The ability to communicate directly with God in prayer is one of the greatest blessings a believer possesses, and yet it’s the one thing many don’t access very often (myself included). When I take the time to think about why my prayer life isn’t what I’d like to be I have to admit that it has a lot to do with laziness, and pretty much just letting the business of life take over my time. Also it has to do with feeling my prayers are weak, and not knowing what I should say, or how I should say it. Anyone else ever feel that way?
When I think about it I wonder if some of my confusion and reluctance to pray is the residual effects my time in the Mormon Church. As a Mormon was taught the primetimes to pray were in the morning, and in the evening before I went to sleep. I was taught there were rules, and methods to prayer that went something like this: first address God, then thank Him, ask for what you need, and always close with “in the name of Jesus Christ”, all the while using the language of the KJV in my prayers.
It was firmly stressed that I was to also make sure I was praying with sincerity, and with “real intent”. Which looking back now sounds kind of odd because who would chose to pray without those things? What would their motivation to pray be if they didn’t already sincerely desire to hear from God?
These rules/methods to prayer were first etched in my brain the moment I made the choice to investigate the church. I was told that I had to pray with real intentto know if Joseph Smith was a prophet, if the Church was true, and if the Book of Mormon was the word of God. If I received any answer contrary to what was expected I would be told I didn’t really want to know the truth, or didn’t pray with “real intent”.
Thankfully the one true God doesn’t play those kind of mind games with us, we don’t have to abide by a method or language pattern for Him to hear our prayers and answer them. He just wants us to communicate with him.
Obviously there are wrong ways to pray, and things we shouldn’t pray for, in James 4:3 it reads:
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
Then in Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells the parable of the prideful Pharisee thanking God that he wasn’t like the tax collector who (unbeknownst to the Pharisee) was praying for mercy, and acknowledging that he was a sinner.
So, for someone who is a new believer and isn’t sure how to pray is there a method or pattern to prayer? I think one of the best examples of how we should pray is the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6: 9-13:
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen”
Even if you feel your prayers are inadequate like I do sometimes, if we include praises to Him, acknowledgement of who He is, and confession of sin and thankfulness for all He’s given us in our daily prayers, we can’t go wrong. And remember He knows your needs before you ask (Matthew 6:-8), you don’t have to be as eloquent in your speech as others might be, or worry that you didn’t use the right words to express what’s on your heart to say.
What is important is that we take the time to pray, and have some alone time with our Father in heaven.