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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

The patriarchs, prophets and kings of the Old Testament constructed altars unto the Lord. Early altars were built from unhewn stone.

The altars were used for burnt sacrifices and offerings. They were also used for prayer, worship, covenants and as memorials unto the Lord.

* * *

And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

Genesis 8:20

* * *

And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

Genesis 12:7

* * *

And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner:

Exodus 17:15

* * *

The Temple in Jerusalem had two altars. The first was the Altar of Burnt Offerings. The second was the Altar of Incense.

* * *

Jesus Christ gave his own life as the ultimate sacrifice for mankind.

We can construct our own “spiritual altars” unto the Lord by taking time each day to pray, study the scriptures and ponder His grace and mercy. Upon these same altars we can lay our offerings of service to the Lord and to our fellow man.

As David wrote:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart. (Psalm 51:7)

* * *

6) Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

7) Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

2 Nephi 2

* * *

The Prophet Joseph Smith described offering “your whole soul” as serving God with all your “heart, might, mind and strength” (Doctrine & Covenants 4:2). It is to put on the altar of God your time, talents, gifts and blessings, your willingness to serve, to do all that He asks.

– Elaine L. Jack, “A Small Stone,” April 1997

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– Tom Irvine

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As a young man, President David O. McKay prayed for a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel. Many years later, while he was serving his mission in Scotland, that witness finally came. Later he wrote, “It was an assurance to me that sincere prayer is answered ‘sometime, somewhere.’”

We may not know when or how the Lord’s answers will be given, but in His time and His way, I testify, His answers will come. For some answers we may have to wait until the hereafter.

– Elder Robert D. Hales, Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done, October 2011
* * *

“If God answers your prayer, He is increasing your faith.
If He delays, He is increasing your patience.
If He doesn’t answer, He knows you can handle it.”

– Unknown

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Hezekiah was the King of Judah, from about 715 to 686 BC.

He was a righteous king. He removed the idols from the Jerusalem Temple. He also restored worship of the Lord.

Isaiah 38

[1] In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.
[2] Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD,
[3] And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
[4] Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying,
[5] Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.

The Lord even gave a sign to King Hezekiah by making the sun to go backward ten degrees.

King Hezekiah then gave a song or psalm of thanksgiving in verses 9 to 20. He praised the Lord as follows.

[17] Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.
[18] For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
[19] The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.
[20] The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.

See also: 2 Kings 20 & 2 Chronicles 32

* * *

There are some important lessons from King Hezekiah’s life.

1. We must destroy the idols in our life. In ancient times, people worshiped idols crafted from wood, stone, brass or gold. Today, people worship the idols of money, fame, pride and worldly pleasures.

2. We must worship the Lord.

3. Some prophecies may depend on our faithfulness and righteousness. We must take responsibility for our words and actions. The Lord changed the prophecy of King Hezekiah’s death after the King wept and prayed to Him.

4. We can pray for healing blessings. We must prepare ourselves to accept the Lord’s will, whatever it must be.

5. We will eventually die even if the Lord extends our life. One of the main purposes of our mortal life is to prepare to meet God. We must thus set our houses in order.

6. Like King Hezekiah, we must praise the Lord for the blessings he gives us.

Our lives are gifts from God to be used for His purposes.

Let us follow the example of King Hezekiah by walking before the Lord in truth and with a perfect heart, doing good in His sight.

– Tom Irvine

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Jesus Christ taught the “greatest commandment” in the following Biblical account.

Mark 12

[28] And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
[29] And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
[30] And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
[31] And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

* * *

Most Christians rightly conclude that loving the Lord God is the greatest commandment.

But Jesus’ preface statement is essential, “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.”

This declaration is called the “Shema.”

Jesus also taught “I and my Father are one” in John 10:30.

* * *

Shema means “listen and obey” in Hebrew.

The term Shema is used by extension to the whole part of the prayers that commences with Shema Yisrael and comprises Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37–41.

In ancient times, the Kohanim, who were Jewish priests, recited the Shema in Solomon’s temple.

Devout Jews repeat the Shema in the morning and at night.

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

Barukh sheim k’vod malkhuto l’olam va’ed.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.

* * *

Please listen to these versions.

Shema.mp3   Courtesy of: Wildolive Sound Files

YouTube File 1

YouTube File 2

And please learn to recite the Shema yourself in Hebrew.

* * *

– Tom Irvine

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I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Well-meaning members of my church occasionally make declarations that a testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of his gospel can only come through the Holy Ghost — and not through science.

Yes, the Holy Ghost is the ultimate witness of truth, but science has a complementary and even prequisite role.

Consider the following…

True science is not a collection of esoteric facts or models about some physical system. Rather true science is a methodology of discovery and understanding.

The Scientific Method consists roughly of the following steps:

1. Formulate a Question
2. Hypothesis & Prediction
3. Tests & Experiments
4. Data Analysis
5. Conclusion

This methodology is alive and well in the scriptures, as shown in the following examples.

* * *

Faith is a common theme throughout all of the scriptures.  The Book of Mormon, Alma chapter 30 gives perhaps the best working teaching on faith.  The word experiment is given three times in this chapter.

The prophet Alma taught in this chapter:

[26]   Now, as I said concerning faith — that it was not a perfect knowledge — even so it is with my words.  Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.

[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 desire 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.

[28]   Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.  Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves — It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

[29]   Now behold, would not this increase your faith?  I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

[30]   But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow.   And now behold, will not this strengthen your faith?  Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

[31]   And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed?  I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.

[32]   Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

[33]   And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

[34]   And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect?  Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because ye know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

[35]   O then, is not this real?  I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?

[36]   Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.

[37]   And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us.  And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.

* * *

A testimony of the Law of Tithing also requires experimentation.

The Lord declared in Malachi 3,

[10] Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

[11] And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.

* * *

The Lord even instructed us to develop a hypothesis prior to seeking an answer to prayer.

Doctrine & Covenant Section 9 is revelation from the Lord to Oliver Cowdrey, which applies in larger sense to all of us.

[7] Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

[8] But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

[9] But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong . . .

* * *

Yes, the Holy Ghost provides a necessary, confirming witness.   But we must first formulate the question, devise a hypothesis, and then perform the experiment.

* * *

Science in its common, broadest sense also provides a testimony of the Creator.

Alma declared this principle to an “Anti-Christ” in Alma 30.

[44] But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

* * *

David wrote of the Messiah in Psalm 8.

Verse 3 has the poetic prepositional phrase:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained . . .

(See also Hebrews 2:6-9)

* * *

Psalm 19:1

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

* * *

The mustard seed, the lilies of the field, and sparrows all within their own sphere testified of Christ in the New Testament.

* * *

All truth is ultimately part of one whole in LDS theology.

* * *

Again, the Holy Ghost, or Still Small Voice, is the ultimate witness of truth, but the scientific method is complementary as shown in the following teaching.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, Faith: The Essence of True Religion, October 1995, First Presidency Message

The marvelous and wonderful thing is that any individual who desires to know the truth may receive that conviction. The Lord Himself gave the formula when He said, “If any man will do [the will of the Father], he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

It will take study of the word of God. It will take prayer and anxious seeking of the source of all truth. It will take living the gospel, an experiment, if you please, in following the teachings. I do not hesitate to promise, because I know from personal experience, that out of all of this will come, by the power of the Holy Ghost, a conviction, a testimony, a certain knowledge.

* * *

– Tom Irvine

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How many times should we help our brother or neighbor?

I do not have the answers… but here is my attempt…

* * *

I have friends who live in countries where there is government corruption, civil unrest, shortages of fuel, food, and medicine, and epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.

These friends have asked me for financial assistance. I have sent them money, but no matter how much I send… it is never enough.

* * *

Jesus taught that we must forgive our brother “seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

But Jesus never gave a formula for how many times we should give our neighbor financial aid.

The closest he came was in the story of the “Good Samaritan.” (Luke 10:25-37).

The Good Samaritan gave the innkeeper two denarii (silver coins) to take care of the wounded man. The Samaritan then told the innkeeper that he would later return and reimburse the innkeeper for any additional expense.

Jesus never told rest of the story.

But we can assume that the Samaritan did indeed return and paid the innkeeper for the wounded man’s full bill.

Perhaps this parable teaches that we should financially help someone twice.

* * *

I still do not have answers. But here are some thoughts…

1. We must first pay tithes and offerings to the Lord. (Malachi 3:8-10).
2. The money that we otherwise give to the poor must be in addition to our tithing, but it cannot take the place of tithing.
3. We should never go in debt to help the poor.
4. We can still pray for people even when we must apologetically say “silver and gold have I none.” (Acts 3:6)

For ye have the poor always with you… Matthew 26:11

* * *

One day, a small opening appeared in a cocoon; a man sat and watched for the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.

Then, it seems to stop making any progress.

It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could not go any further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly: he took a pair of scissors and opened the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a withered body, it was tiny and had shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would open, enlarge and expand, to be able to support the butterfly’s body, and become firm.

Neither happened!

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a withered body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and his goodwill did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening, were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings, so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life.

If we were allowed to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. Never been able to fly.

I asked for Strength…
and I was given difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for Wisdom…
and I was given problems to solve.

I asked for prosperity…
and I was given a brain and brawn to work.

I asked for Courage…
and I was given obstacles to overcome.

I asked for Love…
and I was given troubled people to help.

I asked for Favors…
And I was given Opportunities.

“I received nothing I wanted…
But I received everything I needed.”

Live life without fear, confront all obstacles and know that you can overcome them.

* * *

“Continued economic dependence breaks [a man]; it humiliates him if he is strong, spoils him if he is weak. Sensitive or calloused, despondent or indifferent, rebellious or resigned, either way, he is threatened with spiritual ruin, for the dole is an evil and idleness a curse … . The Church cannot hope to save a man on Sunday if during the week it is a complacent witness to the crucifixion of his soul.”

— President Gordon B. Hinckley

* * *

The Lord has taught:

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:19)

Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. (Psalm 104:23)

Obviously some people are too young, too old, or too sick to work. We must help these people.

Others are able-bodied but either cannot or will not find employment…

The two scriptures given above were written in a time when men could hunt, fish, raise sheep, cattle and goats, or farm to earn a living.

A variety of socioeconomic, demographic and natural resource factors would seem to preclude a return to “living off the land” for most people….

– Tom Irvine

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The Bible teaches:

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

This means that we should serve others without expecting any immediate reward. Eventually, we will receive blessings.

As Melvin J. Ballard said “A person cannot give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf in return.”

* * *

Jesus similarly taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

(Matthew 6:19-21)

* * *

Alma taught his son Corianton:

Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.

For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.

(Alma 41:14-15)

* * *

Marvin J. Ashton told the story of a young idealist who had a dream one night. He dreamed there was a new store nearby.

He went in and saw an angel behind a counter. Nervously, he asked what the shop sold.

“Everything your heart desires,” replied the angel.

“Then I want peace on earth,” exclaimed the idealist. “I want an end to famine, sorrow, and disease.”

“Just a moment,” replied the angel. “You haven’t understood. We don’t sell fruit here – only seeds.”

* * *

The author Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

* * *

I know that many people in the world live in distressing poverty. But the Bible teaches that even the widow can contribute her mite. (Luke 21:1-4)

The Bible also tells the story of a widow in Zarephath. She gave her last morsel of bread to the prophet Elijah. As a result, the Lord blessed her with food many days thereafter. (1 Kings 17)

Even people with absolutely nothing can still serve others by praying for them or by giving them a friendly smile or a listening ear.

A lame beggar at the temple in Jerusalem asked the apostles Peter and John for alms. Peter replied “silver and gold have I none.” But he prayed that the beggar would be healed. (Acts 3)

* * *

What you send out – comes back.
What you sow – you reap.
What you give – you get.
What you see in others – exists in you.

Remember, Life is an Echo.
It always gets back to you.

* * *

May the Lord bless you,
Tom Irvine

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