Monday, October 11, 2010

Prayer

OK, last post for today.

I told you I learned something about prayer, and I mean to share it because it has been on my mind quite a bit lately anyway. Prayer always seems the first thing to go when it is the most needed. If life is frustrating or disappointing; if we screwed up somehow or feel unworthy to pray; or we just... get out of the habit, prayer is quick to go when it should be the first thing we do.

Prayer = talking to God.

President Peterson is a seminary teacher who made his students make up a tardy by drawing a certain task from a jar and then reading it to the class. One day, this girl had to draw a slip which read, "Pray for 15 minutes everyday for a week."

The class let out a collective, "That can't be done!" Which piqued his interest. After surveying the students, he realized that his students didn't know how to pray. He asked for the longest phone conversation record. There were shouts of "two hours" "five" and then a bubbly girl dancing in the back that said, "nine hours." He asked them why they could talk on the phone for nine hours, but they could not pray for 15 minutes. Isn't that what prayer is? Just talking. "But friends talk back," was the comment.



I'm going to try and put his amazing, life-changing talk into a summarized point. I don't feel like I will be able to convey how much he talk inspired me. So I guess that is what this post is going to have to relate: I felt the Spirit so strongly; it made me want to make some overhaul changes in the way I pray; and I really appreciated the way it was delivered. President Peterson isn't just inspired and insightful. He's also terribly funny.

In primary we learn the basic formula of prayer:
  • We begin by {addressing our Heavenly Father}. He is our Father, we are His children. The Bible Dictionary says that, "As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God, then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. (Matt. 7:7-11)... Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing [P. Peterson adds "eager"] to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessing require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings."
  • We {thank} him for blessings. 
  • We {ask}. P. Peterson then brought up what he calls "agency on a first come, first serve basis." We all know that God has given us agency, which means that he does not force us to do anything. We have the right to choose how we act and consequences follow, usually affecting other people. That is why bad things are allowed to happen. God will not stop a man who has decided to go on a shooting spree. That is, unless someone somewhere has prayed that it will not happen. Because he does and will answer prayers, and he keeps his promises. For instance, in Alma 19, verse 22-23, "Now, one of them, whose brother had been slain with the sword of Ammon, being exceedingly angry with Ammon, drew his sword and went forth that he might let it fall upon Ammon, to slay him; and as he lifted the sword to smite him, behold, he fell dead. Now we see that Ammon could not be slain, for the Lord had said unto Mosiah, his father: I will spare him, and it shall be unto him according to thy faith - therefore, Mosiah trusted him unto the Lord." P. Peterson explains that this is the principle as to why the Iron Curtain fell - "There first mistake was letting a temple behind it." - because the Church was asked to pray that the leaders' of those countries hearts would be softened to allow missionary work in. P. Peterson tells us that we can basically, "one-up" someone through our prayers.
  • Another thing about asking: We turned to Enos, where he prays all the day long and his sins are forgiven him. And then he asks, "Lord, how is it done?" How is that different than typical Mormon prayers? We usually say something like, "Bless the Prophet. Bless the missionaries. Bless our families." But they're open ended. How is our Father in Heaven supposed to respond? "I'll get right on that." Generally, the work just goes on and we don't really seem to get an answer. So, P. Peterson suggests that we "ask questions that require an answer, and when we do, the feedback will be different."
  • {Listen} I don't know that listening is really something we learn in primary. It is a learned art. But this goes back to the telephone call records. "They talk back," was the explanation as to why the conversations can go so long, but prayers cannot. We already know that God answers prayers, and now, if we are asking questions that require an answer, we need to listen for what that answer will be. This is important for two reasons. The first being, that we are commanded to pray unceasingly. (3 Nephi 20:1, "...he commanded the multitude to cease to pray...and he commanded them that they should not cease to pray in their hearts.") And how do we do that? We can't be constantly having inner dialogue with Heavenly Father. But since praying is talking to our Heavenly Father, and part of conversing is also listening, then by listening, we are still praying. Which means, that as long as we are not too distracted and we are ready and wiling to receive inspiration from God, then we are praying. 
  • {Listening} Furthermore, when we are listening, then we can be ready to pray by revelation. P. Peterson cited several scriptures where this is the case. The first was still in Enos. When Enos prays for his children and his children's children and his cousin's children's children, that was not by accident. God inspired him to pray for them. The second was in 3 Nephi 19:24, where "it was given unto them what they should pray."
  • {Close in Jesus' name.} When we close, we close "in the name of Jesus Christ." This seems like the most elementary of principles. Christ is our Savior, he is our Mediator and he is our Advocate. But P. Peterson explains it further by continuing in 3 Nephi 19:31-34. "And it came to pass that he went again a little way off and prayed unto the Father; And tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can be written by man the words which he prayed. And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed. Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man." We don't know what was said, but then P. Peterson turned to Doctrine and Covenants 45:3-5, "Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him - Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life." (See also Isaiah 51:21-23.) When we pray in our Savior's name, he is taking our petition to the Father with his redeeming blood and our names written on his palms. It is no wonder that we pray in his name, for it is through him that everything is accomplished.
The whole discourse should be written up and sold. It made me think of how shoddy my prayers really are and how much I am not taking advantage of being able to communicate with my Father in Heaven. As his daughter, I know that I am entitled to things that he is eager to grant me if I would but ask.

I am so, so glad that I was able to attend today's meetings, which continued at ward prayer, and hopefully the changes that I want to make will be effective in coming closer to God.

2 comments:

  1. Great thoughts about prayer. I think many of us find ourselves in the prayer rut and forget it is supposed to be a two-sided conversation. I really enjoyed what he or you said in the first listen section about listening with our hearts is still part of the conversation and thus prayer.

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  2. What a lovely discourse on prayer, Miss Shells. I truly loved this and it is definitely something I need to think about and improve upon. That whole act of listening for answers is probably a lot easier when you ask specific questions. I know that when I am very specific with the Lord, I find my prayers to be readily answered.

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