A few months ago I went to my first ever Stake Youth Conference. It was amazing. One of the workshops was so profound that it literally changed my life, and I’d like to share it with you. It was taught by a returned sister missionary (whose name I forget, unfortunately) and it was called Make All Your Dreams Come True. At first I thought the name sounded a bit floofy if you will, but it turned out to be one of the most practical tips I’ve yet heard.
She started by sharing a quote by C.S. Lewis:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
-C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
First of all, this quote so beautifully describes the human experience. Secondly, what a lovely concept that God Himself lives in us. Thirdly, isn’t it so accurate that we underestimate our potential and forget that it is indeed divine, yet God sees a much more promising future for us?
The sister teaching the lesson’s first suggestion was to pray that Heavenly Father will show you your potential.
Then she drew a large Venn diagram (those two slightly overlapping circles) on the board. Above the left circle she wrote “What we want” and above the right circle she wrote “What God wants”. In the middle therefore is what both we and God want.
She had the class offer ideas of what might go in the left circle. Things that we pray daily for:
- good grades
- to feel loved
These can be things that we want but aren’t sure if God also wants them for us, or if they are right for us.
Then in the middle area, the class thought both we and God would want for us:
- keep commandments
- be Christ-like
Then she went over to the right circle. No one could think of things that God would want for us that we wouldn’t also want. Then she wrote one word on the board: Trials. For me, that blew my mind. I guess I hadn’t really thought before that all the “bad” things that happen to me, God actually wants to happen. All the difficulties, all the tough life lessons, all the sad things, some of which I have overcome and some not. They have all been wanted for me by my Heavenly Father.
Now just to clarify, God wants trials for us because we learn and grow from them. He doesn’t want them because He wants to harm us; quite the opposite.
She finished out the list as follows:
- sabbath day holy
- difficult commandments to follow
Next, as if our minds weren’t blown enough already, she said that the purpose of prayer is alignment. She motioned pushing the circles together to overlap completely and create a single circle. The goal of prayer is to align the two circles so they are one. The only person who has done this, she said, is Christ.
Now if THAT wasn’t enough to change my perspective on existence forever, she continued.
When we ask for things in alignment, she explained, then we are asking things God can actually answer.
For example, if we ask God for something like to never have another trial ever, or to get married right this instant, or to help us achieve a goal that isn’t meant for us, He wont give it to us. And then how do we feel? Sometimes confused, sometimes frustrated or angry.
But, if we aren’t sure yet if what we are asking for is something God also wants, then how can we avoid this?
And here’s where she gave us one of the most practical tips I have ever heard:
First, ask God for something. Then say “but if not” and then ask for an alternative.
So often we ask for things and don’t give a second choice, so to speak. And if God wont give us what we ask for, it feels like our prayer just went unanswered and we got nothing. But if we ask for an alternative, God is then able to give us something.
prayer formula of sorts: 1 + “but if not” + 2
- “help me to get married, but if not, help me to have faith in Thy plan for me”
- “help me to get a good night’s sleep tonight, but if not, help me to have patience with my kids tomorrow”
- “help me to pass my test tomorrow, but if not, help me to understand how I can study better for the next one”
Pray not to have your circumstances changed but that you in your circumstances might be changed.
After this workshop, I immediately put this tip into practice. I found that it not only comforted me — as I saw that even if I didn’t get what I deemed in the moment to be a necessity, it would be okay because there could be another great outcome besides my original choice — but it also helped broaden my perspective. It reminded me to trust Heavenly Father’s love for me by remembering that He only chooses things He knows are best. It helped me realize that my situation wasn’t nearly as dire as I thought, and that everything would work out just fine one way or another.
I am so grateful for that sister missionary and her amazing grasp of the gospel. I am also so grateful I chose to go to that lecture over another. I hope you gained as much as I did from this lesson, and that if you did, you choose to pass it along to someone else, too.