Editor’s Note: New York Times #1 Bestselling Authors Richard and Linda Eyre join forces with their daughter Saydi (an “in the trenches” mother of four young children) to produce this series on the why-tos and the how-tos of receiving the Direct-Stewardship inspiration, guidance, and revelation we need to create strong and righteous families in this difficult world. This is article 4 in a multi-part weekly series which will run here in Meridian every Tuesday. (Click here to read article 1, here to read article 2, and here to read article 3.)
In today’s turbulent world, and with the challenge of home centered Gospel teaching, particularly during this time of isolation and quarantine, parents and grandparents need personal family revelation more than ever before. And since every home situation is unique, this is not a series on what to do generally—it is on how to get divine answers for your family specifically. The series continues today in the midst of the current Pandemic, with the thought that we may all have more need for Family Revelation now than ever before.
It is not only directly through prayer that we can seek and receive Family Revelation. Often, it is the things we do prior to and following our prayers that get us where we need to be spiritually in order to ask the right questions and receive the right answers. And there are many things we can do to enhance and improve the ways in which we pray. We should learn to think of the improvement of our prayers as the improvement of our abilities and capacities to receive the divine guidance our families need. Here are some suggestions for enhancing and improving our prayers for Family Revelation:
Pondering or Meditating
While prayer is the most direct way to ask and to surrender our agency to the Lord in pursuit of revelation, it is sometimes in the quiet pondering that precedes or follows prayer when our seeking and asking become more refined and when Family Revelation can come. When we are able to quiet our minds and center ourselves, even for a few moments, we open ourselves to the Spirit and become more receptive to the truths that are always available to us through the divine channel.
“And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened” (D&C 76:19).
(Saydi) Prayer doesn’t have to be on our knees. Lately I’ve found myself praying in all kinds of places and situations. I’ve had some of my most powerful prayers after a yoga class lying in shavasana, while seeing or smelling or experiencing something beautiful. At night, lying in bed just before sleep takes over I’ve been trying to feel my spirit inside of my body, and feel a connection with God and just this act has felt like a powerful prayer.
A Monthly “Five Facet Review”
One of the most deliberate ways we know to seek family revelation is to have a regular, monthly two-parent meeting—perhaps at dinner on a “date,” where you go brainstorm together the five aspects of each child and ask yourselves the questions, “How is Elle doing physically? How is she doing mentally? How is she doing socially? How is she doing emotionally? And how is she doing spiritually? Sitting there together, focused on your most important stewardships, having prayed before starting, is a powerful way to draw down Family Revelation. And it is also an effective way to think about and know more specifically what questions you need to ask in prayer about each child.
Have a special notebook that you bring along each month and record the inspirations you get and the things you decide to do with and for each child. Review those notes the next month during your next Five Facet Review and see how you did and what you have to continue. If you do this faithfully each month as a couple, it will become a steady source of Family Revelation, and if you are a single parent, you can do it with a grandparent or someone else who knows and loves your children.
Regular Discussions (sometimes known as Interviews) with your kids.
Sometimes Family Revelation comes from the very people you were seeking it for. Sitting down with a child one-on-one and asking thoughtful questions and focusing on how he or she answers, even with body language, can be a way of seeking.
We have one friend who faithfully interviews each of his children each month on Fast Sunday. “Interview” may be the wrong word, because what he says and asks does not put pressure on his kids or feel like an inquisition; rather, it is “their private time with their dad” and his questions are filled with real interest and support and even the right kind of pride. This makes the kids want to tell him how they are doing and how they are feeling, and as he listens, he says he gets spiritual impressions about what they need.
The cultivation of Humility
Recently in the course of a single week, we happened to spend time with two couples who had very different family situations. One had several crisis situations going on, including a son getting a divorce and a daughter who was clinically depressed and contemplating suicide. They also told us that there were such rifts between some of their children that they never spoke to each other. The interesting thing was their response to it all. “It makes us so humble, and so aware of our inadequacies and so grateful that God entrusted us with this kind of challenges.”
The other couple, on the surface, seemed like the exact opposite as they told us that each of their children had strong testimonies, were doing well in their work and in their marriages, and that they all loved each other and had no jealousy among them. We asked them how they felt about that and if they knew how rare that was—that they were probably one couple in a thousand that could say what they just said—and we expected they would say they felt proud, or gratified, or at least happy. But they didn’t say any of that—they said “humble.” They said, “We are just so grateful, and we take no credit because the Lord just chose to send us this type of spirits. Perhaps He didn’t think we could handle anything else.”
Humility should be the core of what all of us feel about our children….about the easy ones as well as the hard ones. We need to remember not to judge others or ourselves by the “results” of our children, and to remind ourselves that they come as who they are—as the result of who they have been coming for a premortal eternity—and they come to us in the wisdom of God; and we need to seek and pray and work HARD to be worthy of the blessings and to overcome the challenges that they present.
The cultivation of humility helps us to remember that our Heavenly Parents, our Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are all there, (all here—by us—all the time) ready to inspire us and give us personal revelation. And it truly is revelation! The root of that word, of course, is reveal, and whenever we ask, and open ourselves up to spiritual answers, things become more clear and are revealed to our conscious understanding.
Most of us know how much the humility of fasting can impact and improve our prayers. Fast Sundays can become a special and regular time of Family Revelation, and we can hold our own special fast at any time when we feel an intensified need for guidance with our children or our marriage or the whole infrastructure of our family.
“Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me” (Alma 5:46).
The sons of Mosiah prepared themselves by the same means: “They had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the . . . spirit of revelation” (Alma 17:3).
As mentioned earlier, the “alternative universe” of the Spirit World that surrounds us is the place where Family Revelation resides, and the place where departed members of our families live; and fasting makes us more aware of the fragileness of the physical realm and the importance and reality of the spiritual realm. Fasting can thin the veil that separates the two worlds and put us in a more spiritual frame of mind that allows Family Revelation to flow more freely.
One of the healthiest trends in society today is the greater involvement of dads in the parenting of children, and it is particularly true in the Church. And often it starts with fasting. Our son Jonah wrote, “I seem to enjoy and excel at my relationship with my younger kids but my relationship with my teenagers is strained at times, so I was fasting last Sunday about my relationship with Ana (17) I got in the car with her to drive to 8am church and let her know how sad I was that she was snotty when I had said “be safe” before she left for her junior prom the night before and then responded to my question the next morning “did you have a nice time” with “it was my prom, what do you think?”. She was silent and I wondered if I should have brought it up. But later that night she said, “I just want you to know that I am a teenager and there are some things I do that I just can’t seem to control. If I am unappreciative or snarky, that is not how I really feel. I could never. Ever. EVER. Explain how much I appreciate that I come home to a family that loves me and that we all have such great relationships and love each other so much. So that’s it.” I’m quite sure that I’ve never felt better than right then. Perhaps I’m doing ok as a dad. I really need moments like this and God provides.”
And our son Noah relates, “I’d been fasting about a better spirit in our home and then we got home one night when Lyla (10) hadn’t done anything she was supposed to do around the house. I was upset much more than I should have been and I was not handling it well – as a result Lyla got all clammed up. Arms folded and eyebrows lowered. I picked her up and put her on my lap though she didn’t want to be there. I took a breath and tried to see the bigger picture. In that moment I got some revelation – to change my tone. I felt I was upset for good reason but listening to the revelation I said, ‘Look at my eyes Lyla. Reluctantly she looked at me out of the corner of her eyes facing forward still arms folded. I said, ‘Lyla, you are full of light. You are a powerful wonderful girl filled with goodness and you make mistakes. I make mistakes too. In fact I have made almost the exact same mistakes you just made tonight many times. We all make mistakes. And we have the Savior to help us overcome our mistakes.You are filled with goodness and light and you and I can correct mistakes with His help.’ About halfway through what I was saying Lyla’s stiff arms loosened up and she put her arms around me for a hug. We can get guidance for what we should do in THAT specific situation with THAT specific family member in that specific moment.”
Resolutions and Journal Writing
Often it is while reflecting or setting goals or writing in our journals that inspiration and family revelation comes, and we should think of this pondering and writing as a way of seeking further insight and revelation.
Here are some inspirational thoughts from the journal of our oldest daughter Saren at the dawn of a New Year’s Day:
I came downstairs to the bright sun and sparkling snow and worked with mom and Isaac and his friend Brooke to make a big breakfast for everyone and then headed out on a brisk cold walk/hike. I was planning to go alongside Dad and Shawni and Saydi who were skiing but I got ahead of them and ended up hiking with Saydi’s dog Scout dashing about gleefully while I thought about what I want for my life and my family in the new year. The snow was so sparkly and things felt sharp and clear. I want to put my life in the Lord’s hands by turning to Him many times a day, asking for direction, becoming a better instrument in His hands, figuring out his will and acting on it every day and every hour. I’m determined to learn to love the scriptures more and develop a deeper relationship with Christ. I know that doing better at this will go a long way in taking care of everything else, including the needs of my family.
(Saydi) Let me add some lines from my own journal last Christmas and New Years—both to illustrate some of the ups and downs and to think about how inspiration comes when we are doing the thinking that goes into writing:
Oh man, I thought I was doing so well with writing in my journal, then life just explodes and suddenly more than two weeks have passed. Got to get into a better routine for this new year. Here are some thoughts/memories of the past two weeks, though most of it is already squashed up into a Christmas craze blur.
Christmas is a crazy time for a mom, all the consuming and trying to make things fair and everyone happy all within a budget is pretty tricky in the best moments and borderline nauseating/crazy in the worst. It’s just a constant brain challenge. So many moving parts, so many good and fun things that I want to do while I’m being pulled at the same time by all of the other things I need to do to make the season magical and then the underlying things that always have to be done year-round regardless the season just to keep life going.
It’s hard to have them all piled up into such a short time and to feel the burden of also wanting to be still and quiet and joyful while running around with my head cut off. The little magical moments usually make the head being cut off worth it, but this season I had quite a few little nudges telling me to step back and reevaluate how our family does things. I did step back a little, and think the result was pretty good…considering, but next year I’m determined to do a total overhaul so that my brain doesn’t have to be so wrapped up in all the wrappings and can be more focused on the joy and peace and wonder surrounding the season.
Our family went to the Carol Service at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. This was the very best part of Christmas for me. I asked all the kids (some who weren’t excited to go) to just come with me and be happy and sit in peace while I took a moment for some silence and reflection and Christmas spirit with them. They did great, especially Hazel who sat next to me and took it all in. I love that I know she feels these things as deeply as I do. I also loved looking back and seeing Peter sing every word of the congregational hymns. A few times I swear I could see a little golden halo around his angel curls. It was also fun to have mom and dad there and process all that beauty with them afterwards.
Here are some of the lyrics that made me tear up: “With the poor and mean and lowly, lived on earth our Savior Holy…for He is our childhood pattern, day by day like us He grew… He was little, weak and helpless, tears and smiles like us He knew: and He feels for all our sadness, and He shares in all our gladness…When she carried her child through the wood roses bloomed on the thorn bushes…Child, for us sinners, poor and in the manger, we would embrace thee with love and awe…Who would not love thee, loving us so dearly? Oh come let us adore Him.”
For me, this was family revelation at its finest!
President Nelson has admonished us to write down the things we ask and receive in prayer. It’s easy to ask but sometimes not so easy to receive, to really “Hear Him.”
“Pray about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—[especially] the longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation. And your ability to receive and understand revelation will increase.” April 2018 conference address
I saw a magnificent example of this many decades ago:
As a young missionary I worked in the Church’s pavilion at the New York World’s fair, and lived with dozens of other missionary guides in a high-rise apartment building called LeFrak City. Elder Bernard Brockbank, a General Authority supervising the Church Pavilion and his wife Francis, lived just upstairs on the next floor from my companion and I. Late one evening there was a knock at our door and we were surprised to find Elder Brockbank in the hall. He said that Francis was visiting family in Salt Lake and he was alone and wondered if he could join us for evening prayer. The three of us kneeled down by our little coffee table and he asked me to pray. I did so, trying to be thorough in his presence, but about half way through my prayer, I heard the unmistakable sound of a pencil writing rapidly on paper.
My first thought was that my greenie companion, impatient with my long prayer, had started his nightly letter to his girlfriend. But when I finished and opened my eyes, it was Elder Brockbank who had covered the top page of a yellow legal pad with scribbled writing. I didn’t dare ask outloud, but he sensed my question and gave me an answer I have never forgotten. “I find that when God tells me things, I need to write them down, Otherwise I might forget the details.”
Can we make prayer that real? Where we ask, and He answers, and we take notes so we won’t forget the details?
Family revelation sometimes comes from reviewing
old answers that you have received previously. Sometimes, if we are not careful, we forget some of the Family Revelation we have received and ask the same questions all over again. Whenever we feel the spiritual influence of insight or inspiration, we should record it—perhaps in a special book dedicated to that purpose, a “prayer notes book.” As the years go by, we can often find the revelation we need right there in our own notes!
Elder Scott put it this way, “It is through the repeated process of feeling impressions, recording them, and obeying them that one learns to depend on the direction of the Spirit more than on communication through the five senses”.
Richard G. Scott, “Helping Others to Be Spiritually Led,” CES Symposium, August 11, 1998, 3–4, 11; emphasis in original.
(Saydi) At the beginning of a day or week instead of just rattling off a to do list and dumping all the tasks crammed up in her brain down onto a page, a good friend of mine instead says a prayer and asks God to make a to do list for her first. He listens and reviews his day prayerfully and then writes down a list of things to do. Of course, he recognizes that lots of the things on the list might not be actually inspired by God, but the list is much more divinely appointed than it would have been had he just jotted down the pressing needs in his head.
Another way to make prayer more meaningful and, frankly, to feel and experience more joy, is to keep a gratitude journal wherein we write, as often as possible, the things we are grateful for, the things we have received. “Gratitude,” as we have said in another book, “is not the path to happiness, it is happiness in its most obtainable form.” 1 And, we might add, it is the most natural way to establish direct contact with God before asking for His help. (1. The Thankful Heart, 2015)
President Nelson positioned gratitude as a qualifier for revelation:
To be sure, there may be times when you feel as though the heavens are closed. But I promise you that as you continue to be obedient, expressing gratitude for every blessing the Lord gives you, and as you patiently honor the Lord’s timetable, you will be given the knowledge and understanding you see. Every blessing the Lord has for you—even miracles—will follow. That is what personal revelation will do for you.” April 2018 General Conference
Besides keeping track of our gratitude, we should all, in some way, keep track of the requests we make of God, of the things we ask for, and of how and when they are received. The answers are not always the ones we wanted, but all sincere prayers with real intent are answered in some way at some time. That is God’s promise, and He keeps it.
A young man experiencing serious doubts and something of a faith crisis once asked me how I knew for sure the existence of God. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about the question so I simply answered with the first thing that came to my mind. I told him about a special felt-bound journal that I have had for more than 50 years that I call my “Ask Journal” in which I have written down the major things I have asked God for in prayer. And I told him that every one of those prayers had been answered. The answers were not always what I wanted or expected them to be, but they were always answered! I told him that I knew God existed simply because He had repeatedly answered my prayers.
Keeping this type of ask journal also allows us to reflect back over the things we have asked for and see not only His answers, but the patterns in which we ask and in which He answers—patterns that may be a form of Family Revelation for our future needs and requests.
Benjamin Franklin said that everyone should carry two books with them, “the one they are reading, and the one they are writing.” We might modify this a bit and think in terms of having (and often carrying—particularly to Church or other sacred settings) a notebook of Family Revelation where we keep track not just of the questions we have asked or the blessings we have asked for, but also of the answers we have received and any insights or inspiration we have gained about any of our family stewardships. After all, as I learned from Elder Brockbank all those many years ago, “otherwise, you might forget.”
And in today’s world, perhaps right in your smart phone, with one of the notebook apps, would be a more convenient and always-present place to keep this kind of spiritual record.
Who knows if it is the endorphins or the solitary conditions or just the stretching of body and mind, but for many, there is no better conductor of family revelation than exercise, especially if we go into it having thought and prayed about a family challenge or need. Particularly if preceded by prayer, physical exertion can be a way both of seeking and receiving.
We know one father who is a runner and who feels that his running is as much mental and spiritual as it is physical. While he runs, he focuses his mind, one at a time, on each of his children, visualizing, thinking about them and about their gifts, their progress, their needs, their worries. He says that this is where he gets most of his Family Revelation and the answers to his recent prayers. He tells us that he carries a little notebook while he runs because impressions often come to him with such force that he has to stop for a moment and write them down.
(Saydi) Praying while running: When my kids were younger and I was training for a half marathon I made a playlist with a song for each child. For Charlie it was Bach’s cello concerto, for Peter it was the Immigrant Song by Led Zeplin, for Hazel it was Chopin’s piano concerto and for Emmeline it was the calmest song I could find (to somehow calm my nerves when thinking about all her craziness!). As I ran and each song played I tried to get my mind to think deeply about each child, I tried to see them from God’s perspective and to feel His love for them. I went through what they needed, what questions I had about their lives, how I could better help them become who they are to become. I had some of my most direct and powerful revelations during these runs. Sometimes I stopped the second I came in the door to write these things down, other times I let the feelings and thoughts just wash over me, and sink into my soul, or breathed them out into the universe, trusting they’d find their way to each child. I’ve thought about doing the same thing, only a song for each problem/focus/concentration I’m currently wrestling with. There’s something magical about movement and music that helps me really tune in. Elder Richard C. Scott said it clearly, Exercise, reasonable amounts of sleep, and good eating habits increase our capacity to receive and understand revelation
Richard C Scott, April, 2002 How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life
Early in our marriage, whenever it was my (Richard’s) turn to say our evening prayer together, I would forget to bless Linda’s mother, or her visiting teaching, or her violinperformance or some other equally essential omission. One night, instead of whoever’s turn it was, we decided to each say a verbal prayer. In future nights, we combined our two prayers, with the one who opened the prayer, “Heavenly Father,” squeezing the hand of the other when he or she was through, and the other carrying on the prayer and closing it at the end with “Amen.”
As it evolved further, there was always a hand squeeze when one of us thought we had finished and the other would carry on with the partnership prayer,
and sometimes back and forth until the final squeeze when neither had anything more to say and the prayer was closed.
It began to feel more like a meeting between the two of us and our heavenly parents and we have continued it to this day as our modus operandi for our evening couple’s prayer.
Thanks for being a part of this ongoing series. Tune in again next Tuesday in this same space where we will be discussing increased Awareness and Perspective as additional pathways to Family Revelation.