Sunday, September 28, 2014

Do you believe or do you know?

I prayed for something strange yesterday.

Now that I live alone, I've started saying my prayers out loud, which is a bit of a switch for me. I'm normally more the silent-prayer-in-my-heart type. Sure, I bow my head and think the words, but I don't get my lips and teeth and tongue in on it.

But I was listening to a talk or something lately—can't remember where or when—and the speaker encouraged us to pray vocally more often. It occurred to me that I should probably do that now that I won't be disturbing anyone. So I have been, and it's been eye-opening.

There's something completely different about saying a prayer out loud.

I think for me it's related to the difference between my writing self and my speaking/in-person self. Lately I've come to the realization that there are subtle differences between the me I am on paper and the me you meet in person. Not that one is necessarily better than the other. They're both me. But they are a little bit different. I think the paper me is more authentic because I'm braver when I'm saying things to my computer or my journal than I am when I'm saying them to an actual person. Plus I worry less about being boring when I'm writing because I know that if I am boring, people can always stop reading. Whereas in person, people are sometimes so polite that they let you just ramble on endlessly about work and how stressed you are when really they couldn't care less.

Furthermore, I've decided it's good that God gave me this talent for writing as a means of expressing myself in ways I would never otherwise be able to. I also think He did it for a reason—or several reasons. One of them, I'm guessing, is that there are people I can only reach through my writing. Whether because they're far away or because they get along better with the paper me than the physical me or for some other reason, the fact remains that I can have a wider reach with this medium than otherwise.

Is this making any sense or do I just sound like I have a split personality?

Sorry, this is so ridiculously off topic.

Getting back to my prayer.

The thing about praying out loud is that sometimes you start saying something without really knowing how you're going to finish your sentence. When you're thinking your prayer, you can sort of pause and come up with a better way to say it. But when you're speaking the words, your mouth keeps moving so you end up sort of babbling.

And on that note yesterday I prayed, "Help me to have the faith to believe in... in the things I already know."

After I finished my prayer, I couldn't stop thinking about what I'd said. And I realized that there are lots of things I know. I have a testimony. But even though I know things, I still need faith sometimes. Why is that?

You would think that once you know something, you don't doubt it again. That's how it is when you know a scientific fact or when you know the ending of a really good book. It's not like the next time you read the book, the ending will change.

(Sometimes I wish I could un-know books so I could read them again for the first time, but that's not the point.)

With faith and spiritual things, it's different. Just because you had an experience in which your spirit learned the truth, doesn't mean you'll necessarily believe that thing later on. You might even still know intellectually that it's true, but even that's not enough.

I know it's common for us to be incredulous when we read stories in the scriptures of people who had miraculous experiences and later turned their backs on God. People like David in the Old Testament. Or those who witnessed Christ's miracles and then said he was using the power of the devil. In the Book of Mormon we read about Laman and Lemuel who saw just as many miracles as their brother Nephi, but who could never stay obedient to God for long. Or the early church members in our day who witnessed amazing things but later fell away.

I think I know why this can happen. Back home we have a general authority, Elder Packer, who is fond of reminding us that "the shelf life of faith is twenty-four hours." I sort of got what he was saying before. He wanted to remind us that it's important to participate in the gospel every day.

But now I realize that what he meant is that you actually need to exercise your faith every single day in order to believe the things that you already know. Knowing something doesn't mean you're done having faith in it. You will always have to have faith and hope because those things—not knowledge—are what compel you to action.

The struggle is constant. There will always be something that will make me question who I am, where my life is headed, how I'm going to get there, and if I'm really up to the challenges ahead.

But I know that with God nothing is impossible. I just need to have the faith every day to believe what I already know. I need to believe and keep my hope strong because that's what will drive me to obey God's commandments, keep progressing, and serve others around me as I know He would want me to.

So I plan to keep praying for that faith and hope, out loud and in my heart.

And since he's way more eloquent on this topic than I am, I'll leave you with this message from President Uchtdorf. It's a good one.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

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