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RS/MP Lesson 9: “Open Your Soul to the Lord in Prayer” (George Albert Smith Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on May 11, 2012

Pres. Smith says, after God saved him from his harrowing, near-death experience, “my heart was filled with gratitude and humility that the Lord had . . . spared my life” (p. 95). What strikes me most about this lesson is the link between prayer, gratitude, and humility.

On p. 99, we read:

Do not put away from you the power of God. Retain in your homes the influences of prayer and of thanksgiving, and let gratitude flow to him who is the author of our beings and the giver of all good.

Perhaps these topics of gratitude and humility are on my mind because I’m struggling to know how to help cultivate these values in my children. And, in this struggle, I have come to see their value more profoundly.

Social critics often say we live in an entitlement society, and I think this makes gratitude and humility values that require more attention, lest they be forgotten.

If we pray correctly, we will be filled with gratitude and humility. So, some questions:

* What does these dispositions look like? What does the absence of humility and gratitude look like?

* How do these values, and their absence, feel? How often do we feel their absence and presence? Why? How can be encourage the presence of these values, and guard against their absence?

* What obstacles do we face in trying to cultivate these feelings of humility and gratitude? How are these challenges related to challenges we face in offering sincere prayer?

* How does family prayer affect the feelings of gratitude and humility in our family? Are these feelings individual feelings or communal/collective feelings? How does the experience of these feelings of gratitude and humility differ from being experienced individually versus as a family?

Now, consider the next paragraph on p. 99:

Let our homes be the abiding place of prayer and thanksgiving and gratitude. . . . Let us pray for the great men and women of the world who need the Lord but do not understand his interest in them. Pray for . . . our governors, our mayors of cities, the men who have influence in politics in our various communities, that they may do the things that will be better for all of us and make us happier, and please our Heavenly Father. That is our privilege. I say to you that the power of prayer is something that cannot be measured.

All the signs suggest we’re headed toward a pretty contentious political election this fall. This could be a very divisive time in our country. Prayer, and the gratitude and humility it brings, are likely to be an esp. desirable salve during this time. Pres. Smith suggests that we should be praying for our leaders, and he doesn’t qualify this by saying we should only pray for those we like, or we should pray for leaders to act in the way we think is best. Rather, prayer for our leaders is something that will bring unity—as the next section of the lesson makes clear (though it’s there applied to families rather than communities or society, though I think the principle is applicable).

I also think the last line of the paragraph above is quite interesting: “the power of prayer is something that cannot be measured.” Why is prayer immeasurable? What does this mean?

When we pray, we open ourselves. We seek God’s will. If we follow the Lord’s prayer, and His example, we will submit our will to God’s will. This is humility par excellence, to be submissive. This is why we kneel, to symbolically humble ourselves and show our willingness to submit to whatever God would have us learn and do.

That said, I do think there are times when it is healthy to . . . , well, complain. “Lament” is the scriptural term for this, and I think there’s good scriptural evidence that this kind of prayer is encouraged by the Lord, as it is often a catalyst to a deeper kind of humility, and a drawing closer to God (what scriptural or personal examples can you think of?). Too often we aren’t really sincere in our prayers, and we keep our complaints bottled up, as though we could hide these negative feelings from God, and perhaps ourselves. And yet these negative feelings just fester if we don’t address them. Even Christ complained that he didn’t want to drink the bitter cup He was being offered. And what did he say, at last, in response? We are quick to point to the final “nevertheless,” but I don’t think that word can be reached unless an honest expression(/confession) of our complaints is given.

Well, those are some of my thoughts in response to the lesson. What thoughts can you share?

5 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 9: “Open Your Soul to the Lord in Prayer” (George Albert Smith Manual)”

  1. Louann B said

    I’m planning to open a discussion: Why is prayer so basic to our faith?

    Ask a class member to think of one of her children. Ask her to imagine what their relationship would be like today, if they never, or rarely communicated?

    What if our children only talked to us, but never listened?
    What if our children only spoke to us infrequently. Then mumbled a few words and hung up or walked away?

    Can we expect to develop a meaningful relationship with our Heavenly Father, with out consistent, meaningful communication?

    President Smith said, “It is strange that any member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should have to be urged to say his prayers, and yet there are some people who do not pray in secret or have their family prayers.”

    Discussion: Why might some of us miss the opportunity to pray individually?

    Time (that means other priorities)
    Emotional challenges
    Spiritual Challenges (feeling discouraged or unworthy)
    Challenges of feeling that prayers aren’t answered

    The Title of the Lesson is “Open Your Souls to the Lord in Prayer”. Opening your soul implies sharing our deepest, most honest self in prayer.

    Teacher: President Smith told a story of a young orphan who needed to have surgery. He asked the doctors to pray for him, but none would, so the child knelt and prayed to Heavenly Father, speaking to him as one person would speak to another. The doctor reported later, “I have operated on hundreds of people, men and women who thought they had faith to be healed; but never until I stood over that little boy have I felt the presence of God as I felt it then. That boy opened the windows of heaven and talked to his Heavenly Father as one would talk to another face to face. I want to say to you that I am a better man for having had this experience of standing and hearing a little boy talk to his Father in heaven as if he were present”


    Why is it that our prayers sometimes don’t feel like a face-to-face conversation with Heavenly Father?

    • In face to face conversation with someone else, we get immediate verbal feedback. In prayer, we need to pause to listen for the spirit.

    According to Elder Scott, “Sometimes what seems an impenetrable barrier to communication is a giant step to be taken in trust. Seldom will you receive a complete response all at once. It will come a piece at a time, in packets, so that you will grow in capacity. As each piece is followed in faith, you will be lead to other portions until you have the whole answer. That pattern requires you to exercise faith in our Father’s capacity to understand.” (Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer, Richard G. Scott, April 2007 General Conference.)


    Ask the class members what they do or can do in their personal prayers to feel His presence more often?

    I like to develop a mental image of Heavenly Father and remember that I am actually speaking to a real personage.

    Discussion questions:

    What is the difference between saying a prayer and praying a prayer?

    What are some other purposes of prayer? (Develop faith, humility, trust, comfort)

    What are some ways Heavenly Father has answered your prayers? What would you say to someone who feels that Heavenly Father has not answered their prayers?

  2. Kim Berkey said

    Robert, thanks for posting these notes. Several things I find interesting in the lesson:

    1.) President Smith seems to see prayer in two categories: “secret prayer” and “family prayer.” One avenue of discussion I’ve considered is talking about the purposes behind family prayer. We tend to focus on private/personal prayer in our lessons, and talk about it as a means of communicating with God and getting direction. Is it possible to see the same purposes in a communal prayer? What would it mean for the family as a GROUP to communicate with God and receive direction? How does that type of communal prayer relate to what we experience in the temple?

    2.) The very last line of the last quote on pg. 100 says “What a power prayer is to keep us in the pathway to eternal life and lead us into the celestial kingdom!” This reminds me strongly of 2 Nephi 32, where Nephi has just finished telling us how to enter the gate to the path to eternal life, and tells us that the remainder of that path is to be directed by the Holy Ghost and prayer.

    3.) I’m struck by the title of the lesson (“Open Your Soul to the Lord,” taken from the second quote on pg. 100), combined with Alma 34:27 (“let your hearts be . . . drawn out in prayer”) and your thoughts here. True prayer would seem to be a model of opening ourselves, a kind of vulnerability very different from a simple report on the day + a grocery list of help WE think we need. When we “pray” with such a closed attitude, we shouldn’t be surprised that we feel nothing productive or communicative taking place. In that vein, it’s interesting that President Smith’s emphasis throughout the lesson is not on recognizing answers or receiving blessings through prayer, the things that are the typical focus of our discussions, but instead on thanksgiving/gratitude and humility, just as you point out.

  3. GAS’s first prayer experience with his mother is available in audio format: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DusMuBnWHpM

    I’m planning on using is a segue into a discussion on things our mothers have taught us.

    • Carvel said

      Thanks for sharing this. It is a nice to hear his own voice give an insight into his life.

  4. Karen said

    Kim – your first question reminds me of the verses that talk about God being with “two or three are gathered together” in His name. I remember how striking that idea was when I read Counseling With Our Councils. I like applying that idea to family prayer. A lot.

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