What is prayer? Prayer is one of the main ways we communicate (talk) to God, our Heavenly Father. I am referring to verbal prayers, the one’s we say out loud. On paper praying is easy, but mentally it can take some getting used to if you haven’t done it before or haven’t done it for a while. In short, prayer is an honest, open communication between you and your creator. It may seem one sided when you first start to pray, but eventually you learn how to listen for His half of the conversation.
Basic Steps of Prayer Most prayers follow a pretty routine pattern which is as follows:
1. Address your Heavenly Father
2. Thank Him for what you have received
3. Ask for what you need
4. Close the prayer in the name of Jesus Christ
5. Close with Amen, which roughly translated means, “so be it” or “I agree.”
A sample prayer a child might say would sound something like this: “Father in Heaven, thank you for my mommy and daddy, my little sister, and my teddy bear, Alfred. Please help me sleep good tonight and be safe, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Addressing Heavenly Father We, as Mormons or Latter-day Saints, only directly worship our Father in Heaven, God the Father. We do all things in the name of Jesus, who is our Savior, the Son of God who made it possible for us to repent and be forgiven. Christ is referred to in the scriptures as the Intercessor, he who goes between two parties. Christ pleads our case with the Father, who grants the prayer because of the worthiness of the Son. Hence, we cannot receive forgiveness or answers to prayers without Christ. He is our Advocate with the Father. Christ never told anyone to worship him (Christ) directly. All his instructions were for us to worship the Father, and the Father only. So we open the prayer by directly addressing God, our Father.
Thanking God has always been very touchy about those who do knot acknowledge his hand in our lives. The sin of ingratitude ranks high with the LORD. It is also good for our souls to recognize that even though we have many problems, we are also receiving many blessings for which we should be duly grateful. Needing to express gratitude helps us set our perspectives and priorities straight as we approach the Lord with our problems.
It is also perfectly fine, and many times advisable to just give a prayer of thanksgiving. No need to bother the Lord with problems all the time. Occasionally just say Thanks. You will be happier for it.
Asking This is usually the lion’s share of our prayer time. At least it is for me. I still need to reverse this and spend more time expressing gratitude. But as long as we are asking for something, be specific. In the early years of the Church, a man named Oliver Cowdery asked if he could learn how to translate records like Joseph Smith did. The Lord told him he could, then waited to see what Oliver would do. Oliver sat and waited and waited, but nothing came to him, and at last he got frustrated and complained to Joseph Smith about it. Joseph inquired of the Lord to see what He had to say about the matter, and this was part of the response back to Oliver Cowdery. D&C 9:7–9
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9 but if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
The Lord was thumping Oliver on the head saying, in essence, ‘Hey Oliver, you have a brain, use it! Do your best to figure out the problem then bring me the solution. If it is right I will confirm it, but if it is wrong I will cause you to become confused so you have to start over again.’ What a marvelous piece of advice! I am afraid I am often guilty of thinking of myself as a water pitcher just waiting to be filled by my heavenly dispenser, instead of trying to figure things out for myself.
Closing As I mentioned before, all things in this life are done in the name of Christ, who is our intercessor with our Father. In the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 27:2–6) when Christ visited his people after his resurrection in Palestine, his disciples
2 … were praying unto the Father in his name; and Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said unto them: What will ye that I shall give unto you?
3 And they said unto him: Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning the matter.
4 And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?
5 Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;
6 Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
Mormons pray a lot, and it is all done in the name of Jesus Christ.
Amen Amen is a simple word meaning, “so be it.” In the Mormon church when someone prays out loud and they finish by saying “Amen” it is assumed and expected that everyone in the room will put their stamp of approval on the prayer by saying aloud, “Amen.” I don’t know that there is any deep doctrine behind this, but it is customary to let the one offering the prayer in your behalf know that you agree with them.
Challenges When you first start to pray by yourself, the temptation is to do it silently. Trust me, I know all the excuses for not saying it out loud. But it is important that we learn to speak out loud to the Lord. There is a level of commitment that follows the spoken, audible word that can escape us if we try to just think it. I also tend to fall asleep if I try to pray silently on my back. I haven’t concluded if it is the “silent” or the “back” part that leads to sleep, still working on it.
So bite the bullet and commit to saying your prayer out loud. Write down your main points if you have to, but do it. You only need that crutch a couple of times before you see that you really don’t need it. At first you will be so pleased that you lived to tell the tail that it won’t even dawn on you that you have only succeeded in formally talking to yourself out loud.
Getting Answers Our part of the prayer is only the first half. Learning to listen for the second half of the conversation is the hard part. This takes time and lots of practice, but is so very rewarding. The Lord answers, generally, in a still small voice, often called a whisper. When Elijah, in the Old Testament, was upset he went to speak with the Lord. The Lord told him to go to mount Horeb, which he did in 1 Kings 19: 11–13.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake;
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave …
Elijah recognized that it wasn’t in the grand bluster of the storm, the earthquake or the fire that the Lord was to be found, it was in the still small voice, the whisper, that the Lord was to be found. He knew that voice and when he heard it he immediately responded to its instructions.
When we pray to God we need to learn to listen for the whisperings in our soul that give us feelings or impressions of what we should do. This takes practice. We have to learn to tell our own thoughts from the thoughts that Got puts into our heart and head. And often times we won’t have any more than just a feeling of calm or anxiety or a feeling of urgency that we need to do a certain thing. Learning to follow these feelings takes practice, but that is what turns a person into an instrument for good in the hands of the Lord.
I would like to hear your comments about prayer and any experiences you may have had with prayer that would be appropriate to share in a public platform in the comments below.