Sunday, February 15, 2009

Prayer - Communication with God

In the early 1990s, rap star MC Hammer had the courage to use a popular song to publicly state to the contemporary music world: "You've got 2 pray just 2 make it today."

Something not often stated regarding the Hammer: he was right.

Prayer is our opportunity to communicate with our Father in Heaven. He expects us to pray - it is even a commandment.

This is one of those principles where I find it useful to draw an analogy to human parents. Our parents want to hear from us, and we, likewise, want to hear from our children. It's natural. We want the best for our children, as does Heavenly Father. And even if we could read minds and knew everything that was going on in our childrens' lives (as Father knows us), we'd still want them to make the effort to contact us and share with us.

We are admonished in the scriptures that we should pray always. That doesn't mean we need to be on our knees in prayer 24/7 - but we should be ever aware of God, praying either directly, or by keeping a prayer in our heart. Example: I pray on my knees each morning and each night, and I say a prayer over my food when I eat. But I will pray at other times as well - such as when I'm driving along the freeway and I see the evening sun striking the snow-covered Wasatch Mountains - the beauty is so wonderful that I will turn off the car radio and say a quick prayer of thanks - expressing my gratitude for the awe-inspiring view. (And yes, I keep my eyes OPEN while driving!)

The point is, it is important to be close to God, to converse with Him on a regular basis - not just when we're in need (like Wile E. Coyote praying as he falls through air to the bottom of a deep cliff). Wouldn't you be a little offended (or at least disappointed) if your children only called you when they wanted something, like to borrow money?

I am so thankful that we have the freedom to pray any time and any place we want. Even if it is only a silent prayer in your heart, there is no circumstance in which you cannot reach out and communicate with the God of the Universe. I think that's awesome. And it is not to be taken lightly - we should pray realizing that the communication is real.

As President Thomas S. Monson put it:
"As we pray, let us really communicate with our Father in Heaven.
It is easy to let our prayers become repetitious, expressing words with little or no thought behind them. When we remember that each of us is literally a spirit son or daughter of God, we will not find it difficult to approach Him in prayer. He knows us; He loves us; He wants what is best for us. Let us pray with sincerity and meaning, offering our thanks and asking for those things we feel we need. Let us listen for His answers, that we may recognize them when they come. As we do, we will be strengthened and blessed. We will come to know Him and His desires for our lives. By knowing Him, by trusting His will, our foundations of faith will be strengthened.
If any one of us has been slow to hearken to the counsel to
pray always, there is no finer hour to begin than now."

But don't be discouraged if your prayers are not reciprocated by an instant thunderous lightning bolt of revelation. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
"Every sincere prayer is heard and answered
by our Heavenly Father, but the answers we
receive may not be what we expect or come
to us when we want or in the way we anticipate."

This is indeed true. The story I am about to tell illustrates this. It also is a testimony of the power of prayer - that a prayer of faith can result in a miracle. I don't just say this because I believe it because I read it somewhere or it was told to me - I have experienced it myself, so I have a first-hand testimony.

One example: In December of 1998, I was going through the darkest period of my life. I was in a situation that was literally destroying me - physically, emotionally, spiritually, personally. I had reached my wit's end - I didn't know where to turn or what to do - I just knew that I couldn't go on like that any longer. I was suffering deeply. I had made some very poor choices, and I was paying for it (had been paying for it for years at that point). I prayed fervently. I asked only that I might know WHEN my burden would be lifted - when things were going to at last get better. In my mind at the time, I envisioned things getting better in a way quite opposite to how they ended up getting better, but that's beside the point. The very salient point is that while in the midst of that tear-strewn prayer, I heard the Holy Ghost utter to me, in clear words, "Sunday, January 3rd, 1999." That was my distinct answer. I knew I had been spoken to, and I knew that if I could just hang in there for another two and a half weeks, I'd be okay.

My prayer was answered, and all I had to do was wait. Well, by the time January 3rd rolled around, I'd almost forgotten about that experience. But something drastic changed in my life that day, and it wasn't until a few days later that I realized - my burden had been lifted that day, in accordance with the answer I'd been given to my prayer. He'd kept His word. It wasn't what I'd been hoping for, but in the end, it was far, far better for me.

That was a big one, but I've also experienced many little blessings that reinforce my testimony of the power and reality of prayer.

A footnote: I originally intended this post to be paired with a post about revelation -
the other part of communication with God. That post is here. So this one completes the pairing.
(Coincidentally, that post was written about ten years to the day after the experience described above.)

The greatest prayer of all time.

1 comment:

Jean said...

Thank you for the prayer reminder. Sometimes it is difficult for me to pray but I know I need to push through it and pray anyway.

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