Just a warning, this isn’t a normal journal entry. I’ve got one I’m thinking about, but not much is new with me overall. But after reading a story arc in the DC comics/ Green Lantern universe, I’ve really been thinking about the entries I do dealing with my Emotional/Spiritual world and I think the concept in there really works well for organizing thoughts and feelings so I may be implementing that within my worlds.
But for now, here’s the talk on “prayer” I gave a couple weeks ago, word for word. Two friends that are on my Facebook gets references in this talk (one of which gets two). See if you can find them. Hope those who read enjoy.
So I’ve been asked to give a talk on “prayer” this evening.
To do that, one needs to understand prayer and what it is. The first question then becomes, “what is prayer?”
It seems like a simple enough question to answer on the surface. I thought I knew the answer. But before I went any further, something prompted me to see what others said. I wanted to see what people from other walks aside from the church would say.
The first person I asked was my sister, Tabitha. At first, she said that it was a big question and the answer could come from different points of views. Eventually she settled on “it’s just talking with God”.
I then asked a second person, a good friend online. His answer was, “praying is simply talking to God, be it aloud or silent.”
The third person I asked was my son Bryan. I thought the perspective of youth would be a refreshing one. He answered with the following: “Prayer is when you talk to God and Jesus and tell them what you’ve done and what you’d like”.
That blew my mind. Out of the three answered, Bryan’s was the most accurate (if not a little off still). But I was amazed because it also showed how in tune children are with God, or can be when nurtured.
In fact, his answer reminded me of a quote by President Hinkley. He said:
“The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the telephone and ordering groceries – we place our order and hang up. We need to meditate, contemplate, think of what we are praying about and for and then speak to the Lord as one man speaketh to another.”
So with that in mind, I have to ask again, “What is prayer”? The Bible Dictionary defines it as this: Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.
I really felt drawn to that key phrase. “…the will of the Father and the will of the child…”
When “will” is brought into the equation than it’s implied that prayer is more than simple talking. It’s more than just words. There’s, meaning, essence, focus behind it. You have to have your heart, your mind and your spirit behind it.
So now to answer the main question of “What is prayer?”, you have to understand the purpose of prayer. What is the purpose? Again, the Bible Dictionary defines it as:
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 that are made conditional on our asking for them.
So this not only tells us the purpose, it tells us something else about prayer. It tells us our prayers should be selfless. It’s not just about us. ”…but to secure for ourselves and for others…”
Now, we have an understanding of purpose and how praying reflects of us in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. The next question is what should prayer then, entail? What do we say? In other words, what do we say and do? The scriptures give us several examples.
”Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God”
-Alma 6:6 (The Book of Mormon)
Again, there’s that selflessness. Prayer for the welfare of others who know not God. This can be physically if they are ill, or spiritually to help them be content or happier, or to help them find God. This can be a friend, a neighbor or people we don’t even know across the world. The Bible Dictionary tells us all we have to do is simply ask of him.
”Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
-St. Matthew 7:7 (The Holy Bible)
This entails several things. Ask and it shall be given; meaning if you ask that your family be fed, or in good health, this can be given. To seek and find; meaning if you seek the spirit or comfort, if you seek God, you will find him there in your prayers. Opened unto you is about knowledge. If you seek knowledge in him or the scripture, ask and he will make it clear.
”But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.”
-Alma 13:28 – 29 (The Book of Mormon)
I really love this one because it says so much. We’re taught Prayer can help us be humble, more patient and loving with each other, an expression of our faith in our Heavenly Father. It is also a way to keep the Spirit with us; for comfort, for protection, for guidance and for warmth. But the biggest part for me in that is that it teaches us that it can help protect us from temptation.
I have a friend I met back in my ward from PA. She told me two things that have stuck with me through all the years because of the power and truth behind them. One was that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. And this verse backs that up. Prayer can help us keep the Spirit with us and avoid and fight off temptations.
The second thing I take away from this scripture is patience. And for anyone who has children, you understand.
There are many other examples I could draw from but I think this should suffice for the time allotted.
But as important as it is to know how to pray and what for and why, one should bear in mind the risks and results of the opposite. For instance:
”And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”
-Isaiah 1:15 (the Holy Bible)
This verse, as well as the chapter is referring to hypocrisy. If you are full sin and still put on the act of faithfulness in God to him (in other words, all talk and no action), then God will not answer. He will not see you and he will not hear because you aren’t truly having faith in him. You do not act in his name. “Faith without works is dead.” This also refers back to that key phrase, “…will of the child.” If you do not follow through with your actions, then your will is not behind your prayers. That then is not a prayer at all.
Howard W. Hunter once said:
”If prayer is only a spasmodic cry at the times of crisis, then it is utterly selfish, and we come to think of God as a repairman or a service agency to help us only in our emergencies. We should remember the Most High day and night – always – not only at times when all other assistance has failed and we desperately need help.”
He teaches us prayer can become a selfish act, which is against what Alma teaches us. Prayer is supposed to be an act of selflessness, not selfishness. When we constantly go, “me me me. Gimmie gimmie gimmie.” To our Heavenly Father, it is selfish and I would add disrespectful.
So how do we keep our prayers honest and sincere? How do we make sure we are praying for the right reasons; that we are putting our will into it?
Because there is also risk of prayers becoming stagnant from saying the same things over and over, there are certain things we can do.
I’m reminded now of the second most inspiring thing my good friend had told me. She wrote me once, “find something unique, no matter how small to be thankful for each time”. This stood out to me because it makes you think. Each and every time you have to take a moment to think about what you’ve said before and find something new. This helps to break habit.
Another thing I personally do is instead of just giving thanks for my friends, I specifically name them. Not every one because that can be a lot. I have my steadfast list, but I also try to add one or two I may not have mentioned by name previously.
When you ask the Lord to help that person or persons who do not know God, maybe be specific. For instance, I will randomly pick a neighbor or home within my neighborhood. I may not know their names, but I can name their location. For me, this gives it something personal to me as well as helping someone I don’t know. When you give thanks for people at church, name some by name.
It’s getting specific that forces us to slow down and take our time, to be sincere in our efforts and to show we’re committed to the bigger picture.
I want to close by giving my testimony of the Church and in prayer. I won’t say a full testimony because I’m always learning, always finding myself with a new experience and inspiration by the Spirit to believe. But I know Prayer is an amazing thing and a key in our faith and relationship with our Heavenly Father. And if it wasn’t for Prayer, this church wouldn’t be today and I wouldn’t be here now expressing my belief and giving this talk now.
I say these things in the name of thy son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I hope those who read, enjoy this talk as much as I had researching and writing it.