Beyond The Checklist

029 How to Use Your Prayers to Truly Build a Relationship with God with Niki Olsen


Darla: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Women podcast. I’m so happy that you’re here today.  I have a great guest for you that I’m excited to share. And she’s going to share a part of her journey on the covenant path and her name is Nikki Olsen. So Niki welcome so much to the podcast today. 

Niki: [00:00:42] Awesome. I’m so excited to be. 

Darla: [00:00:44] So would you just start off by giving us an introduction to you?

Niki: [00:00:48] Absolutely. So my name’s Niki Olsen. I am married and have two daughters, age 12 and 10. And we live in Blanding, Utah, which is a small corner of Utah, Southeastern Utah in the middle of nowhere. And I work full-time as a mental health therapist for the Utah Navajo health systems. And so it’s an integrative healthcare center and I also run a business called NikiOlsen Coaching where I help LDS women enrich their connections with themselves and with God through mental health skills, but with spiritual explanations.


Darla: [00:01:26] Oh, great. I know that you have so much to share with us, and I’m really excited about the topic that we’ve explored. And you’re going to talk about today and the topic is how you have learned how to pray and how your journey on the covenant path with prayer has looked. And I’m really excited to talk about this because I think a lot of people can relate to some of the experiences that you’ve had along the way. So will you just start off and just tell me a little bit about what that journey with prayer has looked like for you? 

Niki: [00:01:51] Absolutely. We’ll start at the beginning. So I was 19 years old when I joined the church, so prior to that, I had no foundation of any religion whatsoever. So I had been, when I was a baby, I was baptized Lutheran. I’ve been told, but we never went to church. We never talked about spiritual things. We celebrated Christmas. I didn’t really know, like there was no spiritual aspect of that. And I couldn’t even tell you the difference between Jesus and God.

That was, I really had no like foundation whatsoever in spirituality. And I had a friend who was a member of the church and her boyfriend at the time was going on a mission and I was taking a philosophy class and it was way over my head. Any sort of they were talking spirituality and things.

And so I asked if he could give me some information so I could pass my class. And so she said let’s have the real missionaries come over and talk to you and they can give you all the information you need. And it took me a lot of discussions to even just understand what they were talking about cause I had no basis for it. So that was, oh, almost 17 or 18 years ago that I have joined the church and having that little knowledge I feel like I wasn’t even, I didn’t even have the knowledge of a primary student had. Like as an adult, I couldn’t open the scriptures and read and understand what was being said.

The language was just didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t feel like I was getting any revelation from that. I had heard people who were able to open the scriptures and just get answers. And I didn’t feel like that, all the way up until probably five or six years ago. That’s how I felt. I felt like I was doing all the things. I was going to church. I was attending the temple. I was opening my scriptures and reading. I was taking the sacrament. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But I didn’t necessarily feel like I was guided by the spirit, like people talk about. I didn’t feel like I could understand the scriptures.

My prayers were just very remote. I don’t knpw if that’s the right word. Repetetory. Is that even a word too? Just saying the same things like major things over and over again. And I didn’t really see results from that. I was doing it because I was supposed to do that. Like you bless the food.

You ask to be protected. You ask for these things to happen in your day, or if you need some major change, then you ask for that in prayer. So it was some sort of checklist kind of thing that I was doing. Probably not even very regularly, like not a lot of routine type thing. And so I started on a journey of just wanting to know more, wanting to have a better relationship essentially with God. And that’s where that started. I looked for study guides. I looked for like the companion books that you can read along with the scriptures and started understanding the language a little bit more. And I started putting together a kind of outline that I was using to get more meaning out of my prayer.

And one of the things that outline provided me was a ability to meditate on my prayers before I was saying them. So what I was doing was writing down the things that I wanted to talk to God about. I didn’t want to get on my knees. What I was having happening have happening was I would get up from saying my prayers and I’d be like, oh, I forgot to say this.

Oh, I was going to talk about that. I totally forgot. And then the next day, I totally forgot what I said the day before. And so I don’t even know if my prayers were answered unless it was a giant miracle was asking for, and those weren’t happening. I wasn’t getting giant miracles answered daily. So it feels like this is one sided.

I don’t feel like this is a two-way conversation and I wanted it to be a conversation, not me listing off things and then going away feeling like what was the purpose of that? Just to check that off my list. So what I started doing was meditating and what, I mean by meditating is just sitting and thinking about what I wanted to pray about.

Like just taking a quiet moment about what are the things that I really am grateful for in my day, the day before. So I’m doing this in the morning and I really think about my day before. And where did I start seeing the hand of God in my life. What, we’re not just,  I’m thankful for a roof over my head, or I’m thankful for the food I have or, but like where did I really see him in my day?

And so I’d write those things down and I only write a couple words of what I want to remember to talk about. So it’s just a prompt for me. And then I try to think about the things that I wanted help for today. So what if, instead of just asking for big miracles or things that I want to change in my life or him to do for me, what I started doing was writing down areas of my life that were that day that were going to be difficult.

I needed strength. I needed focus. I needed guidance. So I’d write those things down, like my to-do list a little bit. And so then I had it right there in front of me. And then I sit down with the outline in front of me and I would have a conversation. I remember when I was back in like sixth or seventh grade, when my friend would go out of town, I would make a list of all the things I wanted to talk to her about when she got back, because we had that like cell phones, you couldn’t call a long distance.

And so it was, I felt a little bit like that. Okay, these are all the things I don’t want to forget to talk to you about. So it felt more like a relationship in that way. And the cool thing about that that I’ve started to notice is one, it’s built a relationship between me and my Heavenly Parents because I’m starting to know where they want me to go.

Where am I supposed to be guided? I’m building a relationship with my Savior because I’m seeing him helping me in my day. I’m seeing the atonement of Christ working in my day through that enabling power. And I’m seeing the spirit, like a building relationship with the spirit because they know exactly what he sounds like, because the next day I can go back and I can look at what I prayed for and it can say, oh my gosh, that did turn out totally different than what I expected.

That was not a coincidence. That was the spirit or that was the Savior doing this. Or that was what my Heavenly Parents wanted me to know in that moment. That was a tender mercy that they wanted to provide for me. And I started seeing them in my day, every single day. And now I start to see them immediately when it happens.

And now I know what the spirit sounds like and feels like, and looks like through the day, like, how do we hear him? This is my. My way of taking prayer and building a relationship and learning to hear them in my day. 

Darla: [00:09:07] The word I was thinking of is intention, like giving you intention about having a relationship with them.

It’s not just something that you’re doing or checking off your list. It’s really having an intention. I w I would like to know the practical things that are associated with this, of what you’re doing. So do you have a special notebook? Do you have a special place that you go to do this?

Is it, is it by the side of your bed? Are you kneeling? I know that sounds crazy, but that’s what I’m curious about. What does 

Niki: [00:09:34] this, what is it yes. Okay. So first of all, there’s no magical piece of paper. You could, anyone can do this anywhere. But I so interesting story about it.

So I had just typed this out on a piece of paper and printed a bunch out, and that’s why I called it my outline. 

Darla: [00:09:48] And so what was on that piece of paper? 

Niki: [00:09:50] So there’s two sections at the top called thanking and asking. So that’s my prayer. And then I have a section called seeking, which is my question that I ask prior to studying. What do I want to get out of my study session this day? What am I curious about? And that’s how I started to learn how the scripture speak back to me. And I have at the very bottom, I’ll skip to that just cause it makes sense. I have a prompting section that I write down anything that comes to my mind during my prayer during my study time.

And that’s my answer to my question in the seeking part. And then I also have a, his will section where it’s the, I have a kind of an activity that you do at the beginning where I wanted to know what my Heavenly Parents wanted of me and what is my divine purpose here on earth? And so I I pulled from different places, these ideas, this is all like, different ideas, but people talk about setting goals this way, just setting, like where do you want to be in 10 years?

I thought about what do I want? What do I want to look? What do I want my life to look like in 10 years? But then how do I translate that into what do my Heavenly Parents want of me? So then I try to align my will with theirs. Our Heavenly Parents really want us to have desires and goals and check in with them and have them guide us with that. So I have a section with that. So I sort of just created this and that’s what led me to starting Niki Olsen Coaching. Like I was totally fine. I have a full-time job. I have a family, I love my job. And then all of a sudden you started getting these promptings, like you need to do more. You need to do something different.

And that’s where the business kind of started with this. I had no intentions of doing coaching on the side. And then I, so I started launching my business and it was probably like two or three weeks before I was gonna launch my business on Instagram and. I had, I was sitting down in the morning.

So I do my outline in my bed, all curled up in the blankets, all nice and warm. And I was sitting there writing and I have never had this happen, but I had a very clear voice say, you have to share this. And my intention with my business at the beginning was just to offer mental health services.

Nothing spiritual, not bring the church into it, even though I know I was led that way, that’s just what I thought was, and I was like, wait, you want me to do a spiritual? You want me to do a mental health thing and then add this spiritual thing into it? I don’t know. And so it was like, okay, I’ll just do it.

And it came together in 24 hours. Like I put the book together and now it’s called my outline for seeking revelation. And started selling it that way. And then last July, I actually wrote a course around it called the spiritual survival course, and it dives into the, each of these aspects really in more in depth, but also talks about the importance of the gospel being a relationship and not a checklist and why 

Darla: [00:12:50] I’m all over it. Yes. No checklists. I’m I’m 

Niki: [00:12:54] with you on that for sure. Do I go dive into building a relationship with each member of the Godhead individually, including our Heavenly Mother? Because if you look at them As real people cause I don’t think I was doing that before. It was like this entity out here that, that guides and drags, but they’re real people. And I want to know them because if I know them, I know myself. And so then I that’s how it’s morphed in that way, but it’s so it’s a little outline I do.

You can print it out as like a PDF and put it into a binder. So that’s what I had done. As I printed out and I have a little binder that I do every year. So any handouts that I get in Relief Society or general conference notes, and I just have a year’s worth of like spiritual knowledge in a binder. And that’s where I put them.

Darla: [00:13:45] I love that because I think going back to that word intention, it shows the Lord that, Hey, I care about these things. I’m trying to keep them so I can have them later. I really love that aspect of it. So what would you say to someone who maybe as relating with the beginning of your story where they’re was you, as you were telling that I was thinking, yeah, it’s like going through the motions, like you’re not sitting and you’re not doing anything really bad.

You’re not distancing yourself from anything, you’re there and you do. But you start to feel how you felt that there’s this yearning for something a little deeper. What would you say to that woman? Like where do we start? 

Niki: [00:14:22] Yes. Action. It’s my favorite word. 

Darla: [00:14:26] It’s my favorite word.

Okay. Second interview today. And you’re the second person to say that. And it’s like my most favorite thing. So I’ll just say yes. I love hearing that. Yes. 

Niki: [00:14:36] Yes, because our Heavenly Parents cannot guide us without us acting. The spirit cannot continue to prompt us and build knowledge and reveal the mysteries of the gospel without us moving.

And I think that was my first step was I can’t sit back and yeah. Which I did for many years of give myself like a pity party. I didn’t grow up in the church. I don’t have anybody teaching me. I don’t have, I don’t really have a place where I got all of this knowledge where I could go and just really learn all of these things.

What I started doing now that I think about it is I went and did all of, I tried to graduate. did graduate from seminary as an adult. Those were my first study guides. 

Darla: [00:15:19] You completed the seminary requirements? 

Niki: [00:15:23] They have the books that you can buy where you if someone wanted to do home seminary or missed things like that was the study guide.

That was the very first study guide I did was that was like, I’m just going to go through and do this. So I did the Book of Mormon and then the New Testament, the Old Testament. And I went through that and it was funny. My husband made me walk with one of the classes because he was the principal at the high school.

Cool. So when I finished, he’s you’re really graduated. You’re going to get a certificate. And I spoke at the graduation. It was so funny. That’s hilarious. 

Darla: [00:15:55] That’s awesome. I love that. So if we just break it down right. What is something super simple that someone can do to say, to show God that intention that they want to be closer.

Niki: [00:16:06] Yeah. I would say that something super simple that you could start with is just writing down your prayers. Write down, like you don’t even have to have a piece of paper, have a note section on your phone of things you want to talk to God. So the, in the day, when you think of something, throw it on your phone.

Darla: [00:16:24] Wow. That is such a great idea. That’s going back to the twelve-year-old you that was writing down the things that you want to tell your friend when she came back. That is such a good idea. It’s not just like right before the prayer, it could be throughout your whole day. And then you can pull that list out. That’s a really good idea. 

Niki: [00:16:40] You can see hard parts of your day that you were having, and you can start seeing that you can ask for those things. Or that you can ask for them right. Then if you need to. Just realizing that’s what I’ve realized is, I have the have this morning prayer, but I have a prayer all throughout the day before I do anything, I’m like, Ooh, please help me with this. Help me help this thought, come to my mind. I’m constantly like have a thought before I meet with clients, help me be the vessel for you. The Savior knows this person and what they need. He has literally atoned for everything that they’ve experienced.

Please provide the words, the thoughts, the knowledge of whatever this person needs. And I can just say that before I meet with somebody, like it doesn’t really, I think we over-complicate it because we feel like it has to be this formal thing and you can be reverent In some of your prayers, but it also think it needs to be informal in a relationship type way.

So just whenever you think you need something in the day, whenever you’re frustrated, just you don’t even have to stop. You don’t even have to stop doing what you’re doing to literally have a conversation with God in that moment. 

Darla: [00:17:53] Yeah, I think it’s important to remember that he’s a father and he wants a relationship with his daughter, us, he wants that relationship and he’s not trying to push us away.

Or, if you don’t say, if you don’t address me in this way or say these things, and I’m not going to hear your prayer, like it’s not that. And I really believe that when we go to him in prayer he will come to us in a way that works for us, as a way that yeah, because he knows us and he knows what we need.

And so we shouldn’t be afraid to use, our gifts, our talents, our personality to approach him and do what feels comfortable to you. I really love, love, love that message. So what have been some of the blessings? I know you talked about starting your business and feeling that prompting and knowing that you needed to help other women, what have been some of the other blessings that you felt from developing this pattern of prayer in your life? 

Niki: [00:18:43] I think a lot with my business, but I’ll talk a lot about family cause I think people will relate with that is I’m often praying that I will know what my kids need. So I run a business. I work full time. I have kids, but I want them to be a priority in my life.

And. What I pray for and one of my sections that I write on my, my, his will section is that I will spend meaningful minutes or meaningful moments with my kids. And so I let the spirit guide me and have a prayer in my heart all the time about what it is my kids need. What words do they need to hear at this moment?

What are the moments that I can spend with them today that will be meaningful? And that has really helped me with mom guilt. Because I feel so satisfied that with the moments that, that we have throughout the day and what we’re doing and my purpose and what I’m doing and what I’m doing with my business and with work, that I feel balanced in that way.

Not balanced in that I feel like I’m giving to everyone equally, but I feel balanced in my effort in what I’m doing is satisfactory to the. And I feel like my relationship with my kids has grown because I’m interested in what the Lord wants to tell me about them and be guided with them. 

Darla: [00:20:04] I really love that thought that balance is doing the Lord’s will.

Yup. It’s not about everything being equal. It’s just doing his will. That’s a great way to approach that and to look at it. Cause we’re all looking for balance, right? We’re all, we all want to give the people in our lives that we care about the best that we can give them and what better way to do that than to go to Heavenly Father. I really think that is so great.

 Nikki, I have one final question for you to sum everything up. How have you seen and felt the Savior in your journey on the covenant path? 

Niki: [00:20:36] Yes. I think I talked a lot about how  I use prayer throughout the day to, to guide me and direct me, but I also feel the enabling power of the atonement of Christ every single moment of my day.

I could not do what I do with all my human weaknesses and frailties and the energy that, that my human body has without the Savior. So I see him every single day in the little tasks that I’m doing with extra energy with helping me to have strength to bear the burdens of others and what they may be experiencing that’s very difficult and to hear and experience that from them as a therapist, I feel the Savior helping me do that every single day through the atonement. And so I try to strive every single day to bring the Savior’s atonement and his enabling power into my life. So that one, that we’re, we are unified as one as a relationship, but that I can do what I’m supposed to do because I have his power with me.

Darla: [00:21:49] Yeah, I think there’s a lot of power in trying to be an extension of him to someone else, which is, sounds like a lot of how you approach your therapy practice and the people that you work with in your coaching. I’m sure too. Yes. I love that. Thank you so much for coming and sharing your journey on the covenant path and with prayer.

And I think what you’ve shared will be so helpful to so many people. So I’m just really grateful. Thank you. So if anyone wants to learn more, especially about what you shared with, I know you have things that they can print off, a course, all of that. Where can they find out more about what you’re doing?

Niki: [00:22:25] Yes. So my website is called So Nikki’s NI K I O L S E N. And that has all of my services of individual coaching and different courses. And then that outline for seeking revelation. You can get there. And I’m also on Instagram and Facebook. @nikiolsencoaching. And then I also just launched a new podcast called The Meaningful Minutes Podcast with Niki Olsen.

And it is a 10 minute, once a week podcast where I help busy LDS women be able to feel inspired and confident in what they’re already doing, not adding any more guilt, but just to have mental health skills with spiritual explanations so that they can feel like they can step forward in faith and act in faith with the Savior, with the Holy Ghost and with the Heavenly Parents on their side.

Darla: [00:23:19] I love that you have all these gifts and talents that you’re able to marry together to help all of us. It’s just wonderful. So thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I appreciate it. 

Niki: [00:23:29] Thank you so much for having me.

And now here are this week’s journal questions. Niki’s advice for someone who feels they’re just “going through the motions” but long for a more connected relationship with our Heavenly Parents is simple. Action. She said this during the interview, “Darla: [00:23:45] Our Heavenly Parents cannot guide us without us acting. The spirit cannot continue to prompt us and build knowledge and reveal the mysteries of the gospel without us moving.” 

How are you feeling prompted to act? 

What can you do right now to take action in your spiritual life? 

Have you ever considered writing out a prayer? If not, give it a try. You could write in a notebook or on your computer, or just make notes on your phone. Notice if writing your prayer helps you feel more connected to God. 

We hear all the time about creating balance in our life. Niki shared the thought that balance is doing the Lord’s will. Where are you feeling out of balance in your life? 

How could submitting your will to God, help you feel more in balance?