Prayer is the method God planned to allow us to communicate with Him while we are living on Earth. While there is a pattern to prayer, there are no firm rules and prayer can often be an informal conversation held throughout the day.
However, when we are praying publicly or in a more planned but private prayer, there are guidelines we should follow. These ensure our prayers are respectful and contain all that needs to be included.
Mormons—a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus—teach that prayer should begin with a respectful greeting to God. Most begin by saying, “Dear Heavenly Father” or “Our beloved Father in Heaven” or something similar. They do not pray directly to Jesus because Jesus instructed them to pray to God through Jesus Christ.
“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23-24.
For this reason, Mormons pray to God in Jesus’ name. That portion happens at the end of the prayer.
Mormons then begin their prayer by thanking God for their blessings. This is the very first step. It helps them to analyze their lives to see God’s hand in the good things that happen to them, reminds them to trust God, and makes certain they give Him the glory and honor for what He has done. They do not wish to be like the nine lepers who forgot to thank God in their rush to enjoy their blessings.
Following this, they can, if they choose, ask God for whatever they need. As we see in the above scripture verse, God will give us the righteous things we ask for. This does not mean we will always receive what we ask for. God always answers our prayers, but He does not always give us exactly what we asked for. No responsible parent gives every child what he or she asks for because often children want things that are not good for them. God, as a perfect parent, knows that with our limited view of the world, we do not always know what is best for us. We can’t see what will happen in the future. We sometimes don’t understand how our preferences would affect others who might also be praying for something. God must take into consideration not just what we want, but what others who also trust Him want. He must evaluate what we want against what He knows is best for our particular situation.
Prayers do not always have to be for material things. We can also pray for advice. James taught, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).
We can ask God what church to join, whether or not a specific doctrine is true, which job offer to accept, or how to solve a problem with our children. For many, this is a new concept, despite its Biblical promise. They know that if they pray to find a lost wallet and they find it, they have received an answer. But how do they pray for advice and get an answer?
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come (John 16:13).
The Holy Ghost was given to us as a source of truth. He conveys God’s messages to our hearts so we know what is expected of us. Mormons study an issue carefully and think it through. They make a decision and then take the decision to God in the form of a yes or no question. When they receive a peaceful warm sensation in their hearts, they know God agrees with their answer. They can trust God to send them the truth. Because He promised to give us wisdom, we know He can make certain we are able to recognize His “voice” when He speaks to us. The more time we spend in communication with God and the more time we spend getting to know Him, the more accurately we will recognize inspiration.
Mormons close their prayers in the name of Jesus Christ and then say amen.
Mormons have very few recited prayers, and these are done as part of ordinances, not personal prayers. Our personal prayers and the prayers given to open and close meetings are meant to be conversations with God, who loves us.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.