Divine Nature, in Prayer

Posted on June 11, 2009. Filed under: Changes, female divine, Heavenly Mother, Mormon Life, prayer | Tags: , , |

By Alisa

A friend of mine told me that when he prays, he finds it helpful to imagine that the God he is addressing is a perfected form of himself. This was in response to my confession that I had temporarily stopped praying out of frustration for many things: feeling that my prayers didn’t go past the ceiling, feeling like they fell of deaf ears, and a feeling that the form and audience of prayer I’d been taught in primary was no longer cutting it for the kind of spirituality I was seeking. So, for the time being, I had given up altogether on my twice-daily routine of praying on my knees.

My response to my friend was perhaps an obvious one. I told him that it’s easy for him to imagine that God is a perfected version of himself, because he’s a man, and Heavenly Father is a man. That’s when he looked at me, smiled, and said, “And maybe that’s where Heavenly Mother comes in for you.”

I have since found this exercise very helpful. It may seem narcissistic, creating God in my own image when I’m on my knees in prayer. But on the other hand, if I am truly a daughter of God, and if God’s children are to grow up to look like, feel, and possess the power of our divine Creator, then I feel that it’s not so much a blasphemy as it is approaching God from a different angle, and angle that’s helped me bridge that gap of prayer from where I was to where I’m going.

Thinking of my Heavenly Mother is new for me too. In the hushed ways we mention Her, I’ve often been too shy or ashamed to even think of Her when I’m by myself. But I’ve realized that it’s not shameful for me to want to grow to become more like Her. She is my potential. I hope She is my future. Therefore, when I practice this exercise, when I pray I meditate on my true potential, I feel God’s power and strength within myself. I gain eternal perspective. And lately I’ve been tapping into a divine femininity that is exhilarating – a power I believe I’ve always had, but was too afraid to realize. In turn, although it sounds cheesy, when I’m out jogging (a time of meditation for me) and I pass by people on the street, I often feel a powerful connectedness to the divine nature in each of them.

At church on Sunday, this quote struck me: “When we pray, we don’t pray to God. We dwell in God.” That captures my transformation into a deeper kind of prayer from those of my childhood. As I meditate on my potential, as I contemplate my divine nature during my prayer, I no longer feel separate and apart from God. I feel God flowing through me. I feel a part of God.

I would love to hear your own personal experiences with deepening your prayers, discovering your divine nature, or connecting to the Divine Feminine.

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Reflections on My Faith

Posted on May 7, 2009. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , , |

Lake Cloud Reflection

 

by Kelly Ann

Perfectly still, I am still amazed at how the lake water reflected the trees, hills, and even the clouds (better said the fog remnants that had evaporated off the lake in the morning due to the season beginning to change).  On vacation, with countless similar beautiful views, I relaxed and enjoyed the outdoors.  As one who has been over-occupied with work, house projects, family, complicated relationships, etc. as well as a shifting faith, a real vacation last month was overdue.  I was fortunate enough to enjoy myself for three weeks visiting family, tourist destinations, and even an area of my mission.

When I returned home from my mission seven and a half years ago, I wanted to visit the people, the culture, and the environment that I had fallen in love with in the near future.  However, as life has marched on, it hasn’t been a priority.  In a way, it is easier to leave it all as part of my memory, especially at a time when my perception and feelings toward the church are drastically different.  However, given I was in the region, I felt impelled to visit a small town where I served for 6 months and had amazing experiences even if I did not have the time or the desire to visit all my areas.  Although I had lost contact with most people and did not have current phone numbers, I knew there were some people who would remember me and would enjoy a surprise visit.

Having not regularly attended church since the Sunday before the November election, my goal was not to relive my missionary experience.  Feeling assaulted by the role the church played in the Prop8 campaign, I snapped a few days after the election.  Embroiled in a mess at work regarding politics and religion, I decided I could not cross the picket lines to go to the temple or church.  I quite drastically and abruptly took off my garments, ripped my temple recommend in half, asked to be release, and switched units.  Although I sometimes have a desire to believe, occasionally go to church, and am externally processing my doubts (which encompass more than Prop8 but were previously shelved), I have definitely distanced myself from my historic faith with my actions.

As a missionary, I never thought I would be less active or even inactive.  I served with the traditional zeal and basic testimony.  I enjoyed teaching the gospel, seeing people get baptized, reactivating members, teaching members church responsibilities, and serving the community.  My faith was never perfect but my mantra was “why not.”  I believed that God had the power to appear to a young boy searching for the truth, that it only seemed fair that Christ would go to America as well, that he would have an organized system for both the living and the dead, that families could be eternal, and frankly I had my share of emotional spiritual experiences.

But as I have aged, I have started asking “why.”  My concerns include polygamy, polyandry, the role of women in the church, discrimination, imperfect members, various scandals, and complex early church history.   My frustrations did not emerge when the Prop8 votes were counted, it just made me step back and realize that I was dis-satisfied.  However, it is hard.  The church has been my life.  I have dedicated my time, my talents, and everything which the Lord has given me to live the gospel.  I have served as a temple worker and missionary, and willingly said yes to every calling and assignment given.  I have two degrees from BYU and most of my friends are LDS.  I have lived the standards meticulously and really tried to believe in the basic teachings of the church.

Therefore, with my shift in faith, I was nervous to visit the small agricultural community where I served. With only a day or two to see people, I did not want to share my frustrations with them but rather just catch up. Although I did chicken out visiting the ward on a Sunday in order not to be asked to speak, teach, or pray and so no one would notice I did not take the Sacrament.

However, unfortunately, I did not find anyone I knew home the Tuesday afternoon I arrived. After walking about three miles around town, remembering many streets and houses but sweating in the hot sun extremely frustrated with a heavy backpack, I thought I maybe made a mistake in coming and maybe it would be easier if I didn’t have to answer questions about my church activity.  But before departing, I decided to walk to the church from the plaza where I cooled off with the hope that someone might be there albeit very unlikely mid-week.  And true missionary story miracle style – there was …

With a dropped jaw, the former mission leader greeted me with a hug.  He updated me on the changes to the town (new supermarket, dairy farm, etc) and ongoings of the church.  I found out that many families I knew have moved, some have divorced, and of course all the children have grown.  He called the family I knew the best and got a kick telling them he had a surprise waiting …  So I spent two days enjoying their company, successfully passing by others, and just taking it easy.  It was great to see the people I knew even if it was weird to focus on the church connection and to remember myself as a super-ultra Mormon.

No one ever asked me about my activity (I guess it may have been assumed I was) but as the guest, the families I visited asked me to pray.  And so I did.  I don’t routinely bless my food (never have) but with them, I prayed like I would have as a missionary.  Although a bit unnerving, I have to say that it was just good to pray with them, to feel the connection of faith, no matter what it is.  That is the way I felt when I was a missionary and prayed with investigators who did not share my classic Mormon faith.  It made me realize that the one thing I really believe in right now is prayer.  And with time, if I maintain contact, I will share with them how I have changed.  For now it is just interesting to see how the seasons have changed my faith and what “fog remnants” of my faith are still reflected on my soul.

Tree Reflection So while this entry may best serve as an introduction to myself, a couple questions I have for discussion follow:

If your faith has shifted, how do you share that with those who have known you differently?

Do you think many people (active or inactive) go back and visit their mission and why or why not?

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The Prayer of a Stranger

Posted on August 22, 2008. Filed under: Doubt, faith, Friendship | Tags: , , |

by Jana
Cross-posted from pilgrimsteps.com

Interfaith Prayer March by John Remy

Interfaith Prayer March by John Remy

Upon waking in the recovery room from my recent surgery, I realized that I couldn’t breathe. I gasped and gasped, trying to scream to let someone know that I couldn’t get enough air. Soon a nurse was at my bedside, placing an oxygen mask over my face, asking me questions about my asthma history that I couldn’t answer. Apparently she added a breathing treatment to the flow of oxygen and I was soon able to draw in air without so much struggle.

After about 10 minutes on the oxygen I was relaxed and the nurse was working around me to disconnect the breathing mask. As she stooped by the head of my bed she whispered to me, in such a way that I’m not sure if I was meant to hear it or not.

She said, “I’ll be praying for you.”

*****

For all of my openness in the blogging sphere, I’m actually a fairly private person in real life. I find it somewhat embarrassing to have strangers take such an interest in my life merely because of my physical disability. Yet at the same time, I’m continually surprised by those like the nurse, and my many religious friends, who are willing to be so kind as to pray for me.

In the past I’ve written some posts about the ways I feel pitied and demeaned because of my disability. I still feel that way much of the time–especially when someone’s action seems to be more about making themselves feel good than about offering aid. But even as I feel uncertain about the actual power of prayer, I am not ambivalent about the power of human connection. There’s something beautiful and courageous, and curiously intimate, about a stranger or a friend offering a prayer on my behalf.

Though I ceased praying in the Mormon fashion awhile ago, I still spend time each day in silent meditation. Doing so gives me perspective on my life. It helps me to remember what I believe and to put my actions in line with my core values. I can’t claim that my prayers or my meditations have improved anyone else’s life, even though I think often of others as I sit in silence.

I suspect that I won’t ever approach a stranger and tell them that I praying for them. But in my own way I am saying a prayer each time I write a blogpost–sending my thoughts, hopes, and intentions out into the ether. Hoping that each of you will know that I care about you and your trials even if I no longer have the faith to couch my intentions into the form of a prayer.

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Exponent II Classics: The Interview

Posted on August 14, 2008. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , |

A post devoted to an EXII classic is long overdue.

The Interview
(a short story)
Laura Hamblin
Provo, Utah
Vol 11, no 1 (Fall 1984)

“Do you pray?”

He had no business asking that question. I knew he didn’t, and he knew he didn’t. It wasn’t one of the twelve required questions. I had been through an interview with Bishop Jensen before, point by point. I had honestly answered all of the questions. Bishop Jensen and I had talked a long time about things, and he had never asked me about my prayers. Besides, if I chose to answer, I could say “yes.” After all, I did bow my head once a week, during the Sacrament. And I did say “amen,” even if I didn’t close my eyes. That was a type of prayer. I could say I prayed…But I had just told President Clark that I was honest in all of my dealings. I paused with my head bent and meticulously picked some lint from my skirt. With my eyes still down, I answered.

“No, President, I don’t.” (more…)

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Personal

Posted on July 25, 2008. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , |

Posted by Zenaida

Things have been very personal and hard lately, and a lot of people around me have had it rough lately, so I just want to send out good vibes and prayers for those people, who seem to manage to smile anyway: through life changes, through major surgery, through loss of loved ones, through uncertain futures, for reconnecting with family, possibly for the last time, through wounds inflicted by those closest to the heart, through rude awakenings, through suffering and heartache. I have so many names that I carry with me today, including my own, and I just can’t seem to be grateful enough for people who love and support me. I admire the strength and amazing character of these people, and the grace with which they handle adversity. I hope I can pass that on.

The Divine within me honors the Divine within you.

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Answers to Prayer, Sometimes

Posted on July 22, 2008. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , , , |

by Jessawhy

Often, I want to write about my latest doctrinal question, or the most disturbing affront to feminism I witnessed in my ward last week. But today I want to talk about occasional answers to prayers.
I don’t pray as much or as long as I used to. Prayer is harder for me because so many of my questions go unanswered.
However, sometimes I get answers to prayers and that’s a much bigger deal to me now than it ever has been.

And because I imagine some of you feel like I do, I want to make this thread a place where you can share if you have had an answer to prayer despite significant questions or angst.
For those of us who get small or big answers, frequently or infrequently, it’s nice to have someone who really understands what that means. EmilyCC called me the other day to tell me about a small but special spiritual experience she had during a rough day. I was so grateful for her story that reminded me how important it is to have someone who can recognize the blessings within the struggles. Also, my choosing to notice these answers as blessings and tell them to others is an indication that I do want to improve my relationship with God.

So here are a few. Some of these are obviously silly, insignificant things, but sometimes those are good to notice.

1. Lost I
One Sunday I was wearing a dress that has a ribbon around the waist, I ran around all morning looking for the *!%*# ribbon. The dress does NOT look good without the accent ribbon, and I didn’t have time to change. “Please, God, help me find the ribbon.”
Ta Da! There it is. And I told my Primary children God answered my prayer that morning.

2. Lost II
Another lost item, a library DVD. We looked for 2 straight days and eventually found it. (not immediately after the prayer, but I am so grateful I don’t owe the library $15, I will attribute it to God, or perhaps a heavenly media power)

On a more serious note. . .
3. Damming the Pain
My close friend’s baby died a month ago and it has been really rough on me. I find myself crying at random times during the day and thinking about it at night.
One night while praying with my husband and asking God to bless her and her family with peace, I felt the familiar wave of grief coming on (usually accompanied by tears). But this time, right before the melt-down, I felt something different. It was like a dam stopped the wave. It wasn’t there, the pain and tears didn’t come.
It was really amazing. And I have a hope that God is helping her by damming the pain occasionally as well.

4. Health and Well-Being
My two oldest sons have severe hemophilia, and we’ve always prayed for their health, and they’ve always been healthy. Thanks to advanced treatment, and God, neither of our boys has had a bleed in years. It’s really miraculous that they lead such normal, healthy lives.

My struggle with understanding God, the gospel, the church, and my place in it is still very difficult for me. But, I can only feel frustration and angst for so many hours of the day. Looking for the blessings and answers to prayers is a way that I try to make peace with my struggle.
It also shows God that I’m doing my part and maybe in the future, I’ll receive more answers to some of my deeper questions.

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Guest Post: A Bedside Confession

Posted on May 29, 2008. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , , |

A solicited guest post by the always witty and grammatically-flawless turleybenson, a longtime friend of Exponent II.

My bed is the perfect kneeling-height, which I discovered in November, five months ago.

My husband and I have had the bed for well over a year.

Upon said discovery, I sort of froze with the realization that I had never knelt beside that particular bed, and tried not to think about the fact that it was possible I hadn’t knelt by our previous bed. Instead, I tried to focus on where it all went wrong.

When I was a single gal (which was up until the ripe age of 25), I was pretty devout. From the time I was a teenager, I was so straight-arrow that I can’t remember a time I didn’t read scriptures at least 5 of the 7 days of the week, and when I didn’t kneel to pray morning and night. By my bedside. I also journaled (forgive me) RELIGIOUSLY, and lived the gospel principles with few exceptions (though I feel compelled to interject, I have always been a free-thinking woman with a tiny bit of a rebellious streak). I had a crisis of faith in my early 20s, and I faced it head on, and for me, once I decided to stick with the church, I decided not to look back. (more…)

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Relief Society Lesson 10: Prayer and Personal Revelation

Posted on May 14, 2008. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , , |

by Jana

Because I am a book lover, I would begin with an object lesson about books that will tie into the JS quotation from the lesson.

I would set out a variety of my most favorite books on the table, including some of my very oldest books from the early 19th century. I would begin with a casual discussion about books, describing some of the books on the table, asking if anyone else has read them, asking what some of the sisters most prized books are, etc. I would then move to a discussion about the importance of books in our lives–the significance of literacy, the centrality of the scriptures, etc. Leading the discussion to the point where I felt that it was clearly established how seminal books are to our lives, our culture, our religion.

Then I would shift to reading the quotation from Joseph Smith that says:

“I have an old edition of the New Testament in the Latin, Hebrew, German and Greek languages. … I thank God that I have got this old book; but I thank him more for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have [not] got the oldest book in the world; but I have got the oldest book in my heart, even the gift of the Holy Ghost. … The Holy Ghost … is within me, and comprehends more than all the world; and I will associate myself with him.”

While reading, I would stress, even repeat, the portion in bold. I would then say:

“We’ve just spent 5 (10?) minutes talking about how important books are, yet Joseph is saying that the Holy Ghost is far more important, that is more significant than even the oldest, most rare scriptural text and he suggests that it is far more comprehensive than any of our written texts. What does this mean to you? How might it impact the way you teach others, such as your children, about personal revelation?” (more…)

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The Prayer of an Unbeliever

Posted on May 7, 2008. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: |

                                                                                                                                                                                              “Prayer” by Mark Caron

 

by Caroline

Prayers from various religious traditions uplift and expand my being.

Ironic since I haven’t prayed regularly for 5 years now. The patterns of my Mormon prayers feel constrained and empty to me at times. I know the fault lies within myself, that there is a way to connect to the divine in the thank-ask pattern I’ve learned since primary.

But I haven’t quite figured out how to make my Mormon prayers click yet. So I turn to the prayers of others.  (more…)

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Personal Prayer

Posted on January 13, 2007. Filed under: prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , |


There are few periods of my life where I have consistently prayed in the LDS model: kneeling at the side of my bed and addressing God with the recommended salutation, voicing supplication, and closing in the name of the Savior. First of all, I rarely kneel (it’s rather uncomfortable given some chronic inflammation in my left knee), and even though I might begin a prayer with the prototypical “Dear Heavenly Father,…” my personal prayers generally diverge at that point, becoming a stream-of-consciousness review of all that is preoccupying my mind.

In discussing prayer with friends this week, many said that they felt frustrated with the recommended morning, night and evening prayers, as they felt like the “vain repetitions” that we are warned about in the New Testament. Others spoke of the unexpected divine epiphanies that have come only rarely, and not necessarily when head is bowed. One friend said that for her prayer is usually about communion with God and not about receiving answers to specific requests. Yet another friend expressed frustration about praying with her husband because he was uncomfortable with her addressing both Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father.

As I listened to everyone’s experiences with prayer, I marveled at the variety of stories that were shared. I thought about my life and how significant prayer has been in many of my decisions. I reflected on prayers that have brought comfort during times when I thought I would be crushed under the weight of disappointment and sorrow. And I smiled as I reflected on my current practice of meditative prayer—at the warm satisfaction I feel when sitting in silence and connecting to the Divine.

So I thought I would bring the topic of prayer to you, asking you to share insights about your personal practice of prayer. How often do you pray? Do you kneel at your bedside? How do you overcome the feeling that prayer is a ‘vain repetition’? And how does a regular practice of prayer affect your daily life?

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