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Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 13: Formal and Informal Prayer

Negate the Naysayers

In my previous post, we detailed several humble, unassuming Christians who were blessed to walk and talk with God. This should come as no surprise to us, for we know that there have been several in history who enjoyed this profound blessing, and that "God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34), which means that what He offers to one He offers to all.

Yet there are some, even within our own faith, who denounce, condemn and mock these facts. They say that they “worry when someone is speaking to Him [God] in too familiar a way.” They say that “Heavenly Father's words, His ideas, are not exactly ours. And so the idea of having really a conversation where you're chatting with Heavenly Father is probably a little bit of a lofty goal.” They themselves describe their interactions with God as “not in what you'd call a conversational mode.” They say that in prayer, “the way you do that is different than if you just say, ‘I'd like a chat. I want a conversation.’"

These negative concepts do nothing to close and shorten the distance between you and God. They only increase and exacerbate it. 

Could you EVER imagine the Savior saying, “Sorry, Father and I are so far above you in terms of our powers that, well, we’re kind of lofty, so having a conversation with us is pretty tough.” He didn’t say, “Don’t expect a conversation with us.”

Absolutely, positively not! He said, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.” (D&C 88:63) There are no limits imposed on this command.

These distancing comments also fly in the face of facts delivered by the one mortal who knows more than anybody else about interacting with God -- Joseph Smith:

"It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us;" (Teachings, p. 345–46, "King Follett Sermon", April 7, 1844; History of the Church, 6:305; as quoted in the church's "Doctrines of the Gospel" student manual).

(Speaking about praying to our Father in Heaven), "Be plain and simple and ask for what you want, just like you would go to a neighbor and say, I want to borrow your horse to go to mill." (Joseph Smith, "Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith," Juvenile Instructor, Mar. 1, 1892, p. 151-52).

Others have said (in official church publications):

"Individuals should converse with Heavenly Father in the same direct, trusting, and sincere manner that they converse with friends and family members." (Donald W. Parry, "After This Manner … Pray Ye", Ensign, January 1996)

(Re: the formalities of prayer -- Please read that BYU Religious Studies article mentioned above. It's interesting. You'll learn that such formalities (“thee/thine/thou”) were originally INformal language when the KJV of the Bible was written).

Now, in none of these statements are we told to be irreverent or presumptuous in our relationship with Deity. God’s friendship and love for us should never be taken for granted. But neither should we increase our distance from Him.

And how do we grow closer to God?

You seek God’s will, receive it and do it without any delay. Repeat.

"That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day." (D&C 50:24; emphasis mine because I like those last three words) 

Because all worthy endeavors begin and end with prayer, I believe there are two things you can do, which combined, thin the veil and your proximity to God:

Personal Formal Prayers

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul said, “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). 

There it is! God’s Will point #1: “Pray without ceasing”! “Give thanks”! I’m very confident that during His mortal ministry, the Lord did the same. There were also times when He broke away from His disciples and engaged in a deeper, more intimate form of prayer. 

Except for the “Lord’s Prayer,” we have no idea what Yeshua said and did in His personal prayers. Yet, we have some scripturally-based precedents:
  • It was likely at least three times a day: In Alma 34:21, Amulek advises us to “Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.” The prophet Joseph Smith added, "You must make yourselves acquainted with those men who like Daniel pray three times a day toward the House of the Lord" (TPJS, p. 161). This may be a reference to Daniel 6:10
"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God." 

There is evidence that Joseph Smith and his family practiced this teaching. Eliza R. Snow recorded that "three times a day he had family worship; and these precious seasons of sacred household service truly seemed a foretaste of celestial happiness" (Jayann Morgan Payne, "Eliza R. Snow, First Lady of the Pioneers." Ensign, September 1973, p. 62-67). 
  • He first knelt... 
    • "And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed" (Luke 22:41)
    • "And it came to pass that when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel.
    • And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him." (3 Nephi 17:14-15)
  • ...and then may have assumed a posture of deep humility: 
  • ...and in so doing, in this state of humility, He came boldly unto the throne of grace. 
    • “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
  • ...addressed God...
    • "Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle." (Psalms 28:2)
    • "Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray." (Psalms 5:2)
    • "Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth." (Psalms 54:2)
    • "But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer." (Psalms 66:19)
    • "Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications." (Psalms 86:6)
    • See my November 26, 2015 post, “Alignment, Part 4 of 6: Dialogue with God” (especially the “Address God” section).
  • ...and then likely discussed how things were going...: 
  • ...and reasoned together:
    • “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18)
    • “And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand;” (D&C 50:10)
Imagine what these fruits would bring about in your life if you did this three times a day...every day!

Personal Informal Prayers

As was also mentioned in the previous post, some people have found it beneficial to not end their formal prayers, but to keep the lines of communication open with a different member of the Godhead -- Yeshua --  throughout the day. In these cases, they engaged in a less-formal, yet very real, ongoing dialogue with Yeshua.

“Look unto me in every thought” (D&C 6:36)

"Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you." (Alma 34:27; emphasis mine)

Prayer unto who continually? The Lord!

With 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, we see that Paul is saying that there's simply never a time, there's never a circumstance, there's never an aspect of your life, that you should not be in conversation with the Lord. It means that there's not an area of your life, there's not a time or a season or a period, where you're not regularly repeatedly turning and bringing your needs to the Lord in prayer.

This is probably why Yeshua counseled the twelve disciples and the multitude to "pray always" (3 Nephi 18:15, 18). The multitude was told that "they should not cease to pray in their hearts" (3 Nephi 20:1).

So it is today, that we see that "Prayer is often a brief communication, but it can also be an open and continuous dialogue all throughout the day and night (see Alma 34:27)." (Elder Kevin W. Pearson, "Improving Your Personal Prayers", Brigham Young University–Hawaii devotional, May 17, 2011; emphasis mine)

Re: this form of "Constant Contact" -- we are instructed, 

"There are certain characters that walked with God, saw him, conversed about heaven &c. God is not a respecter of persons, we all have the same privilege. Come to God weary him until he blesses you &c-we are entitled to the same blessings, Jesus, revelations, Just Men &-Angels &c. &c. not Laying again the doctrine of Christ go on unto perfection. Obtain that holy Spirit of promise-Then you can be sealed to Eternal Life." (Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839–C, as Reported by Willard Richards;; emphasis mine)

"Only with that faith will we pray with the diligence God requires. When God has commanded us to pray, He has used words like “pray unceasingly” and “pray always” and “mighty prayer.”" (Elder Henry B Eyring, “Prayer”, October 2001 General Conference)

"when we are not actually engaged in the formal act of prayer, we should always have a prayer in our heart, wherever we are or whatever we are doing." (Elder Francis M. Gibbons, “The Dual Aspects of Prayer”, October 1991 General Conference

Now that you know these things...

...congrats! You may be judged with the information you’ve now received.

I invite you to disregard any statements which increase the distance between you and God. Always remember that God wishes to converse with you as one man converses with another. 

I also invite you to do what Yeshua, and his prophets both ancient and modern have advised us to do: Stay in touch with Him continually, throughout the day. True, there may be times when you’re at work, and you can’t focus on a dialogue with God. There may be times that you’re working on homework with kids, and you’re more focused on algebra than the Almighty. That’s perfectly fine; just get back with Him when you can.

As you do these things, as you tighten your relationship with Father and Yeshua, you’ll hear Father’s words to you, and you’ll heed them. You’ll hear Yeshua’s words to you, and you’ll heed those, too. You’ll find them drawing closer to you, because your heart (intentions) and hands (actions) are in sync with them. 

And as a result, you’ll experience the same fruits as the prophets of old did in which they parted the veil, conversed with angels and saw God. 

“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

Those aren’t idle words. They’re real. They’re literal. As you cultivate these conversations, these connections, both Father and Yeshua will literally -- LITERALLY -- take up their abode with you, in your home.

Ready for the next post in this series?

1 comment:

  1. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Isa. 29:13