Every May, many Americans celebrate a National Day of Prayer. President Obama issued a presidential proclamation making it clear the day was for people of all faiths, although the task force that considers itself the official organization for the event has, from time to time, banned from their official events religious people who do not conform with their definition of Judeo-Christian and all who do not consider themselves Christian or Jewish. This has, in the past, had the impact of officially banning Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) from participating in official events, although the organization gave them “permission” to host their own events.
The Mormons refused to be drawn into the battle at the church level. Indeed, Mormons consider prayer such an integral part of every day that many do not feel a strong pull to participate in such events, although some do and in Utah, many Mormons host truly interfaith events for the day. However, for Mormons, every day is a day of prayer.
Mormons are taught to pray privately every morning and every evening, not reciting a pre-written prayer, but conversing with God. At the end of these prayers, they are encouraged to stay on their knees for a while, so that they can listen to God’s response. They do not believe prayer is a one-way communication. They believe God answers prayers through the Holy Ghost. These answers may come in several ways.
When Mormons have a specific problem, they are taught to study the issue and come to a decision on their own. Then they take the solution to God for confirmation. When they have made a wise choice, God confirms this by allowing them to feel the comforting presence of the Holy Ghost. When they have made a wrong decision, they often feel a negative sensation. This helps them to return to the process and continue their study until they have an answer that conforms with God’s plan for them. From time to time, the impression also comes into their mind that they must wait. God does not always operate on our time.
Other times, the Holy Ghost puts impressions into our minds even when we weren’t seeking specific advice. For this reason, Mormons are encouraged to engage in conversation with God throughout the day, keeping the lines of communication open. Many religious people report feeling a prompting to do something they later discovered protected them or helped someone else. These promptings come from the Holy Ghost.
Mormons who are married are taught to have a prayer as a couple as well. If they have children or others living in their home, they hold a family or household prayer. Of course, there are also prayers before meals and before special events, such as the beginning of a vacation trip.
During church meetings, Mormons begin and end with prayer. There is an inside joke that it takes three Mormons to change a light bulb—one to change the bulb and two to give the opening and closing prayers. One thing people who come to live with a Mormon family soon learn is that they are a praying people.
For Mormons, every day is a day of prayer—with or without a holiday.
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.