by Katy White
In seminary, I remember being challenged to occasionally say a prayer where I didn't ask for anything but simply thanked the Lord for my blessings. Over the years, I've made a point of doing this once every few months. But recently, I found myself in a rut of anxiety where I seemed to be pleading for the same things on loop (in addition to almost obsessive concerns over my children's and husband's safety, things like "please let my newborn sleep tonight," "please, please help me to calm my mind and sleep tonight," "please, please, please help me to have patience to handle today on so little sleep," were common refrains).
I tend toward sleep anxiety, if you couldn't tell.
In the midst of this, I realized I felt more anxious after my prayers than I did before them, almost as if my desperation-filled prayers were fueling my fears instead of allaying them. I knew it was time for a change, and I knew what that change had to be. I needed to focus on gratitude.
The night I made this decision, I laid it all out for Heavenly Father. I told Him that I couldn't stop stressing about my kids, my husband, my loved ones going through trials, and I mentioned how worried I was about staying sane and patient with so little sleep. I told Him that I knew He knew all of this, and that during this time where I wouldn't ask for anything, I was going to trust that He wouldn't forget about those things for me. During that portion of my prayer, I was wracked with sobs. Having faith and letting go in this way was hard, and I wasn't ready for it to be freeing yet. But I was committed to my gratitude challenge. My goal was set.
Cue the conflict.
The following day while my daughter was playing with friends, there was an accident. She fell from several feet up and smacked her head on concrete. She was shaking, crying, and really upset, but her pupils looked fine and I couldn't feel a bump on her head, so I thought (hoped) she was okay. She calmed down after a little while, and she even started playing with her friends again. The moment she stopped running, though, she started throwing up. A lot.
My friend and I got her cleaned up, packed into the car, and I instantly headed for the hospital, knowing she had a concussion. As I drove, I began to pray. "Please--"
I stopped. I'd just promised myself and the Lord the night before that I wouldn't ask for anything for two weeks. My chest burned. I had to keep that promise. But how?
I paused to reflect on what I knew was true, and I decided to express thankfulness for every one of those things: I was thankful I had good health care. I was thankful an emergency room was close with good doctors. I was thankful to know that the Lord was aware of me and my daughter. I was thankful that I could receive revelation for her. I was thankful that the Lord's hand was in my life.
My fears weren't completely erased, but focusing on the good comforted me in a way that no amount of begging for help could have. After staying in the hospital for a few hours with her under observation, the doctor said he thought she was doing all right. He gave me a choice to do further tests (including one that would expose her to radiation) or to go home and come back if any other symptoms manifested. When I prayed about that decision, I told the Lord how grateful I was to have the perspective of the doctor and nurse. I told the Lord what I felt was the right thing to do and expressed gratitude again for the knowledge that I could receive revelation and that He would stop me if I made the wrong decision. This time, putting my faith in Him felt liberating. I had some minor doubts about my decision (because I hadn't progressed so much in 16 hours that I could let things go completely), but I didn't dwell on them like I would have if I were saying my usual prayers.
And that felt good.
Over the next 13 days, I learned about a good friend's financial troubles and a relative's serious health issues, among other things. When I prayed, I said how thankful I was that the Lord was aware of them and loved them. As I thought about their situations, instead of asking the Lord to help them or to help me know how to help them, I expressed gratitude for the things I knew I could do to help. I found myself thanking the Lord more for the ways he'd blessed me that would allow me to bless them. The Spirit filled me in these prayers so strongly that I wept with love and gratitude. Not only was I learning how to take more responsibility for the trials in my life, but I was learning that those trials were laden with blessings. My relationship with my Heavenly Father was stronger than it had been in...I don't know how long. Those two weeks were as filled with the Spirit as any I can remember.
It has been just over two weeks since I finished the challenge. I'm not sticking to the no-asking rule, but I find that I'm still so busy enumerating my blessings that when I reach the "please" portion, it's brief and general, and when I say "let thy will be done," I feel a kind of sincerity and earnestness that I can honestly say I've never felt before.
The Lord has blessed me--all of us--beyond comprehension. And I, for one, am unspeakably grateful for that.