Note to the Readers: This post contains a simplified explanation of very personal insights on prayer. They are honest insights I have learned regarding sensitive and spiritual matters. I treasure these and hold them very close to my heart. They are shared here with humility and gratitude. As you read this post, I hope you will do so with the same spirit it was written and shared.
I want to share some thoughts and insights about “prayer, how to pray, and how to receiving answers to prayers.” These thoughts are very personal. But first, let me begin by affirming: I know God our Heavenly Father is alive and well! He truly is our loving and Eternal Heavenly Father. He loves each of us …all of us; and, He has a Divine Plan to redeem us all from our current “Fallen” state. He knows who we are; He knows our names; He knows our struggles; and, He knows what we need. I know God loves us and has asked us to pray to Him. And, I know He answers our sincere prayers. He wants to answers our prayers! He is always open to receiving and answering our meaningful and sincere prayers.
Meaningful and sincere prayer is not usually a “one-off” prayer uttered randomly or in a moment of crisis. Instead, it comes over time through regular and humble supplication to God the Father. I know that when we faithfully and sincerely ask Him, He will answer. Often, under the right spiritual circumstances, our sincere prayers may be answered in our hearts and minds …as we pray! However, more often, they are answered later, but always …in the Lord’s time! We will probably not hear a voice. Most likely, it will be a warm feeling of confidence or reassurance from the Holy Spirit as we move forward in faith. And, sometimes, the answer may be a kind but simple sense or message of “No.” Regardless, our Heavenly Father will answer our meaningful and sincere prayers.
I want to illustrate this point by reflecting on an experience in the life of my family. In April 1984, my dear wife, Jenny, passed away suddenly. That was a very desperate and emotional time for us. Instantly, I became the sole caregiver for our seven children, all between the ages of five months and 13 years; and, we were living far away in Europe. At the same time, these children were left with a somewhat flawed and broken father who loved them more than anyone. In the days that followed Jenny’s death, it was difficult for me to pray. I did not blame God for her death; I had not lost my faith. I just did not understand! “Why would God allow Jenny to die and leave us on our own? It didn’t seem right. We needed her more than He did (it seemed).” Of course, I was wrong! He knows more perfectly what is best, and what we needed. In desperation and remorse, I fell to my knees, and I began to pray more earnestly and sincerely than I had ever prayed before. Through it all, I always knew how important my children were to Him; but I also began to realize and understand more deeply that God knows who I am …who we are. And, I sincerely felt more than ever before that God trusted me with the care of my children, His children. I felt that if He knew and trusted me as He did, then all would be well. I could do this! That knowledge strengthened me and made it possible for me to move forward in faith. I haven’t forgotten that lesson. Our Heavenly Father knows who I am, and He trusts me. That was the answer I needed to hear.
I also realized that I was not alone. So, early on and over time, prayer to our Father in Heaven became more and more important and meaningful to me. Today, I look forward to my prayers because I sincerely and honestly know I can speak to Him, and He will hear me. But what do I do to prepare for these visits? That then is what I want to write about in this post.
Before praying, it is important to clear my mind of distraction: try to focus. I try to anticipate my visits and ponder in advance about what I will say. When possible, I try to pray at the same time of the day, in a pre-selected quiet place in my home. I begin by spending a little time standing with my head down and my arms along my sides. I try to think about what I’m about to do and to whom I’m about to speak (to pray to). Then, I try in my mind and in my spirit to reverently invite the influence of the Holy Spirit around me. At the same time, I try to be aware of my physical senses. Frequently and often, I feel the influence of the Holy Spirit before I begin to pray. The influence comes as an emotional tingling about my body: and often in my head, neck, shoulders, and back.
When I feel ready, I try to imagine in my mind the Father looking down on me. I ponder and try to visualize Him in my mind. I try to imagine being in His presence …standing in His presence! Then, I kneel as if before Him and begin to pray vocally. My prayers are spoken reverently and softly, but they are vocal. I try to pray with sincerity, reverence, and gratitude. During my prayers (and throughout the each day), I strive to keep my mind open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the “still small voice.”
When I pray, what do I say? Expressing gratitude for our Heavenly Father’s divine love is essential. Also, I ask sincerely for forgiveness. I know I have weaknesses that limit my growth. So, often my prayerful desire is to know what I lack or what I’m missing; what more I should know; and, what I should do? I try to talk to the Father about these things. Also, I pray for the welfare of my family and others, sometimes explicitly, other times more generally. Often, I feel enlightened by the Holy Spirit concerning what to say. At all times, and regardless of what is said, I try to maintain a respectful, humble and sincere attitude of gratitude!
After each prayer, I like to pause while still on my knees and briefly continue to contemplate and meditate quietly about each prayerful event. I try to open my mind and senses, and listen for the influence of the Holy Spirit. These are often the moments that lift me more spiritually above my natural condition. Then, going forward each day and night, I try to remember my prayerful experiences, keep my heart and mind open for spiritual promptings, and always strive to behave as a true Disciple of Jesus Christ.
I know I still have much to do to draw closer to the Lord; but each day, at the end of meaningful prayers, I always have a greater sense of hope. And, I have a greater feeling of love and a desire to be of greater service. I love personal prayers and these opportunities to open up and sincerely speak with Heavenly Father. And, I am so grateful for the positive and sweet influence of the Holy Spirit.
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:45-46)
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