Every Christian should be familiar with the concept of prayer. It is one of the basic tenants of faith in Christ. While we all send up prayers to God on a frequent basis, I would like to examine this act in a bit more detail: hopefully to allow us all to pray with more purpose, direction and success.
First off, to whom do we pray? While this question may seem like it has an obvious answer, I think it is important to state. There are many lines of thinking in the world and people pray to all sorts of things such as gods of weather, harvest, fertility, etc. as well as prayers offered to ancestors or spirits. Christ tells us in Mathew 6:9 and 3 Nephi 5:101-102
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
So, Christ while he was on earth in human form instructed us to pray to God in heaven. We pray in the name of Christ but we pray to Our Father which art in heaven. We pray in Christ’s name because he is the one who made it possible to come before the Father with his death. Prior to this, a high priest had to prepare himself to enter in past the veil into the Most Holy Place. Ezekiel 42:14
When the priests enter therein, then shall they not go out of the holy place into the utter court, but there they shall lay their garments wherein they minister; for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people.
With the sacrifice of Christ, we now have the ability to go to our Heavenly Father directly through Christ who pleads for us.
What do we pray for? In James 5:13-16 we find some direction.
Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
This tells me we should be praying for healing, both spiritual and physical. Physical healings will show the power the Lord has over this world and give us testimony of his love towards us. Spiritual healing by way of forgiveness will allow us to one day enter into his kingdom for eternity.
We are told to pray to God for our physical and spiritual welfare. In Alma 16:220 we are given instruction to pray over the crops of our fields and herds to increase. While few of us have fields and herds, we do have professions, careers and jobs where this commandment is applied. We need to pray about what career we will have, what employer we work for, promotions and responsibilities at work.
When do we pray? Alma 16:219 and 222
Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him; cry unto him when ye are in your fields; yea, over all your flocks; cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning mid-day and evening;
Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those that are around you.
While it would be impossible to pray constantly, I believe we should make dedicated times to pray each day such as when we wake up, on a lunch break and at bed time. During the rest of the time we may not be in an active prayer, but we can ask questions or admonish the Lord with what is on our mind. I find song is another form of prayer and singing or humming a worship tune while we work would fulfill this instruction.
Where do we pray? Mathew 6:5-6
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Prayer is a personal thing and should be treated as such. Making a display of prayer to be heard is like sending a letter to yourself, it really doesn’t go anywhere. Prayer is the avenue by which we can speak to God on what is troubling our heart, what our personal struggles are and how we get forgiveness through our savior.
We also take time to pray with each other in our families and as congregations. 3 Nephi 8:48, 52
And as I have prayed among you, even so shall ye pray in my church, among my people which do repent and are baptized in my name.
Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.
This type of praying shows the love we have for each other as Christ showed for us when he prayed in the garden. (John 17)
Why do we pray? Philippians 4:6-7
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
One very powerful motivator to prayer is to help with anxiety, worry or stress about an issue we are facing. The phrase “Be careful for nothing” means don’t be anxious. We pray because we can lay our concerns before an all knowing and loving Creator who will guide us through trouble and make a way for us to escape sin.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We pray to be forgiven. We are all sinners and require grace to be found spotless. This cleansing comes by humility and prayer.
How do we pray? Mathew 18:2-4
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
We must pray with humility. Remember through Jesus we have access to the Creator. This is the same Creator who spoke and life came into existence. The same Creator who formed man from dust. The same creator who held back the sea and protected all Israel from Pharaoh. The same Creator who gave his son to cover our sin. The same Creator who will give righteous judgement of our souls. He will not, should not and cannot accept pride in his presence. We are to recognize his authority and power. If we do so he will recognize our prayers.
I pray you all find comfort and strength in the Lord, and may he bless you and guide you in this life until we reach the next.