Sister Linda S. Reeves, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, said that as a young mother she found it difficult to find time to obey the commandment to “pray always” (Luke 21:36). However, in raising 13 children, she found she spent a lot of time in the laundry room and one day had the thought that every time she opened the dryer door, she would say a prayer. Sometimes it would be “a quick little prayer in my head and other times I would kneel down and spend half a minute or more.”
By making it a habit, Sister Reeves learned to have a conversation with her Father in Heaven — talking and counseling with Him. “Some of my sweetest moments with my Heavenly Father are when I kneel down, even for a quick little moment, just to thank Him for any little blessing I have noticed. I have come to know how much He appreciates every ‘thank you’ ” (“The Holy Ghost: Direction, Correction and Warning,” April 2016, BYU Women’s Conference).
As we strive to communicate with our Heavenly Father, do we take the opportunity, like Sister Reeves and as expressed by King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:20-21, to render “all thanks and praise” to “that God who created” us and has “kept and preserved” us?
Sadly, sometimes we may find it easier to focus on things we want rather than on blessings we have. Individuals’ natural compulsion to focus on what they lack was noted by President Thomas S. Monson in his conference address in October 2010: “Said the Greek philosopher Epictetus, ‘He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.’
“Gratitude is a divine principle. The Lord declared through a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith: ‘Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things’ (Doctrine and Covenants 59:7, 21).
“In the Book of Mormon we are told to ‘live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which [God] doth bestow upon you’ (Alma 34:38).
“Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” October 2010 general conference).
This principle was recently taught to a young woman. Feeling overwhelmed and depressed from a recent disappointment, she took a few hours on a frenzied Saturday afternoon to clean her home. As she worked, she prayed.
Unfortunately, her prayer soon became less of a two-way conversation and more of a diatribe as she made an itemized inventory of everything she felt was wrong with her life — her disappointments, frustrations, struggles and weaknesses.
Toward the end of her laundry list of complaints, the young woman received a strong impression that she needed to bear her testimony.
Surprised, she realized the next day was fast and testimony meeting, and, upon further thought, realized it had been a considerable amount of time since she had shared her testimony.
As she considered standing in front of the congregation, she began to think about what she would say. She thought about her knowledge of the plan of salvation and of the truthfulness of the gospel and the comfort that gave her during the recent death of her father. She was reminded of the many tender mercies she had received personally as well as by her family. She thought about her testimony of the Book of Mormon and of her faith that President Thomas S. Monson, his counselors and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were prophets, seers and revelators and how she had been strengthened and blessed by following their counsel. She thought about her family, friends and relatives, and the comfort and pleasure she took in their associations. Most important, she thought about her relationship with her Savior, Jesus Christ, His Atoning sacrifice and Resurrection, and her participation in the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel that would allow her to be with them again.
After a short pause — and with a heart significantly softened — the young woman prayed again. This time she expressed sincere appreciation to her Heavenly Father for His many, many gifts. Instead of feeling shrouded in negativity, the young woman felt enveloped in warmth and peace and, for the first time, felt the Holy Ghost offer her reassurance regarding her current situation.
In that same talk, President Monson reminded us, “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.”
It wasn’t until the young woman acknowledged His hand in her life that she was able to feel His love. As we ponder our blessings, we would do well to remember that God is a loving parent who longs to assist us, to teach us, to guide us and to help us. So it is with great love and wisdom that the Savior commands us to “pray always” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:49).
We can strengthen our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning to recognize and express sincere thanks to Him for our blessings. Let us more often think of what we have been given rather than what we lack, and let us follow the counsel given by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the October 2008 general conference: “Let me recommend that periodically you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts.”