February 19, 2007, Observation:
As you may realize, being paralyzed from the neck down and living on life support has a little bit of a down side. However, what you may not know is that it has an enormous upside as well. To me, one of the great up sides of my condition is that I have more time than the ordinary person to ponder, meditate, and pray. Over the years I have found this to be a great blessing. My Filipino caregiver, Rey, comes each evening at about 10 p.m. to put me to bed. I am usually down for the night by about 10:30 p.m., unless the Lakers go into overtime. I say my evening prayer and make it shorter than I would want to because when I get in a prone position my inclination is to immediately go to sleep. Rey comes at about 8 a.m. each morning to start working on me and getting me ready for the day. However, I usually wake up at about 6 a.m. and from then until Rey comes I have two precious hours to think, meditate, ponder, and pray. Over the years many great ideas and inspiration have come to me during those early morning hours. I have the time to pray in depth and it has proven to be a great blessing in my life.
This world in which we live is so hectic and moving along at such a fast pace that I believe it is difficult for most of us to find a quiet time to ponder and pray. We have cell phones in our ears, radios and TVs competing for our attention, or iPods possibly blasting music into our heads on a continual basis, and so it goes in this modern age of electronics. I fear that for many of us the voice of the world through the electronic media makes it almost impossible for the Lord to speak to us through the "Still Small Voice of the Spirit". It may have been easier for Abraham and those living a quieter lifestyle in his day to commune with God and receive his revelation and inspiration in return. But, that was his day, and we face the challenge in our day of somehow cutting through the strident voices all about us so that the Lord can speak to us through the Spirit.
As a recently returned missionary from Central America I had a life-changing experience regarding pondering, meditating, and prayer. Immediately after my mission I went into the Army for six months active duty, and during basic training in particular, I believe in retrospect, I lost some of the spirituality I had developed in the mission field. After my active duty was over I immediately enrolled in BYU once again and was blessed to have as my roommates three returned missionaries from Central America. We lived in a home near campus owned by a wonderful widow who cooked for us as well as renting her rooms; it really was an ideal situation.
The first day of the new semester I realized I had left an important book at home and walked rapidly back to where we lived to retrieve it. As I entered the hallway where our bedrooms were located I heard somebody talking in a conversational way in the bedroom next to mine. The door was ajar so I peeked in and saw Ben Martinez, one of my roommates, on his knees at the side of his bed praying. Ben was about three years older than me and was a role model that I had always admired and looked up to. He sensed my presence and quickly concluded his prayer. I was embarrassed and sorry to have interrupted his prayer, but it gave Ben an ideal teaching opportunity with me as the student. He told me that each semester he waited until his roommates had finalized their class schedules and then he would arrange his schedule so that he could be home alone for at least an hour each day to pray out loud, ponder, meditate, and commune with the Lord. I can't tell you how impressed and touched I was by Ben's example. I knew that here was a young man who knew it was so important to pray and seek guidance from the Lord on a daily basis that he was willing to arrange his entire schedule around this most important activity in his life. I had learned the importance of prayer in the mission field and it had been a fundamental part of my life, but I had to admit I had become a little lackadaisical in communicating with the Lord as I should. Ben's example inspired me to do as he did and to arrange my life in such a way that prayer and pondering became the foundation of each day. Ben since then has been a mission president in Mexico, held many positions of responsibility in the Church during his lifetime, and is now serving as President of the Guatemala City Temple. I am indebted to Ben for being such a fine example to a struggling young returned missionary. His example was more powerful than any words he could have ever spoken.
I personally know there is no more important thing we can do each day of our lives than to make time to ponder, meditate, and pray. It is so important in fact, that we need to make a conscious effort to somehow work into our busy schedules this special sacred time. Too often our prayers are on-the-fly and we give the Lord no opportunity to bless us with the inspiration and revelation we need that day.
The Scriptures are replete with examples of the eternal truth that pondering and prayer precede revelation and divine assistance. The Book of Mormon record reveals the following regarding Nephi and the great revelation he was granted regarding the vision his father had received. "FOR it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord..." [1 Nephi 11:1] Of course this dispensation was ushered in because a young boy pondered over a passage in the Book of James that led him into the grove and the prayer that sliced through centuries of spiritual darkness and opened the heavens to an ultimate outpouring of revelation and spiritual knowledge not exceeded in the history of mankind.
I wouldn't wish my paralysis off onto any of you regardless of its many upsides, but what a blessing it has been to me in giving me the time to ponder, meditate, and pray. My spirit has been strengthened and my mind enriched as I have lain in bed, unable to move my body, but able to let my mind reach out to a loving and kind Heavenly Father, who through the Holy Ghost, has inspired and blessed me more than I could ever say.
I believe the words of Socrates are very true: “The unexamined life is not worth living” (“Apology,” The Dialogues of Plato, trans. Benjamin Jowett, Chicago) I believe all our lives could be much richer were we to schedule into our daily lives as one of our highest priorities a special time to ponder, meditate, and pray.