I have always wanted to be a superhero. Some of that comes from the cool clothes, the idea of a secret identity, and that they always get the girl. The main draw though was always their super powers. Flight, speed, talking to fish, razor sharp claws, the ability to heal, x ray vision. the list of cool super powers can go on forever. The one super power that all the heroes seem to have though is, unless they are possessed by an alien symbiotic creature they seem impervious to temptation. There is nothing that can be said or done to these heroes that will sway them from their code of ethics.
Man, on the other hand, no matter how strong-willed is always open for temptation. Everywhere you turn there is something new tempting you into sin. I could waste your time and mine by listing all the ways we have to sin, but instead I would rather focus on some of the ways that we can resist temptation, primarily with prayer.
In Doctrine and Covenants 10 verse 5 we are commanded to pray always that we may conquer Satan. Which sounds a lot easier than it really is. We can become distracted by the business of our every day life, a pressing deadline at work, or even the shock and awe that the Sun is actually out in Seattle that we must absolutely go play in it right this very second. However it is important to realize that it is in those stressful moments in our lives that we need to pray the most. Spencer W. Kimball said "When I used to travel throughout the stakes and missions of the Church in earlier years, I often met people who were in trouble or who had great need. My first question to them was, “What about your prayers? How often? How deeply involved are you when you pray?” I have observed that sin generally comes when communication lines are down. For this reason the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always lest that wicked one have power in you.”
So very often we are faced with serious challenges in our lives, and we will quickly turn to parents, coworkers, or our closest friends for advice to help us through our dilemma. This isn't necessarily the wrong thing to do, but my question is why is it that we choose to turn to our Heavenly Father for guidance and directions like we do our real fathers? Perhaps we feel that our issues are too small to waste God's time with. There are other people who need their answers more than I do. I can handle this on my own. As we all know this is the work of Satan. We are all equal in the eyes of the lord, and so are all of our problems. There is no DMVesque queue where he takes the more important and pressing needs first. He loves all of us and he wants to help us find our way back to him. If we simply turn to him in our time of need he will guide us to the solutions.
In 2003 Russell M. Nelson relayed the following story about one of his experiences with prayer.
Many of us have had experiences with the sweet power of prayer. One of mine was shared with a stake patriarch from southern Utah. I first met him in my medical office more than 40 years ago, during the early pioneering days of surgery of the heart. This saintly soul suffered much because of a failing heart. He pleaded for help, thinking that his condition resulted from a damaged but repairable valve in his heart.
Extensive evaluation revealed that he had two faulty valves. While one could be helped surgically, the other could not. Thus, an operation was not advised. He received this news with deep disappointment.
Subsequent visits ended with the same advice. Finally, in desperation, he spoke to me with considerable emotion: “Dr. Nelson, I have prayed for help and have been directed to you. The Lord will not reveal to me how to repair that second valve, but He can reveal it to you. Your mind is so prepared. If you will operate upon me, the Lord will make it known to you what to do. Please perform the operation that I need, and pray for the help that you need.” 21
His great faith had a profound effect upon me. How could I turn him away again? Following a fervent prayer together, I agreed to try. In preparing for that fateful day, I prayed over and over again, but still did not know what to do for his leaking tricuspid valve. Even as the operation commenced, 22 my assistant asked, “What are you going to do for that?”
I said, “I do not know.”
We began the operation. After relieving the obstruction of the first valve, 23 we exposed the second valve. We found it to be intact but so badly dilated that it could no longer function as it should. While examining this valve, a message was distinctly impressed upon my mind: Reduce the circumference of the ring. I announced that message to my assistant. “The valve tissue will be sufficient if we can effectively reduce the ring toward its normal size.”
But how? We could not apply a belt as one would use to tighten the waist of oversized trousers. We could not squeeze with a strap as one would cinch a saddle on a horse. Then a picture came vividly to my mind, showing how stitches could be placed—to make a pleat here and a tuck there—to accomplish the desired objective. I still remember that mental image—complete with dotted lines where sutures should be placed. The repair was completed as diagrammed in my mind. We tested the valve and found the leak to be reduced remarkably. My assistant said, “It’s a miracle.”
I responded, “It’s an answer to prayer.”
The patient’s recovery was rapid and his relief gratifying. Not only was he helped in a marvelous way, but surgical help for other people with similar problems had become a possibility. I take no credit. Praise goes to this faithful patriarch and to God, who answered our prayers. This faithful man lived for many more years and has since gone to his eternal glory.
Now just because we are all on a level playing field when it comes to having the Lord's desire to listen to our prayers, this doesn't mean that we don't need to strive to build a stronger level of communication with our heavenly Father. If we cannot completely convey our situation to the Lord there is no way for him to be able to accurately know what we need to fix it.
In 1990 Ezra Taft Benson gave 5 ways we can improve our communication with the Lord.
1. We should pray frequently. This one works in a couple different ways. For one, how likely are you to help a friend that you talk to on a daily basis when they come to you in a time of need? Now how likely are you to help a friend you haven't seen in 15 years and won't tell you the whole story behind their dilemma so you can understand it properly? It is the same way with the lord. The more he knows of you and your intentions the more he will know that if he gives you aide you won't just turn around and return to the behaviors that got you in trouble in the first place.
2. We should find an appropriate place where we can meditate and pray. if you are praying in a place full of distractions, it is very likely that you aren't as interested in what you are saying and you are more likely to rush through your prayer to go out and enjoy those distractions. Instead try and find a nice quiet room away from everything and everyone. That way you can dedicate all of your attention to your conversation with the lord.
3. We should prepare ourselves for prayer. When entering into a conversation with a superior about an issue that is important to you it is fundamentally important to know your talking points. Recently I had a job interview to become the Store Manager of my store. I spent almost a week preparing myself for this conversation so that I could best convey why I felt I was the best option for the position. If I didn't believe I was best for the position, neither would my boss. It is the same way with prayer. If you don't know why you are praying then neither will God. Meanwhile if you know exactly what you are asking for it will help the lord know what is best for you.
4. Our prayers should be meaningful and pertinent. As much fun as everyone can say small talk is, there is very little room for it in our prayers. Let's put it this way, if you were to sit down with the President would you waste his time with standard getting to know you questions? I most certainly wouldn't. His time is valuable and as someone who has seen a lot of the West Wing, he is a busy man and he has much better things to do than tell you how his day is going. It is the same way with the Lord. He wants the meat, or meat-like substitute, of the conversation sandwich. That is not to say that he doesn't want to hear about our day, but rather that he wants to hear about the important stuff more. This is why repetitive and memorized prayers are a waste of time. He heard you the first time. Eventually if you don't say anything new or pertinent to the conversation, it will tend to end before it actually ends and you are left talking to yourself.
5. After making a request through prayer we have a responsibility to assist in it being granted. it is like dale Carnegie said "If you want to conquer fear, don't sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy." Once we ask for help we absolutely cannot sit and wait for the answer. If I were to pray for a new job I can not possibly get that job unless I go out and apply for many, many, many jobs. No one is going to come to my door and say "Hey I would like to give you a job complete stranger. I pay $45,000 a year and you only have to work 3 hours a weekday." It just doesn't work that way. As Spencer W. Kimball once said "It is such a privilege and joy to pray to our Father in Heaven, such a blessing for us. But our experience is not finished after our prayer is completed. Amulek correctly taught: “And now behold, my beloved brethren, … after ye have [prayed], if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.” (Alma 34:28.) We must never forget that we are to live the gospel as honestly and earnestly as we pray."