Through my years in leadership positions I have heard a constant plea from the Bishops. "Counsel with those in your stewardships to pray. The majority of the membership is not praying, they must learn the power of their prayers." I have thought of this often. While I am praying, am I praying with a sincere heart? Do I understand the power of prayer? I am far from knowing everything but I have learned some ways to make my prayers more impactful in my life. Perhaps some of my thoughts will spark yours.
The Bible Dictionary provides a masterful discourse on the power of prayer. I share a small portion.
"The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings…
"We pray in Christ's name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ-when his words abide in us. We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ's name at all; they in no way represent his mind, but spring out of the selfishness of man's heart."
There are several profound and import lessons I learn from this.
- God has blessings for us. He is willing to grant those blessings to us.
- His blessings are contingent on our asking for them.
- Receiving blessings necessitates are working and doing our share to earn them.
- Prayer is work.
- Prayer is how we obtain the highest of blessings.
- We pray in Christ's name.
- In prayer our mind must be the mind of Christ as we prayer.
- In prayer our wishes must be the wishes of Christ.
- In prayer our words must be the words of Christ.
- When we have the mind, will, and words we may ask for things that are possible for God to grant.
- Some prayers are unanswered because they were not offered with Christ's name.
- Some prayers are unanswered because they represent our selfish heart.
Here is another list of things that I have focused on that have added meaning to my prayers.
- Pray out loud when possible. This helps to organize my thoughts better and requires more faith. Do I really have the faith to utter that thought out loud? This helps with understanding that prayer is work. I've began to see prayer as a "wrestle" with the Lord in which I go back and forth as He teaches me how to think and how to pray. He teaches me what to ask for. My prayers out loud would sound like a conversation that you could only hear the one side too. I have found my mute prayers end up just being a whinny list of requests with minimal effort and little revelation. With silent prayers it is certainly possible to still receive revelation, but my mind wanders and it is overall less effective for me. Even mumbled prayers are better in the bathroom then silent prayers.
- Pray for specifics. This is one I know and understand but I don't always do. Why? Because it's hard and requires work. Sloth is bad. Sometimes I pray just so I can "check it off" for the day. "Yep, I said my morning prayers. I am good with the Lord." While that is good, there is something far better; communing with the Lord. Every single time I take the effort and "work" by asking for very specific things the Lord answers me. Each day I strive to ask for things as specifically as I can. "What can I do to help Leader understand how to count with money a little better today?" "What should I make for dinner today?" "Let me have an opportunity that I may learn what it means to allow my husband to protect me." "What may I do to help Sister Smith, my visiting teaching sister, feel your love today?" "How can I dress feminine today?" "Today I am going to town. We are taking the car. The kids will all be touching each other and it is inevitable that they will start fighting. How should I handle this when they do?" "I would like to start canning more this year. Are there jars somewhere that I could collect that someone may not have a need for any more?" (I did obtain 48 jars with the answer I received to that prayer). "I am feeling sad (distressed, anxious, annoyed) today. I do not want to feel that way. What may I do right now to cast that sadness away that I may feel the hope of the Savior?" That is one that always seems to be answered. I must simply ask to have the feelings removed and then go and do and the feelings flee away. In the past I would pray to "have a good day," "have the spirit with me," and "be a good mom." That's well and good, and those prayers were always answered, but I have found when I do work and pray for specifics that the blessings are even greater.
- Prayer about your roles/stewardships. I have come to realize that when I pray about my role as wife, mother, and homemaker those prayers are always more meaningful. I pray about my meals, how to be efficient in housekeeping, how to organize my day, how to teach an educational principle, how to teach, how to help my family feel my love, how to have the Spirit more fully in the home, how to recognize Satan's snares that are creeping into my home, how to fulfill counsel from my leaders that has specific relevance to my role in the home, how to help those who come inside my home feel welcome, how to let my light shine in motherhood, …. This also applies to my visiting teaching assignments, my church calling(s), my role as daughter, sister, aunt… I have learned that when I pray for things outside of my roles that I want (that's the selfish part they mentioned in the Bible Dictionary) that my prayers are rejected. I feel confused, needy, whinny, etc. I have realized when I focus on my divine role than I receive the blessings that He has promised to me. The moment I ask for things that the world says I should have by entitlement the Lord cannot bless me. (Again just like the Bible Dictionary teaches).
- Gratitude. President Monson taught us well about this. We must always express our gratitude to Him the giver of all gifts. The scripture that always come to mind for me when I think about the importance of gratitude is in the Doctrine and Covenants 78:19, "And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even and hundred fold, yea, more." I must remember to thank my Heavenly Father for my blessings. This also requires me to be specific. Am I specifically naming the blessings I have received that day?
- Pray three times a day. Our stake president challenged us in our last stake conference to pray three times a day. This should have seemed obvious to me. How often have I read the story of Daniel and Alma where they prayed three times a day? Alma 34:21 says, "Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening." I have worked on this. I haven't been perfect, but I haven't given up. I am teaching my children to prayer three times a day as well. I have found that I have received some very specific revelation that I would not have received had I not made an effort to obey this counsel.
- Repent. I must always be cleansing myself. Always repenting. Always striving to progress. To change my thoughts little by little. I feel this often when I wrestle with the Lord. He teaches me what my incorrect thought patterns are. He teaches me how to love. Sometimes I don't want to listen. I like my ideas and my agenda. This is how I lay it on the alter or how I take up the cross. Repenting should never be about us feeling worthless or stupid. When I have truly submitted to God and repented of my weaknesses, agenda, improper thought patterns, etc. I feel liberated! I feel free. I recognize a whole new world has been opened up to me!
- Prayer in heart always. This principle is repeated throughout the scriptures. "Praying always that they faint not." (Doctrine and Covenants 75:11, 2 Ne. 32:9, Luke 18:1, etc). Sometimes in my weakness I say, "Must I always be heaven directed? Can't I never have my own thoughts or do my own thing? Does everything have to be spiritual?" Yeah, it does. That is if we want to inherit all the Father hath. We must give all to our Heavenly Father. Every last thought and every last deed. That's of course not to say we will be perfect anytime soon. But that is the expectation. That is why we move line upon line though. Walking. Progressing. Moving forward. Having faith. Believing Him.
I love this hymn. It is truly a great poem. It speaks to my soul.
Prayer is the Soul's Sincere Desire Hymn #145
Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.
Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains
That reach The Majesty on high.
Prayer is Christian's vital breath,
The Christian's native air,
His watchword at the gates of death;
He enters heav'n with prayer.
Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice,
Returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, "Behold, he prays!"
The Saints in prayer appear as one
In word and deed and mind,
While with the Father and the Son
Their fellowship they find.
Nor prayer is made on earth alone:
The Holy Spirt pleads,
And Jesus at the Father's throne
For sinners intercedes.
O thou be whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer thyself hast trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray.