On one occasion, Elder Marion D. Hanks is reported to have asked President David O. McKay, “How would you suggest I maintain my spirituality?” President McKay, who was known for his deep spirituality, said he did five simple things at the beginning of every day:
I arise early.
I wash my body.
I put on my new linen.
I subdue my spirit before the Father.
I wait for the inspiration of the Father.
(Y. Kikuchi, How do you open your heart to heaven? (BYU Devotional given 18 January 2011).
Living The Law Of Obedience and Sacrifice
In the prayer process, we’ve set aside time by our own free will and choice and have sacrificed sleep and time by coming to him early.
We have committed to record our impressions and the things we will be taught.
We’ve cast out Satan and his influence from our presence.
We’ve actively invited heavenly ministers to teach, comfort, and guide us by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And now we begin our repentance.
Repentance is bringing our divided, duplicitous, broken, addicted, fractured, resistant selves back into oneness.
If ye are not one ye are not mine – applies to us first as individuals.
It applies to the self. We are divided against ourselves in our will.
Desiring both good and evil, our wills and the Lord’s will, our way and His, consuming on our lusts and desiring virtue – what ever division of the natural man that perpetuates in us will be a house divided. We are double minded. Our flesh and spirit in competition for our attention and dominance. We are, by our very fallen nature, duplicitous creatures.
It is written that when Adam and Eve were cast from the Garden they “were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will” (Alma 42:7).
Our own will is both a gift and a fruit of the fall. Being subject to our own fallen will is what keeps us from the presence of the Father. To have a will separate from the Father’s is to be in a state of being acted upon – subject to to follow a will that seeks to hide itself from the Father and consume mortal comforts.
His gift to us is our will. Our gift to him is to then take that will and give it back to him.
So, we are divided. and if we are not one inside – heart, spirit, mind, and flesh – we are not the Lord’s. We must be kept from partaking of the Tree of Life until we can be brought back to a state of unity within.
We must come back to a state of at-one-ment.
When we are at-one with our selves, we are at-one with Him. And when we become at-one with him, we become at-one within ourselves.
We, as individuals, are literally the body of Christ. And if we are not one within ourselves, we are not his.
So, we must bring our hearts, our minds, our spirits, our flesh into a unity of the body of Christ. And we will be like him.
My favorite philosopher Sore Kierkegaard wrote a book entitled, “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing.”
This is both the title and thesis of his book. And it is distills in one sentence what needs to happen so that we are pure. What needs to happen so that we ourselves become one?
We need to will only one thing: and that is the love of God. Our flesh, our minds, our hearts, every particle of our beings need to be brought into a unity to the will of God. We need to subject everything in us to the spirit of Christ so that everything in us wills one thing.
And then we desire exactly what he desires. We become one in Christ. We experience at-one-ment.
Sacrifice of a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit
Just as Christ’s great and last sacrifice redeemed all fallen things back into a oneness with God, so does our sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit bring us into a state of oneness within and with our Father.
The next step of the prayer process is to obey the laws of sacrifice and obedience.
This is the process of bringing our subjecting our hearts, minds, will and flesh back to the unifying will of God. This is the process of sacrificing the natural man by yielding to the will of God.
It is repentance.
And we do it by learning how to receive a broken heart and contrite spirit so we have the spirit of obedience. So that obeying God becomes the first and primary desire of our whole soul.
And if your experience is anything like mine, this is a very intense, difficult, ongoing process.
Sometimes this step in prayer takes many weeks for me. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes. It depends on the hardness of my heart. It depends on how much of me needs to be softened by the spirit of Christ.
The broken heart is not a heart break in the sense we usually use that term (although it can certainly be motivated by one). A broken heart is when the hardness of our hearts is broken.
A broken heart is a perfectly softened heart.
A broken heart is one that has been subjected to the Lord and softened by his spirit until all of the hardness, resistance, and opposition to the spirit of God has been released. It is a heart perfectly willing and loving to submit to the light of God.
It is a heart that is perfectly receptive and desires to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
The broken hear is a heart consumed in the love of God.
And here is the key of this stage of prayer.
We cannot break our own hearts. We cannot, by taking thought or exerting our will, bring our hearts into a state of perfect softness.
The only thing we can do is submit it to the softening process – which is allowing the spirit to soften it. We cannot soften it, only the spirit can. But we can offer on the alter and allow the spirit to do its work.
And this can be very painful.
He will require us to loosen our grip. To let go of our anger, our lust, our jealousies. He will invite us to receive of the spirit of forgiveness and to let go of the claims we have against each other.
We will sit and breathe and offer our hearts to the spirit and he will reveal to us all of the things that must be let go of. We will release our will and own desires so that the spirit can soften and infuse within us the light and will of the Lord.
And as we endure and submit to this process, in time, our hearts will be softened by the spirit to the point that we no longer grip our own will, but give total and complete space for the love and light of God to flow through us unimpeded.
When our hearts are perfectly softened we will come to a place of belief. Nephi experienced this when he was confronted with the choice of whether to believe his prophet father, Lehi.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers” (1 Nephi 2: 16).
This, perhaps, is one of the most instructive verses in all of scripture.
It teaches us that the spirit is the softening agent. It does the work. It has power to break our hearts.
By our own will we submit to the process. We come in prayer and offer our whole souls as an offering to him. But the spirit does the actual work. We must endure it. We must continue to submit and wrestle, and offer up, and let go, and proceed to the presence of Christ in our submission until we are infused and filled with the will of God.
“And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).
And this is repentance.
Subjecting our whole selves to the spirit, so that the spirit can remake our whole souls into the image of Christ.
And we do it in prayer, by yielding – yielding – yielding. It is the only unique thing that we can fundamentally do – is yielding. Our obedience is yielding. It is all giving place for the spirit to work with in us and produce the fruits of the spirit.
Consider very carefully this popular doctrinal scripture.
“For the natural man (the one that holds on to its own will) is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam (when we received our own will), and will be, forever and ever, UNLESS HE YIELDS TO THE ENTICINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, and putteth off the natural man and…”
notice now that everything that follows yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit is a result of that yielding. These are all of the fruits that the spirit produces. We do not create this condition by our own power.
“becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
Be become those things as a result of yielding. We yield first, and the spirit does the work.
We cannot make ourselves meek. We cannot make ourselves like a child. We cannot make ourselves humble. We cannot make ourselves patient, full of love, or even deeply spiritually submissive.
All we can do is yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and then the spirit will transform us to a condition that is Christ-like.
This is repentance.
What Does This Look Like In Prayer?
When I was a new missionary in Japan I really hated my mission. Even though I was so excited to serve a mission, and prepared well for it, when I actually got to my first area I was shocked to find myself lonely, sad, miserable, and aching to go home.
I was so divided against myself, I wanted to be there. I just didn’t want what I wanted to want.
It was so bad, I would fantasize about getting hit by a car, and being injured enough to be sent home honorably. It was a taste of hell.
But I am eternally grateful for this experience. The Lord prompted me to wake early every morning and come to him in prayer and learn to relax my will. I would not pray words, or even make pleadings. I just asked that the spirit would fill my heart so that I would really want what the Lord wanted. I wanted his desires. And I really wanted to want to be there in that cold, lonely Japanese apartment.
And it worked. It was incredible. And it was a struggle. But I would kneel quietly, sometimes for an hour or two, and allow the spirit to work on me. To soften my heart until mine and the Lord’s will were the same.
And when that moment hit – where my heart became perfectly softened and I was infused with the will and desires of God, and I was divested of my own will – I was filled with joy!
I would leap from my knees, and run for the door. And my companion and I would work hard, joyfully, because I was no longer a divided being. I was not wrestling with my own will. I no longer felt the division and duplicity, and ache, and fear of my own will verses the Lord’s. It was complete and total freedom.
And it usually lasted until lunchtime.
And I would have to start the process all over again. Submitting and allowing my spirit to be softened by his. Over time this condition of heart would last longer and longer, until loving my mission and all of the work and difficulty became infused in my nature.
How grateful I am for that experience. I bear witness that the spirit can soften our hearts until we want what he wants. We can submit ourselves to this process, sacrificing in obedience all things that he prompts us to. And allow the spirit to change us and refashion our hearts.
And this is repentance.
And it is this stage of prayer that we cannot continue on until it is complete. We must endure living the law of sacrifice and obedience until we are sanctified from all darkness.
And this is repentance.
This may take 6 months. It may take 5 minutes. It depends on how much needs to be softened and offered up. It depends on how much forgiveness of others we have been withholding. But it all has to go. It all has to be submitted and yielded.
And this is repentance.
As we are committed to writing our promptings, in this stage we will write down every impression that comes to us. This is yielding. We may receive an impression to forgive someone. Write it down. Work on that thing until your heart is completely softened towards that person. If the Lord tells you to do something regarding them, do it. If he prompts you to call them. Write it down. Then do it. Then come back to him.
You may receive promptings to do things like cut out tv. Or clean the garage. Or buy your wife flowers. Or go to work early. Or come home from work early. Or to stop eating fast food. Or to fast on a Thursday. I don’t know what it will look like for you. But record every prompting you receive and act on it faithfully. And bring it back to the Lord and continue until every aspect of your heart is softened perfectly.
And this is repentance.
And don’t stop until you are filled and consumed in the love of God. Until your flesh desires nothing but Christ and all of his gifts.
And you will be perfect in Christ.
Don’t stop until you are filled with the love of God for all in your awareness.
Don’t stop until you become the body of Christ.
Don’t stop until all of the darkness is divided out of you and you are free from its oppression.
Don’t stop until all fear is extracted from you and you are consumed in light.
Yes, this is possible.
And this is repentance.