Prayer (May 2008)

   Posted by: John   in Church Meetings, Elder Bednar, Older Posts, Scriptures

There was a question about prayer, and I did not manage to write the question down fully. However, there are some interesting things that came about as a result of that question.

Elder Bednar referred to a conference talk he gave that centered around asking (praying) in faith.  He then talked about some principles of prayer that I am sure everyone knows, but don’t get talked about or even thought about often.

First, answers to prayer may not come immediately.  Everyone knows that, but it is still frustrating when you pray and don’t perceive that you have received an answer.  A great example of this is Nephi, when he goes to get the brass plates from Laban.  It took three tries to get those plates.  Laman and Lemuel were ready to give up after the first failure.  (I suppose it could be said they were ready to give up before trying the first time!)  Nephi was ready to try again.  And then again, before he was successful.

One wonders how many times Nephi prayed about seeing Lehi’s vision before he actually received it.  We don’t know, but I am sure that it was more than once.  What would have happened if he had given up?  Nephi was a man of great faith.  He prayed knowing he would receive an answer, and he did.  When we pray honestly and sincerely, we need to know that our Father in Heaven knows when to answer, and it may not be right that moment.

Second, praying and not doing anything until you receive an answer was described as “faithless prayer”.  This sounds very strange, but think about it.  If you are praying to be led to someone who seeking the gospel, but you never go out to look for that person, what good is the prayer.  Waiting for someone to knock on your door and proclaim they want to hear the gospel is a colossal waste of time.  The chances of that happening are almost none.  Instead, do pray for that blessing of finding someone, then actively work at it.  When we pray AND act in faith, we stand a better change of receiving an answer, as well as the blessings associated with it.

A good illustration of this principle is with Nephi again.  He and his brothers have failed the second time to get the brass plates.  Nephi’s brothers are upset, as usual, and go through their familiar murmuring routine.  Nephi says in 1 Nephi 4:6:

“And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”

We know that Nephi approached this task with pray, vocally and in his heart.  In this passage, Nephi admits that he didn’t know what he was going to do, or what was going to happen.  However, he was led by the Spirit.  We know what happened.  Laban was out partying because he had stolen Lehi’s stuff.  He was drunk, unconscious, and in Nephi’s power.  The answer didn’t stop there.  Nephi was able to pass himself off as Laban, wearing the clothes, and speaking in a voice that sounded like Laban.  The servant was fooled, and Nephi got the plates.  The answer still doesn’t stop.  Laban servant followed Nephi out the city until they met Nephi’s brothers.  The servant tried to get away, but Nephi prevented it and the servant decided to go with them.  Considering all the events of the evening, that is a remarkable answer for someone who didn’t know what would happen but submitted to following the spirit’s lead.

Third, prayer does not have to be formal or vocal.  I am not talking about prayers for meeting, the sacrament, blessings, etc.  I am speaking specifically of personal prayer, just you and the Lord. 

 We are encouraged to pray out loud to our Father in Heaven.   In most circumstances, when we go to pray, this is just fine.  There are times, however, when vocal prayer just doesn’t work.  Personal prayer with God should be just that…personal.  When necessary, pray silently.  Further, prayer does not have to be strictly formal.  We should still address God as he is, our Father in Heaven, because he is, after all, God.  But we should talk to him as a friend, and friends don’t too often follow strict formal conversation.

We have often heard the phrase “have a prayer in your heart” or the term “continuously praying”.  How can one do that?  A person has to live, work, eat, and sleep, among many things.  I believe that having a pure heart is a key to praying continuously.  As we drive, work, or shop, we can be pondering the scriptures, thinking about a conference talk, or even just mentally conversing with our Father in Heaven.  While driving to home teach, we can be mentally preparing ourselves to feel the spirit and know what that family needs.  In these kinds of ways, I think we are “continually praying” to our Father.

It cracks me up that prayer, to someone who doesn’t pray, sounds so one-sided.  Many time, I feel like my prayers are one-sided.  I’m doing all the talking.  What we need to do is listen.  If we are in the right frame of mind, the spirit will give us the things we need to pray about.  We need to open our spiritual ears.  It isn’t easy.  There are so many things to distract us.  That’s one reason why the Lord makes reference to praying in our secret places, those locations where distractions and disturbances don’t exist.  When we can concentrate, meditate and pray without disturbance, we will be surprised how much easier it will be to hear our Father in Heaven.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 5th, 2008 at 6:36 pm and is filed under Church Meetings, Elder Bednar, Older Posts, Scriptures. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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