Friday, February 8, 2013

Step 2: Hope (Part 3/4)

Key Principle: Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health. 

There are two action steps listed for this step.
1. Pray; read and ponder the scriptures.
2. Believe in God the Eternal Father and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

In step 1, you admit your need for help. You admit that you can't do this alone.

That could leave you feeling a little hopeless, could it not?

In step 2, you get to "come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health." How do you come to believe that?

One way is through prayer. If you aren't accustomed to prayer, it could be a weird or unique concept. You get on your knees, fold your arms, bow your head, and speak to a divine being, whom you can't see and you might not even be sure He exists. It might feel awkward at first, but that divine being exists and He hears you. He is actually waiting for you to come to Him and pour out your heart to Him. If you aren't a firm believer in God, this is how I picture Him. Imagine the most glorious being you can. Imagine the most loving person you can. Combine the two. What do you feel? God is the most loving Father you will ever know. He knows exactly what you need, and He wants more than anything to give it to you. When I realize that I haven't prayed a really heartfelt prayer in a while, I can imagine Him sitting up there just waiting for me and getting so excited when I come back to Him.

I know that praying can be hard. Sometimes, you don't get answers right away. Sometimes you don't get answers you want. Sometimes, you feel like there is no point in praying because He should know what is going on, and He should know what you need. Sometimes you are too angry to pray. I know. I have felt all of that. But, prayer is so important. It is through prayer that I have come to know God and how much He loves me.

Prayer has given me answers to my problems.
Prayer has given me patience.
Prayer has given me peace.
Prayer has let me know that I am not alone.
Prayer has let me feel love when I felt the least deserving and the most lonely.
Prayer has helped me know what to do in tough situations.
Prayer has led me to people I need to meet.
Prayer has led me to answers in the scriptures.
Prayer has led me to find peace in the scriptures.

Prayer is beautiful.

In Alma 32, Alma is teaching the poor who have suffered many afflictions and are humble. Not only were they "poor as to things of the world," they are described as "poor in heart." To me, that means that they were a little lacking in love. They didn't feel loved, and their hearts were broken at the way they had been treated. They needed some rejuvenation and hope in their lives.

They came to Alma and asked what they should do: "Behold, what shall these my brethren do, for they are despised of all men because of their poverty, yea, and more especially by our priests; for they have cast  us out of our synagogues which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands; and they have cast us out because of our exceeding poverty; and we have no  place to worship our God; and behold, what shall we do?"

Can you even imagine what those people must have felt like? They were despised because of their poverty. I don't think I could handle feeling despised. That is a very strong word full of hatred and loathing. They were especially despised by their priests. Aren't priests supposed to be good people? Even the good people despised them. These people were cast out of their synagogues, which they had helped build. They had no place to worship their God. They might have felt like they had lost everything, and they certainly felt unloved.

Then, Alma said, "I behold that ye are lowly in heart; and if so, blessed are ye."

What? Blessed? Me? Because I am lowly in heart? I bet that made them perk up a little bit. I bet that gave them the spark of hope to hold on to.

He tells them that through this situation, they can learn wisdom. They can repent and come unto God. They can be humble, and their humility can help them be saved at the last day. Talk about being stuck in darkness and finding a light to follow.

Verse 21 begins the real hopeful scriptures for me.
Alma says if we have faith, we hope for things that we can't see, but are true.
"God is merciful unto all those who believe on his name."
God desires us to believe.

Then he says, let's do a little experiment. Are you feeling experimental? I hope so.
(verse 27) "But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desure to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."

I would say for us: if you can no more than desire to believe, or to hope, let this desire, or hope, work in you until you believe in such a way that will make room in your heart for some of the Lord's fulness. I would say to practice prayer. If you have even a small desire to find God, to find hope, peace, and joy, experiment upon Alma's words. Experiment with prayer. Experiment with hope. Experiment with studying the scriptures, and you will be blessed. As you feel the love of God envelope you, let it come. Keep working at it.

I said in a previous post, well I quoted it actually, the 12 steps are steps of action. If you truly want to recover, put in a little action. Exercise faith and hope. Pray. Read the scriptures. I would encourage you to read Alma chapters 32 and 34. Those are my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon, especially in times when I desperately need hope. 

In the rest of chapter 32, Alma describes how exercising a little particle of faith can grow. It's truly beautiful, and I really encourage you to read it. Even if you are very familiar with this chapter, read it again. Pray before you read it, and ask God to show you what you need to know for your life. And read chapter 34. It is my favorite of all time.

The other part of this action step, which I have mentioned, is to read and ponder the scriptures. There are verses listed in this chapter in the study and understanding section for you to read and ponder. You can start there if you are lacking in motivation to really dive into the scriptures. As you become more comfortable with your relationship with God, dive into the scriptures. Maybe you could start a scripture journal. I have one. I write in it every time I study the scriptures. For one thing, it helps me focus on what I am reading better. For another thing, it helps me to have something to write on available when the Holy Ghost speaks to me and gives me promptings for my life.

As you pray and read and ponder the scriptures, you will open the door for the Holy Ghost to dwell with you more consistently. He will give you hope. The words of the scriptures will give you hope. You will find verses that you love and can turn to in any time of need. That's what Alma 34:41 is for me, which is why I chose it as my username for this blog.

You will find hope if you open the door and let it in.

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