Setting goals and making resolutions for the new year can sometimes be a lot like drawing targets around arrows after the arrows have flown.
As we commence upon the new year, it is common for people to be reflective and create goals to change. Making meaningful goals helps us become more like Jesus Christ, and to lead happier and more successful lives. But how do we create goals to truly experience the change of heart that will help us change our lives?
The following thoughts and ideas are taken from “Aleah Ingram writing in LDS daily”. The Doctrine & Covenants provides useful guidance:
“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;”(Doctrine & Covenants 88:119)
We can use this verse as a template for setting goals that will, as President Uchtdorf says, hit the bull’s-eye.
1. A House of Prayer
The quality of our prayers is at least as important as the quantity. While just getting in the habit of saying them is certainly a great start, by improving the quality of our prayers we can significantly improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Some suggestions that may help:
Set a specific time to pray when you are alert and unhurried.
Be mindful of God throughout the day, and say (or think) brief prayers as the day unfolds.
Before you pray take a few minutes to write down what you are grateful for and what you need and feel. After your prayer give God time to answer and write down your feelings and impressions.
Remembering that prayer is about building a relationship with the Lord can change our attitude towards it. When we have a conversation with a family member or a friend, do we just talk at them for a while and then immediately leave? Of course not. We wait for them to reply, and then we answer, and so on. This can be a template for our conversations with the Lord.
2. A House of Fasting
“Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:14). Many members find fasting difficult, but thinking positively about it can make a big difference.
So how can we improve our fasting?
Fasting should have a purpose. Start preparing on the preceding Friday by pondering what the purpose of the fast should be and its importance. You will be more prepared to commit to your fast if it is something you’ve been earnestly thinking about.
Plan to do things that relate to your fast. For example, if someone you know is sick, pay them a visit, send a note, or serve them in some way.
3. A House of Faith
Let’s face it, we all need more faith. We all struggle from time to time. It is never easy to take that “step of faith” into the unknown. We can bolster our faith by:
Ponder the testimonies of others on a regular basis, including living prophets and apostles or trusted friends and Church leaders.
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17) Faith requires action. Start with what you can do and with what you know.
Setting achievable goals individually and as families, and working to accomplish them, is faith in action.
4. A House of Learning
The more we learn about God and feel His love for us, the more we realize that the infinite sacrifice of Jesus Christ is a divine gift of God. And God’s love inspires us to use the path of true repentance, which will lead to the miracle of forgiveness. This process enables us to have greater love and compassion for those around us.”
Learning truth about anything reveals the Lord’s hand in it to us. We are commanded to “…study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people”. (Doctrine and Covenants 90:15).
Studying the scriptures and the words of living prophets should not be simply about getting through it. Focus on what you want to learn. Study specific topics instead and write down questions for further study as you go.
Read your Church lessons ahead of time. Asking questions that arise in class can help to promote a lively and informative discussion.
Learn a new subject or skill. Watch documentaries, use the internet, read books, take classes, or join a study group.
Above all learn to love learning, no matter the subject matter. As William Shakespeare wrote, “Here let us breathe and haply institute
A course of learning and ingenious studies.” (The Taming of the Shrew: 1.1)
5. A House of Glory
When we create a more spiritual environment in our homes, as we foster better and more loving and Christlike relationships in our families, as we study, pray and learn about the Father and His celestial plan, we create our own Houses of Glory. “But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved;….” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:32). Those holy places can be temples, our church buildings, or our homes. All these can be Houses of Glory.
6. A House of Order
This can refer to cleanliness and organization within our homes and workplaces, within our relationships, and within ourselves both physically and spiritually. Some things that we might try could be:
Declutter our homes and our lives. Simplify!
Sit down together with your family to schedule your time more effectively. Include family prayer, family home evening, scripture study and personal time for reflection and meditation.
Set aside a space for gospel study and prayer.
Consider what a “house of order” means for you and set goals to achieve it. (Aleah Ingram, writing in LDS Daily)
7. A House of God
President Uchtdorf concluded his message by saying, “…there is no need for us to agonize about the correct gospel target. The two great commandments are the target. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. As we accept this, all other good things will fall into place. If our primary focus, thoughts, and efforts are centred on increasing our love for Almighty God and extending our hearts to others, we can know that we have found the right target and are aiming at the bull’s-eye—becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ.”
May we, each and all of us, make for ourselves in our homes and our lives a House of God.