Howard W. Hunter | October 1977 General Conference
One of the greatest advantages that I have of being an online seminary teacher is the wealth of information and materials that are provided to enable me to learn and teach doctrine and gospel principles accurately. I have gained an extensive amount of scriptural knowledge, including from conference addresses given by our Church leaders.
Twice a year, I look forward to watching and listening to God’s servants during conference time. As they teach us, guide us, warn us, and express their love and concern for us, I can feel their words in my heart as if they had come from the Saviour Himself. I think of the words they have prayerfully prepared to articulate to us and the importance behind why the Lord has inspired them to address us with their various topics. I know their remarks are significant to each of us living today and for those yet to come along.
As I prepare my seminary lessons, quite often, I come across an old General Conference talk. As I read the material, I realize that even teachings and warnings that were given at that time–in the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s–still apply to each of us today, just as the scriptures still apply in our day.
This address, given by Howard W. Hunter in 1977, is one of such talks. As you read about prayer, reverence, and even the way that Jesus Christ esteemed the temple, you will feel the urgency of prioritizing these teachings into your own life, as I did when I read it. ~Emilia Julian
If prayer is only a spasmodic cry at the time of crisis, then it is utterly selfish, and we come to think of God as a repairman or a service agency to help us only in our emergencies.
Henry Ward Beecher once said, “It is not well for a man to pray cream and live skim milk.” (Proverbs From Plymouth Pulpit, ed. William Drysdale, New York: Appleton, 1887, p. 192.) That was a century ago. There is now before us a danger that many may pray skim milk and live that not at all.
Our modern times seem to suggest that prayerful devotion and reverence for holiness is unreasonable or undesirable, or both. And yet, skeptical “modern” men have need for prayer. Perilous moments, great responsibility, deep anxiety, overwhelming grief—these challenges that shake us out of old complacencies and established routines will bring to the surface our native impulses. If we let them, they will humble us, soften us, and turn us to respectful prayer.
If prayer is only a spasmodic cry at the time of crisis, then it is utterly selfish, and we come to think of God as a repairman or a service agency to help us only in our emergencies. We should remember the Most High day and night—always—not only at times when all other assistance has failed and we desperately need help. If there is any element in human life on which we have a record of miraculous success and inestimable worth to the human soul, it is prayerful, reverential, devout communication with our Heavenly Father.
“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation,” the Psalmist sang.
“Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Ps. 5:1–3.)
Perhaps what this world needs, as much as anything, is to “look up” as the Psalmist said—to look up in our joys as well as our afflictions, in our abundance as well as in our need. We must continually look up and acknowledge God as the giver of every good thing and the source of our salvation.
Jesus looked up throughout the course of his ministry. He prayed constantly and sought faithfully the divine direction of his Father in heaven. Furthermore, he acknowledged that the work and the will he came to fulfill was his Father’s, not his own. He, more than any other in this world’s history, was willing to humble himself, to bow down, and to give honor and glory to the Most High.
Reverence and adoration were frequently declared in prayer by the Master and were beautifully expressed in the Sermon on the Mount when he gave this counsel: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matt. 6:9.)
“Probably no other words in the Lord’s Prayer have been so frequently slurred and overlooked as ‘Hallowed be thy name.’ They lie …, ” as one writer said, “in the valley between the great name of God and the glorious Kingdom for which we are looking and waiting. We slide over them as though they were only a parenthesis and hasten on to ask for bread and deliverance from our greatest foe.” (Charles Edward Jefferson, Character of Jesus, Salt Lake City: Parliament Publishers, 1968, pp. 313–14.)
Jesus was careful to place the petition “Hallowed be thy name” at the very forefront of his prayer. Unless that reverent, prayerful, honorable attitude toward God is uppermost in our hearts, we are not fully prepared to pray. If our first thought is of ourselves and not of God, we are not praying as Jesus taught. It was his supreme hope that our Father’s name and station would be kept beautiful and holy. Living always with an eye single to the glory of God, he urged men everywhere to so speak, and act, and live, that others seeing their good works might glorify their Father in heaven.
The reverence of the Savior for our Father and the understanding of his love made the whole world hopeful and holy. Even the temple where Jesus taught and worshipped in Jerusalem was built in such a way as to establish respect for and devotion to the Father. Its very architecture taught a silent but constant lesson of reverence. Every Hebrew was privileged to enter into the outer courts of the temple, but only one particular class of men could enter into the inner court or holy place. Into the innermost sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, only one man was permitted to make his way, and this was limited to only one special day each year. In this way a great truth was taught: that God must be approached carefully, respectfully, and with great preparation.
This conference address gets even better! To read the remainder of the article, please click on the following link: ChurchOfJesusChrist.org