One day, she asked me why I didn't pray out loud with her? I explained to her that it was not the way that I was taught to pray. Which then turned her question into, why do you pray the way you pray? Being a young girl of 21, and just fresh into the adult world on my own, I never questioned why I did pray the way I did and who/where does it tell me to pray like that.
I couldn't answer her. I didn't know how to answer her with an educated, doctrinal sound answer because the only answer I had was it was how we are taught to pray in the LDS church. That conversation has haunted me for years, as it could have been an opportunity to share with her our commonalities with prayer and also the scriptures in the Bible and the Book of Mormon that teach us how to pray. There are so many times I have replayed that moment in my mind with what I wish I could have said.
Fast forward to yesterday as I was spending time with Brian as he was playing on the Internet and we watched a preacher give the opening prayer for a Nascar Race. In the past, these prayers are very humble and enjoyable to hear, but the prayer we heard yesterday was beyond disrespectful and prideful, that I had a rush of emotions that I wish that I could share my perspective of prayer with that man as I wish that I could talk with my old friend.
So today, I would love to share my perspective on prayer and the things I have learned. I actually have made up a laminated card that I keep with me to review every once and a while to remind me of the things I have learned and studied about prayer. My hopes are that some may be educated, some may find their own inspirations and some may find the commonalities we share in saying a prayer.
How Can We More Effectively Communicate with God?
1. We should pray frequently. We should be alone with our Heavenly Father at least two or three times each day: '...morning, mid-day, and evening.' In addition, we are told to pray always. This means that our hearts should be full, drawn out in prayer unto our Heavenly Father continually.
2. We should find an appropriate place where we can meditate and pray. We are admonished that this should be 'in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.' (Alma 34:26.) That is, it should be free from distraction, in secret.
3. We should prepare ourselves for prayer. If we don't feel like praying, then we should pray until we do feel like praying. We should be humble. We should pray for forgiveness and mercy. (REPENT). We must forgive anyone against whom we have bad feelings. Yet the scriptures warn, our prayers will be vain if we 'turn away the needy, and the naked and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart [not] of [our] substance...'
4. Our prayers should be meaningful and pertinent. We should not use the same phrases at each prayer. In all of our prayers it is well to use the sacred pronouns of the scriptures - thee, thou, thy and thine when addressing Deity in prayer. Elder Bednar has counseled us to use our morning prayers to "design and create our day." Our evening prayers are to report back to Heavenly Father on how we did. We should pray about:
a. Our work against the power of our enemies and the devil.
b. For our welfare and the welfare of those around us.
c. Counsel with the Lord pertaining to all our decisions and activities.
d. Be grateful enough to give thanks for ALL we have.
e. We should confess his hands in all things.
f. We should ask for what we need, taking care we not ask for things that would be to our detriment.
g. We should ask for strength to overcome our problems.
h. We should pray for inspiration and well-being of the President of the Church, the General Authorities, our Stake President, our home teachers, our family members and our civic leaders.
i. The Holy Ghost will help you know about what you should be praying for.
j. Pray for spiritual gifts and patterns to help you become more like the Savior.
5. After making a request through prayer, we have a responsibility to assist in its being granted. We should listen. Perhaps while we are on our knees, the Lord wants to counsel us.
'Sincere praying implies that when we ask for any virtue or blessing, we should work for the blessing and cultivate the virtue.' - David O Mckay
When counsel is received, have the discipline and strength to act on what has been asked of you.
This is just the beginning of what I have found on prayer. Some personal notes to add to this is that I never really thought that the actions of my day was/is preparing me for my next prayer. Striving for a worthiness by my actions, sayings and thoughts directly relate to my self preparation before I kneel and pray to God. If I want sincere communication with Deity, I better live the life that shows the proof of my willingness to be obedient and follow the Saviors example. The other perspective I love is Elder Bednar's counsel in designing my day. My thoughts turn directly to the temple. Just think that if we have the power to design and then create our days, what would you want your day to be like? Then you go and do it and report back that evening, the personal growth, the goals obtained are immeasurable!! AMAZING! There is so much more to learn and be taught and I am eager to continue to add to my knowledge. I have found that when I consider these items, that my prayers are more in depth, much longer and also so much closer to feeling the spirit when I do. I hope this helps you on your own quest for knowledge. Happy Praying!