It is that time again. Time to close out this wonderful book and to find another to focus on for the next two weeks. Again, I am sad to leave this one behind. Kelly has packed a lot into this book, just as she did with Designed to Pray. I took time to read the last four chapters in Praying Upside Down this morning. Such encouragement to just pray. To just do it. Do we really have any excuse good enough to keep us from talking with our Father?
Kelly has a comment that really struck my heart. It’s on the very last page. It is this, “I am the biggest hurdle I will ever face in my faith.” Me. I’m the one that gets in the way. I agree whole-heartedly. I’m the one who decides I don’t have enough time. I’m the one who thinks I don’t have anything to say, or at least, anything God wants to hear. I’m the one who is angry at God for giving me such difficult challenges so I can “grow.” Yeah. It’s always me. She goes on to say, “He is always there, always wanting to reveal who He is, eternally offering us more.” What a tremendous thought! God is never, ever the one pulling away. It’s us. It’s me. And probably you too.
So, down to the big four questions. Is Praying Upside Down based in scripture? Yes. Kelly brings scripture into each chapter and has thoughtful comments on how those scriptures apply to prayer and to what God has asked us to do with it. Now, did it draw me further into my scriptures? No. It wasn’t formatted like Designed to Pray with additional scriptures at the beginning of each chapter to look up. Did this book draw my heart closer to God? Why, yes, it did. Even though there wasn’t as much opportunity to search the scriptures, I still saw God’s hand come through in her words. I felt the power and witness many times that Kelly was speaking truth – right to my heart. So, did it change my heart? Yes. I want a closer, more prayer-filled relationship with God. It’s going to require work and that goes back to her comment about the only thing getting in the way is me. I hope that I can take what I have learned and put it into practice. I know that I felt compelled to pray far more with Designed to Pray than with this one. I was so taken by her stories and how they might apply to me that I didn’t always follow through with the work of it all. By the way, I just realized that this morning. Good grief!
I am grateful to Kelly for experiences and for being willing to share them. I have learned a lot and I look forward to practice what she has taught so that my relationship with God can mean more and be more.
As usual, I also took time this morning to read a chapter in the Book of Mormon. I’m on chapter three. Let me explain what’s happening. Lehi has a relative named Laban who is pretty involved with the elders of the Jewish community in Jerusalem. It’s also possible that he is involved with their military. There aren’t too many details about him, but we can infer a lot of information based on what is said in the scriptures. As was common in those days, records were kept and handed down in the family, with one family keeping them. These records contained the family genealogy and a record of the Jews (the five books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). So, Laban has the plates and is still in Jerusalem and Lehi and his family are three days away.
At this point, Jehovah comes to Lehi in another dream and tells him that he will need to send his sons back to get the plates from Laban. They will need them. In verses 19 and 20, we are told why
19 And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records, that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers;
20 And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time.
So, those are pretty big reasons – to preserve their language and to have the words of the prophets. It was common in those early times to use the scriptures as the grammar and language books. It was what they used to learn to read and write from. The father was responsible for the teaching of the sons and they would work privately in addition to learning from the elders in their area.
What happens next is pretty typical of human nature and how we solve our problems. The boys agree to go back, with Laman and Lemuel complaining the entire way, to get the plates. It was decided to draw lots (similar to drawing straws) to see who would go try and it fell to Laman. His idea was to just ask for them. That didn’t go well and Laban threw him out and called him a robber and threatened to kill him. This was how precious these records were to the families. He ran and hid with his brothers so that they wouldn’t be attacked. As Laman recited what had happened, they started to worry so much that it became sorrow. Of course, Laman and Lemuel wanted to go back and be done, but Nephi had told his father (in one of the most memorized scriptures in the entire Book of Mormon),
I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
Nephi had already decided that he would be faithful to the commandments of the Lord and obedient to his father, the prophet. He convinces them to stay and they decide to go together to try to buy the plates using the gold and silver they had left behind. Laban didn’t appreciate this either, but he was greedy and wanted their riches. This time, he sent his servants after them and they had to leave everything behind so that they could escape safely. Of course, Laman and Lemuel were not happy with the whole situation and began to beat Nephi with a stick so that he would be quiet and agree to go back to their father and be done. Luckily for Nephi, an angel appears to them and asks them why they are hitting their brother, who had decided to be obedient. The angel also says to them, “Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.” As soon as the angel left, the brothers began to complain and to doubt God and His ability to help them in their obedience.
Sheesh! How often are we like these three men? We try to come up with our own solutions and those they came up with are no different than anyone who lives right now might try – ask, then buy. No luck. Generally, if God has a plan those two ways don’t work either. Usually, we have to rely on the Lord and wait for His plan. When what they had decided didn’t work, instead of having the faith and commitment that Nephi had, they began to doubt, even doubting God saying, “How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?”
While we may have moments of doubts, we can know for ourselves that God does help us be obedient to His will and that He wants nothing more than for us to be successful. We just have to trust Him and faithfully go about doing His will. It may not be easy, but we can do it!