A week ago, one of my uncles posted a quote about praying on his Facebook page. It said real men pray and he commented about his dad praying daily (my grandpa.). One of my other uncles posted a comment that he used to pray and hope that God would do what he wanted. He said he is much happier now because he works hard to make what he wants happen and knows that the world is made a better place through action not prayer/hope.
I have been reflecting on this for days. Why do I pray? What value does it have? What blessings have come into my life as a result of prayer? Twice I started to post a response but felt like my response may not come across as loving and kind (I often worry about disagreeing at all online because when you can't hear the tone of voice and so on, intentions may be misread and I don't want to unintentionally offend) but did want to express what I truly believe. I decided I needed to ponder this and then record my thoughts.
One of my first thoughts was the quote, "Pray as if everything depends on The Lord, but then work as if everything depends on us." My sweet sister actually posted that quote on Facebook in a very kind response in which she said she respects my uncle's viewpoint but doesn't think they have to be mutually exclusive. She is the best. Not afraid to share her beliefs publicly, but able to do it in a positive, respectful, loving way.
I want to be more like her.
So why DO I pray?
1. Prayers are answered. Yesterday I blogged about Ella's heart surgery. Everything went better than expected. She was blessed in countless ways. I have no doubt that was an answer to prayers. I have had numerous times when my prayers have been answered. Some have been big things, many have been small things. There have been times when something has been lost and I've prayed and a thought has come into my mind and I have found the object. There have been times when I have had a feeling I needed to stop to visit someone or call them, and I have, and they have needed that and it was an answer to their prayers or vice versa times when people have provided service to me when I needed it but hadn't told anyone that I did. When I was called as RS President, I began to pray about who my counselors should be. I had some people in my mind, but as I prayed about who I should call, the answers came very clearly. One of my counselors I had never even spoken to before. She is shy and I was in Primary and she was relatively new in the ward. She was not one of the people that came to mind immediately, but she absolutely was meant to be one of my counselors along with my other counselor and secretary. And they have blessed my life immensely. I love them so much.
2. Prayer, when sincere and with the right spirit, humbles us. It is not about making The Lord give us what we want but about aligning our will with His. It is about coming to recognize that God can strengthen you so that you can endure trials with faith and courage and learning to trust that He knows what you need better than you do. I love this quote from Elder Scott, "His invitation, 'Ask and ye shall receive' (3 Nephi 27:29) does not assure you that you will get what you want. It does guarantee that, if worthy, you will get what you need, as judged by a Father in Heaven that loves you perfectly, who wants your eternal happiness even more than you do." (Richard G. Scott, Oct. 1995 conference). I also love these verses in Mosiah 24: 14-15 where he does not remove the trials and bondage that the people are under but he does strengthen them to be able to bear them, "And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a suretx that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."
So true prayer is not to get The Lord do our will, but about us coming to accept and do His will.
3. Prayer strengthens our relationship with our Father. I have had the spirit witness that I am a beloved child of God and that God lives. That Jesus Christ lives. It makes no sense to pray if you don't believe in God. But I do, with all my heart. I pray to communicate with my Father. If we want to build a relationship with someone, we spend time with them. We talk to them, confide in them, share ourselves with them. If we want a relationship with our Father, we need to do the same. We spend time with him and communicate with him as we kneel in prayer, pour out our heart to Him, and as we study the scriptures and listen for the spirit. I love Alma 37 where it lists all the things we should pray for and the times when we should pray.
4. Prayer is a way to show our love for our fellowman. Often those we love face difficult challenges. We yearn to help them or to ease their burden. We can show love for them by doing what we can to help...listening, taking a meal, helping with a child, or doing countless other acts of service. But in addition to these acts of service, which we should provide if we are able, we can pray for that loved one. No matter where they are or what situation they are facing or what our ability is to help them, we can pray for them. These prayers are both a way to show our love AND a way to increase our love for them.
5. Prayer helps us overcome our personal weaknesses. Prayer can help us forgive others who have wronged us. It helps us to be more patient, kind, more aware of others' feelings. It helps us overcome addiction, anger, pride or other sins and weaknesses we have.
6. Prayer can comfort us when sad, worried or sorrowful. Prayer invites the spirit, the Comforter, to come and abide with us.
7. We are encouraged to seek revelation and guidance from the Holy Ghost. Most often that guidance comes after we have asked in prayer.
8. Prayer protects us against the adversary, the devil, who is also very real. "Pray always that you may come off conqueror; yea that you might conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servant of Satan that do uphold his work." (D&C 10:5)
9. Going back to the first quote...pray as if everything depended on The Lord, work as if everything depended upon you. Faith, without works, is dead. So too, our prayers are not very meaningful or valid if we expect that we can pray and just expect blessings without actions, without work.
“I long have been impressed with the truth that meaningful prayer requires both holy communication and consecrated work. Blessings require some effort on our part before we can obtain them… We press forward and persevere in the consecrated work of prayer, after we say “amen” by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father.” ~Elder David A. Bednar, Ask in Faith.
I have seen prayer change hearts and lives. It changes me. It brings me joy and peace. I truly believe that miracles have NOT ceased and I see evidence of them regularly. I cannot imagine my life without prayer.
Why do you pray?