As my mid-section droops, my reading glasses increase in strength, and as I get a bit on with the middle of my rigorous, wonderful life in Christ, I ask myself, ‘What am I learning about deepening my communion and so, my relationship, with God and Jesus Christ?” About “prayer”?
In response, I’d like to share 6 learnings and leanings—things I’ve learned or am coming to know more fully– about intimately engaging with Father in Heaven. These impressions beaded themselves together in a spiritual necklace, if you will, of personal reflections, as I considered the approach of the National Day of Prayer.
1. The Law of Asking
Why does God—the literal Father of our spirits-ask us to pray if all-powerful? There are lots of answers offered but a salient one in my mind is that there is a fundamental law of asking. God operates by many laws–including those of justice and mercy and agency and the law of asking (Bible: 1 John 5:14, Matthew 18:22).
As one Christian writer puts it: “To gain a knowledge of divine truth, man must obey the law by which he can receive personal revelation from God. In addition to receiving the ordinances of the gospel, that law requires that man ask of God and that he love and respect his fellow men” (H. Andrus, Principles of Perfection, Deseret Book: 1994, p.269).
2. Satan, the Adversary, Is Not Neutral on the Matter of Prayer.
As one Christian Latter-day Saint woman said, “the adversary is not neutral about prayer. He not only doesn’t want us to pray. He will try to stop us from praying” (M. A. Edmunds, Year of Powerful Prayer, Deseret Book: 2013, p. 387).
I’ve come to learn to recognize how brilliant an administrator of distraction and diversion he is, as I desire to more fully engage. I must make a willing determination to recognize the source of those interruptions and overcome them by praying. He is, really an adversary despising His spiritual opposite, our Advocate. Since prayer is the key to the door of the Advocate’s and Father’s power and presence, it shouldn’t surprise us that he’ll be viciously attempting to thwart every effort to talk with God. I’m getting better at remembering that.
3. There Is a Difference Between Gratitude and Worship.
I’ve been reflecting on my worship and the nature of true worship on and off for a couple of years. In studying Mary, the mother of Jesus; the Q/A between Jesus and the woman at the well, Paul’s expressions, and the Psalms, I’ve come to learn more about worship. Worship is more than thanksgiving and gratitude though a close kin to each. Gratitude can ignite worship, but the two are not synonymous.
I’m learning that worship is real self-abandoned adoration and expressions of joy at what God is doing, has done, will do–expressed from us to Him. I like a metaphor John MacArthur used about the incense ascending to heaven in the Tabernacle. The perfume is a sweet scent arising from us straight to heaven. It can’t be duplicated and it’s a gift from us to God (GTY, 2004).
Imagine: Every God-driven force in the universe, powered by His love and the Atonement of Jesus Christ–is operating now to work the maximum good for the vastest number of His children! That’s something to be awed; that speaks of a Godhead to be revered and honored.
4. Hour-Glass Principle: Getting Deeper in Prayer: It’s easy to start talking with God and let out whatever spills over from our mind’s databank at the moment. That’s the top of the hourglass. As we stay at it, persist, continue to pray, pass the surfacey skim, the superficial stuff, thinking of what is really in our heart, more substance evolves, a flow begins to come. The Spirit intercedes, helps us, to say what was in our “wordless center” or to bring it forth in thought and feeling.
It’s in that space that we speak and feel our deepest desires, longings, hopes, thoughts, regrets. Breaking through, we reach God, we discover what’s in our heart that we may not even have realized–and we pour it out. We pass through the center of the hourglass.
That’s where we feel the connection, we know we have been heard and received and we are changed by the very engagement with God. We are filled with peace. We get up and we know He will also provide answers; we are changed whether or not our circumstances immediately are. We know they will be touched by His hand. We move forward in faith, expectantly. We can move about anxiety-free. I believe that. I know that to be true.
5. Crying Out Is Not Synonyous with Praying
I thank the gospel writers and Bill Gothard, who wrote about this, for driving this home. I love Psalm 107. When those afflicted cried out vocally–in all types of circumstance, hardship, or vulnerability, represented by the 4 descriptions in this psalm–deliverance, answers came in a significant and notable way (The Power of Crying Out, IBLP, Inc., 2002, p. 35). I cry out more.
6. Prayer: Get Real, Just Sayin’
Prayer isn’t or shouldn’t be ritualistic, flamboyant, artificial or disconnected from real and present struggles and circumstances. This is something I’ve felt for a long time, since coming to know God in 1980. Praying is not “saying a prayer.” It’s talking with God, anywhere, in any sincere way, though He has given us a template to assist us.
2 Quick Stories About Getting Real in Prayer!
Syncing our life and our prayers—not separating them.
~It’s talking with God in our normal voice and tone. Once I was teaching writing class for incoming freshmen college students who were stressed. One described how she felt in metaphor (the activity we were practicing) by saying she felt like a “nut in the hands of a nutcracker”; another said, “I feel like a dog whose leash is attached to the bag of a moving car.” They were capturing their stress in their similes and metaphors, as we went. But what struck me was that as we prayed together at the end of the class period (and this occurred in several sections), there was a conspicuous absence of any mention of their current stress in their conversations with God. “How could that be,” I thought? And later shared.
I imagined if I were in their overwhelmed or fleetingly-frightened freshmen shoes, I’d have said something like this,
“Dear Heavenly Father, thanks for letting be here at this university. This has been a good exercise for us today. As we’ve gone around the room, we’ve seen that most of us starting out here are in the same boat. We’re stressed. This college stuff is new and unknown. The classes are huge and we sometimes feel lost. We were pretty successful in high school and wonder if we’ll fit in, if we’ll make it here. We ask for help—and peace—and whatever it will take to see us through and to have this be the best experience possible. We can’t do this alone, but we can grow into this with help, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Again, this isn’t a template—the point is that prayer life is part of real life.
Talking with God is not an activity separate from the here and now; it is the involvement of God in the here and now. It is the action through which we open ourselves up to His will, peace, bestowals, help, and power.
~This second story says it straight up:
A prophet in our era taught and illustrated this concept of prayer. When a man who had been an exhorter in another faith before embracing the restored gospel was asked to bless the food, he did so with great glowing terms and high-sounding phrases. “Joshua,” the prophet admonished at the close of the blessing, “don’t let me ever hear you ask another such blessing.” When Joseph sat down to eat a scanty meal of corn bread at another time, he prayed: “Lord, we thank Thee for this Johnny cake, and ask Thee to send us something better. Amen.” Before the bread was eaten, a man brought him some flour and a ham. After thanking the man for his gift, the Prophet said to his wife: “I knew the Lord would answer my prayer.” In recording his impression of a prayer, Daniel Tyler said: “There was no ostentation, no raising of the voice as by enthusiasm, but a plain conversational tone, as a man would address a present friend” (Principles, 261).
Prayer: Things I’m Doing Differently.
- Kneeling more in the office and communing (rather than praying in my heart only there which is still valuable and needful kind of communing).
- Speaking with God when I’m freshest. “Do we give someone a flower when it’s wilting?”
- Spending more time and thought worshipping.
- Being still to listen. Folding up and putting away purely distracting thoughts; bringing stray important thoughts to the front for prayerful attention rather than self-solutions.
- Praying more and more specifically for others. (I’m avoiding the phrase, “Please bless” as much as I can unless I qualify it with something specific and ask that if I might be an instrument in that work of blessing, so it’s not checked off my list and given to God when I have something to do there. There are lots of ways to run from God or being available to Him.
- Striving to combine more fasting and prayer with time in HIs temple, or Holy House (We’ll have an upcoming podcast on this. See IBelievePodcast.com).
- Writing down impressions and taking spiritual snapshots of them.
- Speaking vocally in communion with God.
- Praying increasingly for others I know and don’t know.
- Focusing on worship.
Prayer: A Personal Witness:
- God lives, knows us intimately, and hears every sincere prayer and answers. He is never late (Bible: Genesis 21:2).
- We need to ask God to recognize His hand and answers, eyes to see (Bible: Psalm 28:5).
- Prayer works miracles daily, hourly, often instantly, sometimes slowly. (Bible: James 5:17-18).
- God maximizes our prayers–for best outcomes for the most number of people involved.
- God delights in answering prayers. He is not a reluctant God! (Bible: Psalm 84:11).
- We can know all things as fast as we are able to receive them. (Doctrine & Covenants 111:11).
- God gives ‘liberally” to those who ask (Bible: James 1:5)
- Prayer opens the door to all the riches of Christ–grace, enabling power, transformation (Ephesians 3:8).
- Fasting and prayer is sanctifying and transforming (Book of Helaman 3:35).
- I need to continually draw nearer to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and come boldly before his throne. “There are no unwelcome guests there” (B. Millet).
As we seek world peace, religious freedom, a return to decency, let’s remember and re-commit to prayer on this National Day of Prayer. “Prayer can solve more problems, alleviate more suffering, prevent more transgression, and bring about greater peace and contentment in the human soul than can be obtained in any other way” (T. Monson, Ensign, March: 2009, p. 5-9).
Living out a great season of my life, thanks to Jesus Christ, and two wonderful daughters, a great life's work. Loving this opportunity to share faith online... I'm a single Mom, convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, second-gen Italian, from the East coast originally. Love the fine arts, dance, frozen yogurt, temples, scriptures, writing, jazz, helping others reach their potential, king salmon, ....and not in that order. God is good. I feel it deeply when people have a misconception of Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ, His Son, that lessens or cheapens Them and blinds one's ability to feel His presence or to trust in an ultimately good eternal end to life's circumstances.