"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." 2 Nephi 2:25
The light of the gospel has little value to those who are fulfilled solely by the pleasures of the natural man. Man is endowed with a fallen nature that is characterized by weakness, but despite the definitions we have imbibed from religion weakness does not mean "weaknesses". From a Hebraic viewpoint weakness is a description of our fallen state-- a state of being finite, a state of limitation, a state of emptiness and failure to receive joy. All things are given by God and as such are good, even weakness. It is in this weakness or feeling of emptiness or limitation, that God grants us a great and marvelous gift- for it is in embracing our weakness or state of weakness that we recognize that there is a space within us that only God can fill.
In feeling the weakness, limitation, and lack of fulfillment from passing physical pleasures, we begin to reach up to God and in doing so we are filled with his grace- his enabling power that fills. The reason that many people are feeling depressed, apathetic, or powerless is because they either don't want to deal with this state of emptiness and limitation or they do not know how. In such a condition, it is any wonder that we see an increase in addictions such as alcohol, drugs, sex, etc?
What People Often Hear
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)
Because there is a great gulf that separates God's culture and language from that of our Modern American Culture, please allow me to translate this scripture into what many Modern Mormons hear, "An if men come unto me, I will show them their weaknesses, bad habits, addictions, and irritating ticks that make their lives miserable at which point I will give them a perpetual self help program called the "The Gospel" that will make them think they need to perfect themselves and for 99% of the population that can't make the self help program work then my grace will take care of the rest after they finally die and make it out of this tortuous existence by the skin of their teeth." (The Politically Incorrect Translation of Ether 12:27)
Living Waters - Obtaining the Grace of God
The concept of grace is connected with the imagery of Living Waters. Living waters are waters that are purifying, flowing, and not stagnant. They are waters that bring life in which nothing that is impure cannot be purified or cleansed. Living waters flow out to feed the land and people and give sustenance to the earth, the people, the vegetation, and beasts of the field.
"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38)
Our thirst is our desire to receive. In our desire to receive we become vessels of grace into which God can pour his living water. For the water to be living, it must be able to flow out and provide sustenance to the earth, the people, the vegetation, and the beasts of the field. In other words in weakness we have emptiness and limitation out of which develops the desire to be filled or to receive. If that were the end of the path, then in receiving to only covet the life giving water and the blessings that it brings, we would become lifeless and stagnant vessels. To be a fountain of righteousness or living water, we also become vessels of bestowal. We receive the grace (enabling life of God) to bestow love to God and our neighbors. In other words, we receive to bestow and in doing so we not only become vessels of Grace but literally fountains of righteousness- flowing rivers of living water.
"Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me the fountain of all righteousness." (Ether 12:28)
Many a Latter-day Saint find themselves contemplating the grace of God, his gifts, and pondering why we do not find ourselves in receipt of the same grace as we see recorded in the miraculous events in scripture. I believe that one of the main reasons we do not receive is that we desire to receive to covet. In other words we desire from God to be filled, but never to bestow upon others.
As the Apostle Pauls said:
"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." (James 4:1-3)
or perhaps another translation expresses it a little better in our modern tongue:
"What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?
You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure." (James 4:1-3)
Understanding the Natural Man and the Child of God
"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19)
We have probably read these words many times, but yet often the meanings and implications of King Benjamin's description of the natural man versus the child of God evade us. The natural man and woman is egotistical, self-centered, self-seeking, and survival oriented in their frame of mind. In other words we seek to receive or obtain to covet for ourselves. This is the natural state of fallen men and women here in the lone and dreary world. We seek to secure for ourselves even to lifting ourselves above our brother. Our survival instincts take over or at least are the governing force in our lives. Even when we desire to do good at times, the underlying motive is to give to receive to covet.
If this is the case, then it would seem that any attempt to receive from God to give to others is at the very least tainted by desires for personal gain-- and if all we were was the natural or savage man or woman then this would be the case. BUT, this is NOT the case for within us is also the spiritual man- that portion of God that gives each of us life and breath. Through rebirth by water and spirit that portion of God quickens our inner man and brings us into a desire or state of ONENESS. The desire for ONENESS with Christ creates a vessel into which God can pour his living waters. Even if the desire is only to have the desire to be one with Christ- then a vessel is created into which God can pour his living waters. As our desire grows our vessel or cup runs over into the abundance of living waters whether to brother or enemy, "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." (Psalms 23:5)
"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words." (Alma 32:27)
PRAYING THE DESIRE- A POWERFUL FORM OF PRAYER
Our Western ideas of prayer come out of a Greek Mindset where prayer is often conducted in long discourses of words. While words do have a place, in the Hebrew mind the words of a prayer are meant to evoke desire-- i.e., form the vessel. Praying in Desire is one of the highest forms of prayer in that out of the desires of our hearts the often unspoken words ascend before the Throne of Heaven as a sweet incense. Words without desire have no form or life and never ascend beyond the mouth of the supplicant. We can see this same principle being practiced by the Nephites in the very presence of Christ, "And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire." (3 Nephi 19: 24)
The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t always know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Romans 8:26-27)