There seems to be something inside of each of us that longs for a sense of belonging. We long to be loved, to feel like we have a place, to feel there is someone who understands us, someone we can turn to in times of trial, despair, excitement, and joy. This natural inclination, I think, stems from a hunger within our eternal soul, which remembers a deeper connection that existed within us before we came to this earth.
Before we were born here on earth, each of us lived as a spirit child of our Heavenly Father, in his presence. We knew Him, He knew us. We loved Him, He loved us. Our relationship with Him was more perfect and intricate than we could ever comprehend, beyond even that of mortal mother or father and their precious child. And although we lost our memory of that pre-mortal life when we entered mortality, a part of it still remains with us, deep within our hearts, and at times we feel it stirring, though it never fully surfaces.
Over the course of my life, I have spent a lot of time searching for that kind of connection that my heart yearns for. A sense of belonging and security. I sought it amongst my peers, teachers, on the internet, in boyfriends, scholarships, spotlights, microphones, “likes”, family, and my closest friends. Those dearest to my heart, and strangers online, were equally ineffective in soothing my aching heart. No matter the joy or happiness I could feel in their presence (or momentary connections with them), it would inevitably fade and I would be reminded that there was still something missing.
Growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I had been taught how to pray directly to my Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. I had been told the importance and blessings of prayer, and how I needed it to help me every day of my life. I knew it all intellectually, and I had established a habit of praying every night before I went to sleep. But while I got to a point where I was unable to sleep if I hadn’t prayed first, I still wouldn’t say I had actually realized the importance of prayer in my life. I was amazed by others who would talk about their prayers being like a conversation with their father–mine was not like that at all! More like a letter that I sent out every night detailing my life and concerns and good things that had happened to me.
For the past year and a half, though, I have said more prayers than in my entire life leading up to that point. It was not uncommon for me to say 8-12 personal prayers a day, each one specific and personal. Since I was praying so frequently, I made a conscious effort during those months to make my prayers more sincere, to be honest and open in sharing my thoughts with my Heavenly Father. Some days were really hard, and it was all I could do to just plead for help to make it through the day. Other days, I was so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that I could spend 10 minutes or more just issuing thanks for the blessings in my life. Through all of those experiences though, one result is most evident to me: I had stumbled upon the most stable and fulfilling of all relationships in my life.
This week, I had a moment which reconfirmed that to me. Since I returned from the Philippines, I have been struggling a little to find purpose and direction in my life. I have tried to balance my desire to spend my days productively, and my prominent lack of energy or drive. Consequently, I have spent a lot of my time with very effective time-wasting tools (i.e. TV and the internet). One particular night, I felt really empty. I felt as thought I had let little layers of worldliness pile onto me and I needed a spiritual shower. I knew what I needed to do.
I went to my room and knelt on my bed. Not knowing at first what to say, I finally began, “Heavenly Father, it’s me again…”. And then it happened. The words just came, but not like a prayer. At least not like the kind we read in the scriptures or hear in church. It honestly felt like a phone call to a best friend. I was somehow able to open my whole heart to Him and He helped me understand the simple solutions to my situation. It was, to me, a very surprising and personal confirmation of the sincerity of Christ’s invitation in D&C 88:63.
Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Like any relationship, it does not come all at once. That kind of closeness comes only through diligent and consistent efforts on our part to open our hearts to Him and to let Him in. But the reward is unlike anything the world can provide.
Prayer has taken on a new meaning to me. It is not merely a daily chore or a regular report to deity of what I am doing with my life. It is a means of feeding my soul, or filling that cavity that has existed for so long in my life. It brings peace into my life. It brings comfort, security, confidence, hope, and a sense of belonging that does not easily fade away. Most of all, though, through this new kind of divine communication, I feel loved. Wholly and perfectly and unconditionally and eternally. I know I am not alone, nor will I ever be. 🙂
I know that we are all in a different place on our path toward our Heavenly Father and becoming like our Savior, Jesus Christ. I am sure that many of you have had similar experiences like mine in your own lives, and have already learned these things for yourself. My only hope is that I might be able to 1) remind you of those experiences in your life which have brought you closer to our Heavenly Father and/or 2) encourage you to continue developing your own relationship with Him, through sincere, open prayer, and diligent study of His words.