S. Michael Wilcox spoke to a full house in de Jong Concert Hall on Tuesday about pouring out one’s feelings to the Father during personal prayer. In doing so, Wilcox said, individuals can make the unknown God known in their own lives by feeling after him.
Wilcox said he wondered as a child how prayers got through the ceiling, because he always thought of God as being “up.” As he grew up, Wilcox then began to wonder, “How do I shift the concept of God being ‘up’ to God being ‘next to’ and ‘around?'”
He referenced 1 Kings 19 in which the Lord spoke to Elijah not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in a still, small voice.
“It’s a still, small voice because God doesn’t need to shout,” Wilcox said. “And the reason he doesn’t need to shout is because he is inside. Around. Next to.”
For the purpose of the lecture, Wilcox eliminated the word “prayer” and replaced it with other scriptural phrases to offer a new perspective on prayer. One phrase that can replace “to pray” is “to counsel.” To say one is going to pray holds a different meaning than to say one is going to counsel with the Lord. The other replacement phrase is “to pour out.”
Wilcox examined the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah, who desperately wanted to have a son, but couldn’t, prayed year after year for the Lord to give her a son. She was “provoked sore” and “in bitterness of soul.” She “poured out (her) soul before the Lord … out of the abundance of (her) complaint and grief.” As Hannah did, WIlcox pointed out, the Lord wants his children to take whatever feelings they have and pour them out.
“I think sometimes God says to me, ‘Mike, I can’t pour in until you pour out. So pour out. Then I can pour in,'” Wilcox said.
He illustrated a bad habit of prayer in which one might repetitively and thoughtlessly speak the same words every day as “the racetrack of the heart.” People sometimes say this type of prayer because they might think their worry or desire is too frivolous. But pouring out will result in a wonderful pouring in, Wilcox said. It is important to pour out guilt, shame and even complaint, as Joseph Smith did in D&C 121 after having been imprisoned in Liberty jail for months.
Often, one pouring out is not enough. Wilcox shared his experience of watching the sunset as his wife passed away of cancer. After two years, he said, no matter how many times he pours out, the sadness seeps back in. In his sorrow and grief, he told the Lord in prayer, “I cannot watch another sunset. I will watch no more sunsets.”
In response, he heard a still, small voice say, “Every time you see a sunset, think to yourself, ‘I am one day closer to being with my Lorie again,'” Wilcox recalled.
“What a wonderful pouring out that was,” Wilcox said.