Arise, O God, and shine
In all thy saving might,
And prosper each design
To spread thy glorious light;
Let healing streams of mercy flow,
That all the earth thy truth may know.
We ask the Lord in this hymn, and in fact, through much of our lives, to arise and spread His saving grace through the world. We know that He is capable of redeeming us. We know that He can, and is eager to, bring us home. He can comfort us, heal us, and bring us joy. We know that He can do this, and we know that He wants to.
So why do we have to ask?
Saving each of us on an individual level and helping us to reach our potential as immortal beings is nothing short of the Father’s stated goal for His interaction with the human race. “For behold,” He said, “this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” This is what He wants of us. He wants us to return to His presence and live as He does. He doesn’t want a single one of us, His children, to be left behind. He wants us to be like Him. So why do we need to invite Him to do so? What is He waiting for? Surely He doesn’t need an invitation from us to do what He intends to do anyway?
Well, in a way, He does. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock,” He told us. “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” He won’t knock down the door, order us to let Him in, or make any demands of us. He will simply knock, giving us the chance to choose for ourselves. We may choose to let Him enter, and we may not. The important thing is that we are the ones doing the choosing. No one forces us.
The Lord’s promised blessings are made conditional on our asking for them. He stands at the door, eager and waiting for us to open to give them to us, but He can’t and won’t do so until we choose to let Him in. And it’s often not enough for us to ask casually or in passing for those blessings. If we want to be blessed richly, we need to ask with fervor and feeling. The Book of Mormon prophet Enos said that his soul “hungered,” and he described his ensuing prayer as a “wrestle… before God.” And after he struggled, a voice came to him saying that his sins were forgiven. No small effort for no small blessing. Joseph Smith, during his imprisonment in Liberty Jail and during one of the darkest periods of his life, cried out in anguish, “O God, where art thou? … How long shall thy hand be stayed… and thine ear be penetrated with [thy saints'] cries?” He poured his soul out to God, and as an answer, was told that he would be “[exalted]… on high.” Again, no small effort for no small reward.
So should it be any wonder that if we want the Lord to “put forth [His] glorious pow’r that Gentiles all may see,” or to “fill the world with righteousness,” that we would need to put forth effort on our part? He is willing, so, so willing, to deliver these blessings. He promised to do so, and He has not forgotten. But it’s incumbent on us to fulfill the terms of that promise by pleading with Him to do so. He stands knocking at the door, waiting for us to act so that He can arise and shine. Let’s not wait, but instead open the door to Him, allowing Him to spread His glorious light over all the world.