Saturday, January 7, 2012

Prayer - There is someone listening

Prayer means very different things to different people. I hadn’t given that concept much thought before today.  I mean, prayer is prayer, right? To me, it is many things, including but not limited to:
1.       A way to communicate with God, my Heavenly Father, about whatever
2.       A way to build a relationship with my Heavenly Father
3.       A source of comfort (from my Heavenly Father), which I can access whenever I need it
4.       A means of expressing gratitude, needs, desires or aspirations
5.       A starting (and ending) point for inspiration and understanding, questions and answers

Today, while on the way to a date with Gillian (or already on it, I guess), we were listening to the CBC Radio program, Definitely Not The Opera (D.N.T.O.). Today, their subject was the “Power of Prayer”.  They featured a number of interviews and perspectives with different individuals, including celebrities, authors, random people on the street, as well as the main program host. It prompted some intense thinking and a lively discussion.

As each interviews unfolded, the people explained their views on what prayer was and what it did or didn’t do for them or what it had or hadn’t done. They related experiences where they (or someone near them) had prayed for them or someone else. Then they explained (or perhaps they rationalized) the outcome. It was frustrating to listen to people come so close to grasping the true power of prayer and its purpose, only to hear them explain away what happened, cast aside the experience or make light of the relationship and the source of the power.

On the program, most of the people made a first or second step towards what I would consider to be a grasp of what prayer is, or at least what it can be. Here is what I heard and what I think about the principle of prayer that they took missed. It isn’t exhaustive, but it is a start.

1.       Where is prayer directed? People didn’t make the connection with the end point or who receives prayer. Most did not acknowledge that it was directed at God. Some of them sort of figured that prayer was simply focused thought(s).
  • Prayer is communication with a loving Heavenly Father. It isn’t (or shouldn’t be) empty words. There is someone listening. By ignoring or dismissing that there is someone on the other end, we undermine the ability of our Heavenly Father participate in our lives and blind ourselves to the blessings and miracles that occur.

2.      A Prayerful Heart? People made a big deal about saying prayer in unusual places or seemed to think that prayer could only be done at certain times and places.
  • We need to grasp the concept of “a prayerful heart” and that we can pray always. I have always felt that I can offer a simple, silent prayer as it is needed, whether before a test, a random or routine job task or to express my gratitude for the help that I have had from my Heavenly Father. I have also prayed at more regular occasions. Prayer is personal and doesn’t have to be a public show, but should be used often.

3.       Is Prayer a Recipe? I think that people get hung up on the words or think that prayer is a recipe that will only turn out right if you do it just so. People seem to think that prayer is something that is laid out for you to recite and then it is done. Some of the interviewees thought that prayer was some sort of repetitive expression.
  • Prayer is, in basic terms, communication or a conversation with our Heavenly Father. As such, while there is a basic format, we have the opportunity to speak freely, expressing our gratitude and thankfulness, as well as asking for help, answers to questions, etc. I feel that prayer is personal and should be used to communicate and draw closer to God; something that I think is restricted or inhibited when we use rote prayers. When I pray, I express myself and there is the ability to create a dialogue back and forth, with inspiration the result.

4.       The Purposes and Potential for Prayer? People missed the many potential purposes of prayer and the blessings that it can bring to their lives. On the program, people recounted that they hadn’t prayed in 20+ years or seemed to make light of what had happened and didn’t continue.
  • Prayer can be for help, comfort, questions, to express gratitude or to build a relationship with our Heavenly Father. People didn’t recognize that prayer is powerful. I have been greatly blessed by prayer, but through my own application of it and through the support of others.

5.       Prayer + Faith + Action? People didn’t link prayer, faith and action. It is an empty process for them.
  • Prayer is a process and an active tool, at least to me. We need to have faith that what we ask for can be given and we need to have faith that it will be given in an appropriate way. Some people acknowledged that prayer did change their perspective but they undermined it and attributed the results to themselves or something else.

6.       Results from Prayer? People didn’t acknowledge the feelings or positive impact that they experienced during and after prayer. Some felt more at peace. Some felt better. Some recognized the importance of regular prayer, but didn’t make the connection with the act and the results.
  • Prayer brings tangible results, in the form of feelings, impressions and sometimes very powerful answers and impacts. Prayer draws us closer to God and will be an influence for good in our lives.

I have great faith in prayer. This has come as a result of years of experience, as well as many experiences. I was taught about prayer from an early age, about the application(s) and the power of prayer. I saw the powerful example of my parents. I was encouraged to make prayer a tangible and practical spiritual tool, rather than some sort of inflexible or prescribed recipe or recital. I learned and I experienced how prayer can and should be linked with the actions in our lives. I learned that you can go to your Heavenly Father at any time, about anything. He is there and he will not only listen, but will provide answers to prayers. As life has continued, I’ve continued to pray. I’ve seen the positive influence in my life and the life of my family. I try to teach (and show) the potential power that prayer can have in the lives of my children and family.

Prayer is a powerful gift and a wonderful opportunity for us to use. I am so grateful for my understanding of prayer and that I have been fortunate enough to receive answers to my prayers. I know that when I pray, someone is actively listening and things will happen as a result.


  1. Interesting perspectives on prayer. One of the barriers to prayer for some people might be the fact that to really pray "well", you have to humble yourself. That act of saying "I am not nearly as important as thou art and I need to have some help with xyz problem" is very challenging, especially in our self-aggrandizing world. I like your views.

  2. Thanks for these thought, Rob. That is what my Priest Quorum lesson was on Sunday.