Earlier this year I had a very bad day. I didn’t want to read my scriptures. My kids were fighting, my infant daughter wasn’t sleeping, and I wasn’t finished with a project for a client that should have been done with already. I’ve always believed time to be a precious commodity, so I decided to multi task. This meant listening to audio recordings of the Book of Mormon while editing photos, rocking an unhappy baby, and mediating the arguments of my three older children. Needless to say, that didn’t work out well. I began this process around 9am and by 10:15am I found myself screaming and threatening them. They were all sent to their rooms immediately after my tirade and I was left alone with my self loathing. At my whit’s end, I asked God in my heart for some guidance as how to help my kids stop contending with each other constantly. As in so many times before, the Holy Spirit quietly encouraged me to pray.
For most of my life morning prayer has been a challenge. I like to start the day as late as I possibly can in hopes of grasping a few extra moments of rest. I hurry through my shower, daily routine, often skipping breakfast because eating takes far too much time. This pattern has left little opportunity for reflection and deep personal communication with the divine. Scripture study has been something I have managed to do with more regularity, but it is often punctuated by the pressing needs of a five year old who has decided he no longer wants to eat Grape Nuts for breakfast, or a nine year old who is still in bed long after her alarm has sounded. These brief study sessions and lack of prayer were the reason my spiritual reservoir was suffering from near drought conditions. I already knew that morning prayer has the power to bring peace and balance when combined with a robust study of God’s word. My testimony of this fact had been reinforced many times before on the occasions I had been diligent. Yet, all too often I let the scheduled events of the day take precedence. (Side note: I am hoping that you busy mommies out there can empathize, we’ve all been there, right?)
This was my state when the Holy Ghost suggested I talk with God. So, I took a shower. I do most of my best thinking in the few quiet moments in between knocks on the bathroom door. The warm water seemed to release the fog from my mind and allow me to think with a clarity that often escapes me during the rest of the day. I guess you could say that showering is meditation for the 21st century over worked mother. I also have my best conversations in the shower, all of which are with myself.
After showering, dressing, I went to talk with my daughter about the fight. I was prepared to lecture. I had assembled what probably was my finest parental dissertation in my head. But instead I invited her to pray with me. She wouldn’t look me in the eye. I asked again and she slid off the bed on to her knees avoiding eye contact and making sure that I knew her displeasure with me by the way she slumped her shoulders together and hid her face in the blankets, nearly at the other side of her bed. I asked if she wanted to say the prayer or me. She pointed at me. So I opened my mouth, not sure what I was going to say.
In that moment my heart changed in an unexpected way. I found myself not praying for my daughter to be more obedient, or my sons to be kinder to their sister, I was asking for forgiveness. I began pleading with my Heavenly Father. I told him my heart was broken, and indeed it was, because of the bad example I had taught my children. I recognized during that prayer that their quarreling, ill tempered speech, was a reflection of the way I spoke to them. They were simply following my example. How could I expect them to treat each other with kindness and use nice words when I wasn’t doing that? How could I even imagine a home filled with peace when I was the problem? How did I not know that I was the one inviting the spirit of contention into our home? My broken heart became acutely contrite as I prayed for the courage to change, and most of all that my children would forgive me. Tears filled my eyes and then I heard my daughter crying close to me with her arms still folded over her face. I continued to pray, now praying for strength of purpose to move forward, to relinquish my sin and to grow because of this experience. As I ended my prayer we embraced, and I could feel that our bond was beginning a path to repair.
I proceeded to the basement where I repeated this process first with my five year old son and then my ten year old son. My youngest threw this arms around me and forgave me with ease. My oldest son was the most damaged by our fight. He felt that I didn’t love him. I know this because he told me so. He didn’t yell it; if he had I might have dismissed it as words just said in the heat of the moment. Instead, he said it quietly through tears. I prayed first, and then he prayed. I prayed nearly the same words I had done twice before. Yet, it was his prayer that really made the difference. He prayed for me. He asked God to help me and forgive me. He was so genuine in his request. It was his love for me in that moment that made me resolve to not let this experience fade. I committed to allow the atonement to work in my heart and to help me change my behavior, because of them. My love for them and the love I felt from God in forgiving my sin took my desire for being right, and transformed it into something better. It made me want to be better so that my family could learn from my example exactly how powerful repentance is. I needed them to see me differently so they would know firsthand that they can repent and should repent. I want nothing more than for them to experience the “mighty change of heart” Alma spoke of in the Book of Mormon.
Today I feel I understand better the true cleansing power of the Atonement. My family was breaking because of my sin, but we are more “at one” because of our return to the Savior. By making prayer and scripture study a more integral part of my morning routine I have seen positive change in our home. Over the past few months we have still fought, but I have found it easier to control my own temper. I haven’t given into the temptation to raise my voice as often. And when I have, I have repeated this process and asked for forgiveness. Today I know more surely that Jesus is the Christ. He is my Savior. He atoned for my sins and he will always answer my prayers.
Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!That calls me from a world of careAnd bids me at my Father’s throneMake all my wants and wishes known.In seasons of distress and grief,My soul has often found reliefAnd oft escaped the tempter’s snareBy thy return, sweet hour of prayer!And oft escaped the tempter’s snareBy thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!Thy wings shall my petition bearTo him whose truth and faithfulnessEngage the waiting soul to bless.And since he bids me seek his face,Believe his word, and trust his grace,I’ll cast on him my ev’ry careAnd wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!I’ll cast on him my ev’ry careAnd wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!LDS Hymns #142