts.  

This exercise is essential in developing a closer relationship with the Savior and learning to walk with Him.

Next Sunday, I will share a personal experience with you which I hold sacred in my heart.  I am so grateful for His constant reminders that He is there, mindfully and lovingly watching over me... waiting for me to reach out and take His hand.

Today Lord, I ask thee to help me identify the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  I recognize that He is the means through which I can draw near unto thee.



5 comments:

  1. I've heard so many times that people turn their struggles or problems over to God. I have never really understood how they do this. As I have thought about it as well as the process that you shared I realize that faith is the key. So many times I think that I've made a good decision about something and not realizing that it wasn't me who came up with that decision. Being mindful and conscientious about these thoughts will surely guide me through the process in recognizing the strength and security that also comes along with the validation of knowing just who is walking beside me guiding the way. Thank you for sharing your experience. I identified with your examples which helps me recognize the promptings.

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  2. As I'm getting ready to go to college, I've been thinking a lot about where to go. I had 4-5 ideas of places I'd like to go, and each one had a "maybe THIS means I should go THERE!" I prayed to just KNOW where I needed to go, and it took some time, I was getting really frustrated and impatient. I kept thinking, and sort of decided on one place, and changed my prayers to asking if that one choice was right. All of a sudden, I started mostly focusing on that one school and none of the others really appealed to me anymore. Then, as if to reassure me, I got a scholarship for the place I was thinking, and everything seems to work out, as if I knew all along it was there I need to go. D&C 9:8-9 really helped me with this ;)

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  4. in order to avoid wondering afterwards if it WAS the spirit or me, i always say to myself "if its a good thing to do, it wouldn't hurt to do it right?", and then go do it. i always feel better.
    but there have been times that i know for sure it is the spirit telling me, because i'll all of a sudden feel this huge swelling/burning feeling in my heart. Often i think the spirit does that when he knows its an uncomfortable suggestion for me, and the only way for me to not brush it off as nothing so that i dont have to do it, is to give me that unmistakable feeling.

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  5. Carey, you are such an inspiration to me. You do such a great job of living a life of pursuing God. I love this idea of writing these "thoughts" or "promptings" down. I have often only taken the urges that are unlike me to be from God, but I like the thought that all good thoughts have the potential to be from Him. Good food for thought! Thanks!

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