Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reflections on prayer (long)

Dear J.,

Can I share with you a couple of experiences from the Army that made me think? In English not Latin this time. :) Both concern communication between heaven and earth.

The first one is about one of my buddies.

Right after we got to Ft. Benning, we spent about 10 days in a reception battalion, basically doing paperwork and getting issued equipment (and eating chow, and standing in lots of lines all day in order to do all these things). This guy, Private Ontiveros, joined the Army in large part to support his girlfriend and their daughter, in particular so his daughter would have access to medical care through the Army system. However, it turns out that because they're not married, he needed to have a paternity test in order for his daughter to be acknowledged as his by the Army. Fortunately for him, he'd had one done previously for some reason (something about a custody struggle at a point when he and his girlfriend's relationship had been on the rocks) and he just needed his girlfriend to fax the info for him. However, he's been waiting for it for a while and it was almost time for us to ship out downrange and start actual training, and he still didn't have the fax reply. He was quite concerned about it, and the night before we had to leave he approached me privately and asked me to pray on his behalf that the fax would come through. (I did so, silently. "Dear Heavenly Father, I know you're aware of this already and you may already be on it, but would you please help Ontiveros get his daughter's paternity results in time? I would really appreciate it. Thank you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.") I presume he probably asked the same thing to a few of the other guys who were also Christians. I talked to him the next day, right before we left, and he was really happy. He had been going through the old faxes from the previous week, and a name on one of the faxes happened to catch his eye as being his girlfriend's grandmother's name. It turned out to be the paternity test result fax, and it had actually arrived several days prior, it had just gotten overlooked. Everything turned out okay.


The experience made me think about how what was actually needed to answer Ontiveros' prayer was not to make something *happen* (fax arrive), but to make something *known* (the fax had already arrived), and how that is not that unusual. Many prayers can be answered by inspiration through the Holy Ghost, as I think happened in this case, without doing *anything* with anything made from molecules which a normal person would call a "miracle".

The second experience I want to share is my own.

About a week before HBL (Holiday Block Leave), and the day before we were scheduled to take a PT (Physical Training) test, I got a bad muscle cramp or something in my left calf. I tried stretching it out and drinking water, but the muscle was still knotted up or something several hours later, and in fact it was feeling worse--my tendons felt hyperextended as if I'd been stretching too far for too long and it was getting pretty distracting. I was going to say a quick prayer asking for it to get better quickly, but someone I felt that would be inappropriate. Instead I felt that this was a trial which was supposed to last for a while, and that it would be better to ask for there to be no permanent injury, and for me to endure it well in the meantime. Later that night it was feeling yet worse and I was resting when Private Messmer noticed that my calf was swollen to about twice normal size--so it wasn't just a muscle cramp, there was something going on--which alarmed everyone sufficiently that I had to go to the hospital emergency room to get checked out. (The Army is really concerned with preventing injuries.) Several hours later they had ruled out anything immediately serious, but still didn't know exactly what the problem was. I was issued crutches and told to keep weight off that leg for a few days and to come back for a followup ultrasound on Monday. It is, by the way, extremely annoying to try to function in boot camp while wearing crutches--either you try to carry your own stuff and it's awkward physically, or someone helpfully carries your stuff for you and it's awkward socially. By Tuesday night things hadn't improved noticeably--still couldn't put much weight on the leg without cramping up, still going crazy from residual feelings of hypertension in the tendon--and I was ready to be done with crutches, but the doctors still had no idea what was wrong. After thinking it over, I decided that it no longer felt inappropriate to pray for the injury to get better, and I did[1]. By morning I felt functionally improved to the point where the crutches were more trouble than they were worth--I no longer felt hypertension when standing, could walk unassisted, and could even run for short distances again. The calf was still swollen (even as I write this it's still about 1 cm bigger around than my right calf, although partly maybe that's because of fencing :)) and the doctors still spend a few more days worrying about it, but the real problem was gone.


For me, the interesting part of this experience was what was described in Doctrine and Covenants 46:28-30, being inspired what to pray for and what not to, and also knowing how that prayer would be answered. It's the first time I can remember experiencing anything like that.

"And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit... He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh."


[1] I also felt it was appropriate to ask for a blessing of healing from two guys in my platoon, Private Kelly and Private Allred in my platoon, who I had recently learned were both ordained elders in the priesthood--rather unusual for a military platoon to have three of us there but so it was. We found a handy supply closet and discreetly did the blessing in there just before bedtime.

Be pretty if you are,
Be witty if you can,
But be cheerful if it kills you.

Hahahahaaaa!!! That is ME laughing at YOU, cruel world.
-Jordan Rixon