22 October 2012

Sparrows, Traps and the Power of Prayer

This morning, in church, one of the speakers talked about the power of prayer in our lives. She spoke of the miracles that prayer can bring into our lives, and the strength we can achieve through it. I found my attention starting to wander a bit ("I've heard all this before. I could teach this lesson, if I wanted to.") until she mentioned a story from a talk given by President Boyd K. Packer (President of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) in a general conference talk in October 2009.

President Packer said that the Lord expects us to not only pray for His help and guidance in our troubles, but He expects us to do all that we can for ourselves as well. He said:

That principle is illustrated by the story of a little girl. She was upset with her brother, who built a trap to catch sparrows.
Unable to get help, she said to herself, “Well, I’ll pray about it.”
After her prayer, the little girl told her mother, “I know he is not going to catch any sparrows in his trap because I prayed about it. I’m positive he won’t catch any sparrows!”
Her mother said, “How can you be so sure?”
She said, “After I prayed about it, I went out and kicked that old trap all to pieces!”
 This little girl didn't doubt that the Lord would hear her prayers and help her with the problem she faced. After all, didn't Jesus Christ say that Heavenly Father notices when even a tiny sparrow falls to the ground? (Matthew 10:29) Of course he would help her save the sparrows. But the girl's faith didn't end with the plea to God on her knees. With the courage she found in prayer, she got up and did something about that dreadful trap!

As I listened to this story, I thought about my own struggles in the past few years, as I've worked to become "a real writer" - plugging away, day after day, on my manuscripts... revising and polishing until they shine... dreaming of the day when I would see my name on the cover of a real book in a real bookstore. Like the little girl in the story, I've believed that with the Lord's help, nothing is impossible, and I've prayed with faith, trusting that the Lord would guide my path properly. Unfortunately, I haven't fully followed this wise little girl's example.

Oh, I know that nothing of true value comes without effort. And believe me, I've put in lots of effort. Countless hours reading, writing, revising, taking classes, exchanging manuscripts with published authors and editors for critique, more revisions, more classes, more writing and more critiques... I've done just about everything possible to ensure my success as "a real writer."

Except one thing.

I've let fear of rejection hold me back from submitting my work to agents and editors. In many of the blog posts, webinars, conferences and classes I've studied, I've heard that usually, the first novel you write won't be good enough for publication. I've heard more than one industry professional advise that you should write that first book, revise it, learn from it, and then put it away and write something new and better. And so I put my first novel away. Because "everyone" said it probably wouldn't ever be good enough.

I wrote another manuscript. And I put it away. Then I wrote another. And I put it away. Then, I rewrote the first story from a different perspective, and it was a completely different book but I told myself I had to put it away again, because it was technically my "first manuscript" and therefore it couldn't be good enough to get published. And so I wrote another story instead. And another...

Somewhere along the way, I guess I forgot that I was supposed to have "kicked that old trap [fear] to pieces!" And it doesn't matter that I've built grand birdhouses to shelter the sparrows [in this analogy, the sparrows are my unpublished manuscripts] or prayed for the Lord to help them fly... As long as I allow that trap to remain, the little birds will never be free.

So this week, I'm working on "kicking that old trap to pieces." I'm determined to swallow my fears, to send out query letters and to keep moving forward, even when I face let-downs and set-backs. Because I know that the Lord is always there to help me and to give me the strength I need, but He won't do it all for me. He expects me to do all I can too.

What about you? What "traps" are you facing in your life? What steps do you need to take to overcome them? Do you have the courage to "kick that old trap all to pieces?"

No comments:

Post a Comment