I am an external processor. When I am upset or concerned or need help, I have my people that I go to and talk out my feelings. A lot of it is my husband, but I also have a collection of women who I am close too who play this role in my life. Even some who I may not even see very often but I can always call when things feel heavy or confusing. I counsel with these people and they give me feedback and help.
As I was thinking recently about how thankful I am for this group of people who bless my life, a scripture came into my mind.
Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings and he will direct thee for good..”Alma 37:37
It came into my mind that I am great at getting counsel from my people, but I am not always great at getting it from Heavenly Father. I say my prayers consistently – mornings and evenings I make sure I am praying to Heavenly Father. But it is different. The way I get counsel from my people is that I externally talk out my problems or concerns or complaints. That is possible to do with Heavenly Father. I just need to do it.
To counsel has several meanings:
- To “give advice” & “advice given especially as a result of consultation”
- “ a policy or plan of action or behavior”
- “to deliberate together”
If you stop and think about this list applied to prayer all of those have deeper meanings.
Heavenly Father can give the ultimate advice. Because He is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-loving, any advice would be the right advice. There are quite a few experiences shared in the scriptures of a prophet of God going to the Lord asking for advice.
In Mosiah 28, the sons of Mosiah come to him and for “many days” ask him if they can “go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.” (Mosiah 28:6). I am sure as a parent he had some concerns about sending his children into hostile territory. After weighing the options and his feelings he went to the Lord to ask what to do.
I have never sent my children into enemy territory. (Unless you can call jr high or middle school that…) But I have had experiences where I have counseled with the Lord on what to do with my children. There have also been experiences where I should have counseled with the Lord as much as I talked to my people. The idea of God giving me advice is the best kind of advice I can think of.
Getting a spiritual plan for our actions is the best kind to get. Often when I have had experiences with friends and talking it out I am trying to formulate a plan of action – like what steps do I take forward? Mosiah was asking God directly if that was the next step forward. I also love this quote that Larry Y. Wilson shared in April 2018 General Conference:
Instead of just listing our problems in prayer and asking the Lord to solve them, we ought to be seeking more proactive ways of receiving the Lord’s help and committing to act according to the Spirit’s guidance.”Larry Y. Wilson
If we truly counsel with the Lord, He will tell us what to do. And then we just need to get up and act.
Often for me, spiritual direction comes through specific thoughts of what to do. They don’t always come when I am praying but instead can come at any time of the day. But if I get busy and forget, then I miss the memo and move one. For me, it works best when I hear what to do from God, to get to work right then.
God giving me a purpose is exactly what I want. The Bible Dictionary entry on Prayer has so many nuggets of truth and wisdom. One of my favorite lines says:
Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”Bible Dictionary – Prayer
When we counsel with the Lord, we are learning what His will is for us. He already knows it, so it’s just us figuring it out for ourselves. He is waiting to tell us what it is.
Talking through things or deliberating with God is totally what I’d love to happen in my life. I think one of the biggest things that will help me be able to do that is actually praying out loud. With my people, I talk things through and hear myself often reason it out and get their input. All of that can be done with Heavenly Father.
When I am upset about something and I feel the need to call and vent or ask for help, first teaching myself to stop and first kneel down and pray out loud before reaching for the phone to call someone.
Joseph Smith shared so many wonderful lessons about prayer. He was committed to learning from heaven and spent his life doing it.
I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God… for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.”JSH 1:29
He had learned from experience how to do it and how to trust his ability to hear what the Lord would tell him.
Consulting with the Lord means listening to what He says. Have you ever had the experience of someone coming to you for advice and then not getting a word in the entire conversation? I sure have. I am sure that happens to God all the time. We come to Him for help and then don’t let Him talk to us at all. If we go to someone for a consultation it is an action on our part that shows we value their advice and their expertise. If we value the advice of God, then let us show him through our actions.
If we look back at the verse in Alma 37:37 there is one more tiny bit of advice relating to counseling with the Lord that we should pay attention too. It says to make sure to pray “when thou liest down at night” and “when thou risest in the morning” and to be “full of thanks unto God.” I think having that constant communication with heaven with a thankful heart would help one with temptations, problems that pop up and surprise us, enduring long-lasting problems, and help our focus be on “things of a better world.”
Richard L. Evans said: “Successful people need counsel. Unsuccessful people need counsel. The hasty impulse, the know-it-all attitude, the pride that keeps us from asking – these are the dangerous approaches to any problem from the youngest in years to the oldest of age, there is no one who can be always sure he is right, no one who has learned so much of life that he doesn’t need the counsel of others and a prayerful approach to all problems, ‘Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings,’ said Alma, ‘and he will direct thee for good…’ (Alma 37:37). There is safety in counsel, no safety without it. They that will not be counseled, cannot be helped.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1968, p. 86 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 325)