I love prayer and think it adds so much to my life. I’m excited to take a few minutes and share some ideas about prayer from and LDS perspective. I think when talking about prayer, a few key questions need to be answered.
Why do we pray?
Prayer is how we talk to God. There are many different kinds of prayer: formal prayers offered out loud, blessings on the food, prayers offered on your knees by your bed at night, and those you offer up quickly to say thank you or ask for help throughout the day. All are important and allow us to talk to our Father in Heaven in different ways. Could we just speak to Him in our mind throughout the day? Yes. But I think offering audible prayers, kneeling down at night, and other such physical acts show an extra dose of humility. Sometimes when it’s late at night and I’ve already curled up in my blankets after kissing That Husband good night the last thing I feel like doing is turning over and saying my prayers. I don’t know why it feels like such a big deal, but it often does. Then I get on my knees and I remember that the feeling of peace of contentment I have during and after my prayers is worth falling asleep a few minutes later.
We should do it because praying is an opportunity to put in a little, and get a lot back. The returns on your investment are unheard of!
When do we pray?
A scripture tells us that we should “pray always”, but I don’t think the Lord is asking us to spend every moment speaking with Him. He wants us to accomplish other things in our life as well, and I find that for me prayer is often about contemplating an action, and then getting up off my knees and executing what I’ve just pondered.
I’m not perfect from it, but in an ideal day I pray at least 6 times. First on my own when I wake up in the morning, as a personal prayer on my knees. I don’t say this one out loud, I just think it. Then a prayer over breakfast, and another over lunch, and another over dinner (and if I have any snacks it makes sense that I would pray over that as well). I offer them sitting down, and say them in my head if I’m alone, or out loud if I’m with other people. If the other people I’m eating with are LDS we will decide which one of us will say it beforehand. I personally don’t pray over public meals like at a restaurant, as it feels strange for me. There are LDS members who do so though. I’ve heard some members say that they don’t think there is any reason to pray since it’s not a commandment, but I think it shows gratitude and reminds me that God provides me everything in life, especially the food that I need to live.
At the end of the day I read scriptures and say a “couples prayer” with That Husband. We’ve done this since the day we got married, and all LDS couples are encouraged to do so. Then we turn and say our individual nightly prayers. We say the couples prayer out loud, but the individual nightly prayers in our heads.
In my family growing up we also prayed together in the morning, and again at night. We don’t currently pray regularly with T1, but we will start doing so soon! I’m so excited for the time in his life when he starts offering simple, heartfelt prayers.
I’ve also offered many prayers when things were hard, and I try to remember to offer prayers of gratitude when the Lord blesses me, but I’m still working on that. I worked as a waitress for a summer during college and one of the pastry chefs used to drive to work voicing and singing praises to the Lord. I always admired her for using her time that way, as I was always listening to This American Life episodes with my driving time. Often I offer up little prayers as I’m writing posts about the LDS faith, as I want to be a good representative of the Lord’s gospel.
How do we pray?
I think Mormons have a pretty distinctive way of praying (at least based on what I’ve experienced) and it’s one of the first things taught to investigators of the Church.
First the physical aspects.
We bow our heads and close our eyes, as seen in the picture below (this is at an LDS ring ceremony, I didn’t take a picture during the prayer, but I did take it in the second right after he said amen). Most LDS members will also cross their arms over their chest, though clasping them and extending your elbows is common as well. As a child I would pray by kneeling next to my bed and clasping my arms, but now I usually pray while kneeling on my bed.
Second, the language.
We open our prayer with Our Father in Heaven, Our Father, Father in Heaven, and other reverent acknowledgments of God. Most Mormons use the term Heavenly Father or Father at the beginning of their prayer because our relationship with Him is very personal. We are literally His children! Opening with a phrase that uses a term like God is perfectly acceptable though. The most important part is clarifying that you are praying to God, and no one else.
There are a handful of times when set language is used, like the prayer over the Sacrament each week (which must be said exactly right, or it must be offered again) or when a person is baptized, but other than those few times there are no set prayers. The things that are uttered come from the heart and soul of the person offering them. When teaching young children or new members about prayer we talk about opening by expressing our gratitude, for the things we have, then talking about the things we want. I try to follow this pattern in my own personal prayers, because without it I sometimes find myself spending all of my time asking God for things, and hardly any time thanking Him for the multitude of things He has blessed me with!
We close with in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. This is the other part of the prayer that is very important and never changes. We open our prayers by addressing our Heavenly Father, but we close them by offering them in the name of Jesus Christ, or Savior and Intercessor.
A sample prayer I might offer at night would sound something like:
Father in Heaven
I am grateful for all of the things that I was able to accomplish today.
I am grateful that T1 was in such a good mood, and that we were able to get along so well together. I pray that he will be free from the pain of teething soon.
Please help me to be more patient with him. Please bless my friend who is going through a hard time.
I am grateful for the blessed life I lead.
Please lead me in thy work.
I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Unless I’m very tired my prayers are usually much longer and more specific than that, but you get the idea.
What happens next?
Ideally, I spend a few minutes waiting for promptings and whisperings from the Spirit. Maybe I prayed about when to have our next baby, or where to take Jenna Cole, or how to help someone I know who is struggling. I ask God for help with so many things, it is important that I take the time to listen to his replies! Recently I had someone in my life who was really struggling, and I didn’t know how to best help them. I spent some time on my knees talking with God about the situation, and then spent some time in the act of meditation, where I tried to leave my mind open to suggestion. The answer I received was a subtle thought, but it was so effective and solved the problem so readily, that I have no doubt it came from God. I have prayed about big things, and little things, and I know the answers will come with time if I listen for the reply.
Do I always get the answer I want? No, certainly not. And there are times when I’m not sure that I heard the answer at all. But I do think that Heavenly Father answers in some way, if we will listen for His reply. Developing that relationship takes time, and effort on our part though. I consider it a life-long journey that I will never really master.
I hope this post helped you better understand prayer from an LDS perspective. I’d love to hear more about how you talk to God in the comment section below.