“I know my Father lives, and loves me too. The Spirit whispers this to me, and tells me it is true” – Hymn 302
I have recently been having an interesting conversation with a lovely man named Phill regarding God and the Spirit, and how to gain spiritual knowledge. How do we know if there is a God? How do we come to believe in spiritual things? I would like to share some of my recent conversation here with you, and expand on it. As we go through life we learn and see things from different vantage points. The truths which I hold close to my heart have come as a consequence of my life experiences, and they are combined with my own personal effort to learn. I would never want to limit myself to thinking that I have all the truth and knowledge I need, and therefore not accept any more. How sad to live a life that did not include gaining more knowledge and deeper understanding. This could also have frightening consequences! Just imagine a surgeon deciding that he had enough information once he knew how to cut the body open – yet he rejected the information on how to sew it back together again! The truth I have is always expanding. In other words, one cannot just “Get Faith”, or “Get God” once and then check it off their to-do list! Rather, this is a life-long relationship that needs daily care and effort.
I believe that Faith is not passive. Rather, Faith is based upon action and also becomes a consequence of action. Our spiritual abilities have the capacity to continually grow based upon the same principles governing our physical abilities. Let me illustrate this with an example. If we participate in regular, persistent weight-bearing exercise the connective tissues in our muscles naturally begin to experience small tears, which then repair, leading to strengthening and finally growth. When we combine effort & consistency into a daily training routine, we are guaranteed that a significant change will take place in our body. These changes are all based upon scientific “laws of nature”. Another term for this is ‘Cause and Effect’. As our bodies become stronger, our physical abilities increase. Athletes call this “Endurance Training”, and it prepares them to go long distances and sustain intense events. The reward of having a very fit, healthy, strong and athletic body comes only after an equally large investment of time and discipline.
Now let’s imagine this principle in a spiritual sense. We each have the opportunity to strength train our “spiritual muscles” so to speak. When we “exercise the spirit” in our lives with effort and consistency, we will gain endurance to be strong through the hardships and intense events of earthly life.
We all know that in the Physical dimension of life there are Laws of Nature that govern our bodies, the earth and the Solar System. There are basic scientific principles that cannot be eliminated. Some of these laws include Gravity, Aging, Death, Time and Motion. These principles form existence, as we know it.
Thus, in the Physical World, if we want the outcome and reward of a fit body, we must be willing to abide by the scientific laws of time and motion that surround it, and do the work necessary.
A Spiritual dimension would also need to have governing principles in order to exist. I propose that the spiritual realm is founded upon Laws of (a spiritual) Nature, which also cannot be eliminated. These are also called the “Laws of God”, or commandments. Just as we are bound to these laws, God is also bound. “For I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise”. This means that there is cause and effect in force in the Spiritual World as well. If we want the outcome and reward of “Spiritual Fitness”, including a belief in God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, a knowledge of who we are, and our spiritual purpose, then we must abide by the spiritual laws of time and motion that surround it, and do the work necessary.
What is the work? How do we know what to do in order to gain the outcome desired?
In the case of a physical law, such as bodybuilding, for example, the logical step is to go to the experts and specialists. There are scientists and athletes who have dedicated their lives studying the Laws of Nature regarding this subject and putting it into practice. We can read the articles they have published and study the books on the subject. After we gain more knowledge, we then have the tools to design a daily routine. If we can afford the investment, the most effective way to success is to find someone who has already done the work and received the outcome that we desire and ask them to train us one-on-one.
In the case of a spiritual law, such as wanting to know God, one of the ways is to turn to the experts. There are those who have been chosen by God to be special witnesses that He lives. These men have lived the spiritual laws of God diligently and successfully. They have progressed beyond faith alone, and have gained pure knowledge of God; have seen Him, and literally spoken with Him face to face.
We call these men prophets. God reveals His messages to the earth through His servants the prophets. The prophets then have written down what they have learned and heard, so that others may learn and follow.
By reading and studying the words that prophets have written, compiled in books called scripture, we learn more about God our Father, and His Son Jesus Christ.
To gain ultimate fitness physically we must invest by doing our own personal work. No one can do it for us. This is true of spiritual fitness as well. We must invest in the personal work of “exercising” our faith. Prayer is the very first step. Being willing to talk to our Father in Heaven, even if we are not 100% sure He is there, is essential. We may feel far away from our goal when we start this exercise program, however when we make the simple daily effort to pause in our busy day, and talk to God, we are demonstrating hope for a positive spiritual outcome. Prophets have taught over and over again how important it is that we communicate with our Father in Heaven through prayer. This is because it is what each one of them did. Prayer is a proven method for success.
God the Father sent His only begotten son Jesus Christ to earth. When Jesus walked the earth, He was a perfect example of all things that will bring us back to the presence of God again. One of the things he diligently taught was prayer.
There are many examples recorded of Jesus praying. The scriptures record a personal prayer as a demonstrated example to all, referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”. Jesus “prayed over” individuals, performing healing and many miracles. Jesus taught that we must “pray always”. His ultimate divine mission included offering the great “intercessory prayer” to God our Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.
On our behalf, Jesus Christ took upon himself all of our sorrows and suffered for our sins. He died by crucification, and was buried. On the third day after His death, he rose again as a glorified eternal being. His Resurrection ushered in the promise to each human being that we will also rise from the grave and live eternally. This is the free gift given through our Savior’s Atonement.
The second gift is forgiveness of sin. We have each been given a holy promise, that if we do our part; live according to the spiritual laws, pray to our Father in Heaven, ask for the forgiveness, and make a personal commitment to live the Laws of God we may have His spirit to be with us “always”. As we “Come unto Christ” then we will gain the reward of truly knowing Him. He has said: “Draw near unto me, and I will draw near unto you.”
I have learned that if I do not remain diligent, then the natural consequence is a loss of spiritual fitness. When this happens, I do not feel as close to God any longer. My life is much more difficult. This has happened not because God has withdrawn from me, but rather during those times when I have chosen to withdraw from Him. When I have turned back again, investing in my scripture study and daily prayer; once again I feel the spirit of God flowing into my life, refreshing and strengthening. This is a spiritual law of cause and effect.
This post is full of a lot of information. How can one possibly know these things are true personally, and not just someone else’s opinions? I’m going to invite you to try an experiment! A wise prophet wrote that we should “Experiment upon the word…even if you only have a desire to believe“. We start with the desire. If what I have been talking about here is correct – namely that there are spiritual laws of cause and effect, then when you start to pray to God our Heavenly Father regularly – this should create an effect and bring a result. I invite you to find a quiet place where you can talk to God and not be inhibited. It may feel awkward if this is not a regular habit or is completely unfamiliar. Just like starting an exercise program after being long inactive, there is bound to be some discomfort or possibly points of frustration. Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to make something a habit and to start noticing significant results. So, how about it? Will you perform a 21 day experiment doing “regular daily prayers” with me? (Of course, continuing beyond the 21 days is certainly the goal) :) Here are the simple “rules” to the experiment:
1. There are no limits to how many times you speak with God during the day, the more the better. However a minimum of at least once is necessary.
2. The prayer needs to come from the heart. We may address Him as we would a loving parent, such as, “Dear Father”, or “Heavenly Father”. Reading or reciting a memorized verse does not count as having a meaningful conversation. You would never call your parent or best friend up on the phone and then read a prepared statement each time! Why should it be any different with our Father in Heaven? To build a relationship with someone, we have to be willing to open up and speak about the things that are impacting us personally and important to us. Things to include in our prayer can be thanking him for specific good things in our lives, asking him for help with specific needs, discussing our goals and hopes, and anything else we desire to talk over with Him. The longer we spend time with Him, and the more we share with Him the more our relationship will grow. I imagine also the more overjoyed He is. As a parent myself, there is no greater joy than when my child confides in me, and asks for advice.
3. The participant of this experiment should spend time spiritually ‘listening’ during the day and watching for answers and impressions. This is a very important part of prayer. If prayer is communication and conversation with God, then that means it should be two-way. Although our Father in Heaven can speak actual words, it is more likely that He will communicate in other unique and personal ways. Often, He communicates with a peaceful or warm feeling. We may have a good idea, which comes “out of the blue” into our mind, or an overriding impression that we should do something. We may see some particular beauty in nature that touches our heart. Our Father in Heaven also loves to work through others to help us. A friend or family member may say something to us that is exactly what we needed to hear, or perform a service that we needed. We should “expect the unexpected”.
Since we all need support, I will happily volunteer to be one of your “exercise buddies”. I encourage you to continue your spiritual exercise, and I will share some of my impressions from my own daily exercise of prayer here on the site. If you miss a daily “workout”, you have not failed. Just get “back on your knees” again the next day and move forward.
I can promise that if you will do this experiment sincerely and diligently, you will have an experience with the spiritual world. You will most likely have many experiences. I do not know what your specific experiences will be, as they will be personalized just for you; however I know that our Heavenly Father is very anxious to have a conversation with you. You are His child. He loves you. If you desire to find Him, all you have to do is ask. He will come to you. I hope that you will choose to put this experiment to the test, and know for yourself. John 8:32