Personal Prayer


There are few periods of my life where I have consistently prayed in the LDS model: kneeling at the side of my bed and addressing God with the recommended salutation, voicing supplication, and closing in the name of the Savior. First of all, I rarely kneel (it’s rather uncomfortable given some chronic inflammation in my left knee), and even though I might begin a prayer with the prototypical “Dear Heavenly Father,…” my personal prayers generally diverge at that point, becoming a stream-of-consciousness review of all that is preoccupying my mind.

In discussing prayer with friends this week, many said that they felt frustrated with the recommended morning, night and evening prayers, as they felt like the “vain repetitions” that we are warned about in the New Testament. Others spoke of the unexpected divine epiphanies that have come only rarely, and not necessarily when head is bowed. One friend said that for her prayer is usually about communion with God and not about receiving answers to specific requests. Yet another friend expressed frustration about praying with her husband because he was uncomfortable with her addressing both Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father.

As I listened to everyone’s experiences with prayer, I marveled at the variety of stories that were shared. I thought about my life and how significant prayer has been in many of my decisions. I reflected on prayers that have brought comfort during times when I thought I would be crushed under the weight of disappointment and sorrow. And I smiled as I reflected on my current practice of meditative prayer—at the warm satisfaction I feel when sitting in silence and connecting to the Divine.

So I thought I would bring the topic of prayer to you, asking you to share insights about your personal practice of prayer. How often do you pray? Do you kneel at your bedside? How do you overcome the feeling that prayer is a ‘vain repetition’? And how does a regular practice of prayer affect your daily life?

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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  1. Seraphine says:

    I usually don’t do the “typical” prayer thing (kneeling at one’s bed in the morning and at night), though I do it on occasion (see below). I do a whole lot of my praying when I’m driving in the car, or walking to campus (i.e. when my body is occupied but my mind is not). It’s typically me just having a conversation with God, telling Him what’s happening that day, thanking Him for my blessings, etc. I see this as my way of “praying always”–as my day continues, I try not to go too long without checking in with God.

    The other way that I pray is more typical. It typically happens when I am seeking an answer from God to a specific concern. For these prayers, I usually kneel, and they are usually accompanied by scripture study, lots of pondering, going to the temple, etc.

    I notice that when I don’t do much of either kind of praying (or am only doing one but not the other), it affects me. I am more tense, and I feel a lot more distant from God and His spirit.

  2. Caroline says:

    I don’t formally pray much these days, though I do have some running conversations with God in my mind.

    I’m envious of all you that have prayed and felt comforted. I’ve prayed for most of my 29 years and I don’t think I’ve ever felt a thing. Makes me think I’m a spiritual reject at times.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It has taken me years, decades perhaps, to figure out how prayer works for me. Very, very rarely have I received answers while praying. I think I can only really think of a handful of times that has happened. Answers to prayer usually unfold for me as I go about trying to live my life as best as I can. Sometimes that has been frustrating because I’ve not had “typical” kneel-and-pray-and-get-an-answer (or even kneel and feel) experiences. I don’t know why that is, but I know that keeping connected with heaven is essential to my life.

    Now that I think about it, a good majority of my answers have come while pondering and meditating, esp. on scripture sand prophetic words.

    I have had many experiences with know that God hears my prayers that “cannot be uttered.” I just have to be on the alert to see how those prayers (and more formal ones) are answered. Maybe it helps keep me more watchful for His hand because sometimes it’s not an obvious cause-and-effect thing. Caroline, if it helps, sometimes I have felt like a spiritual reject, too, because this has all felt a bit atypical. But I think that the process really ends up being just so personal that there isn’t “one right way” it all works.

  4. Tatiana says:

    I pray a lot while in my car on the way back and forth to work, in the mornings when I wake, while still lying in bed, while soaking in the bathtub, or at night when I’m waiting for sleep. Mostly my prayers are not the standard formula. They begin that way sometimes, but depart into free-running thoughts and connection with god. Lately I’ve tried to bring the sacred more into my daily life.

    One thing I do is dance to good music, and feel grateful for a body, for movement, for being alive, and thankful for how beautiful is each moment of living, and the universe and everything in it. I try to do this once a day, but I don’t always manage.

    Another thing I’ve begun lately is offering my food to god, thinking of him and thanking him for all my many blessings, and for my food each day. I do this for a few minutes before eating, then I try to remember that I’m eating god’s leftovers, and feel the holiness of that.

    Yet another thing I used to do was to treat every shower or bath as a little baptism, and feel renewed spiritually by the water, and the immersion, though it doesn’t have to be total immersion, of course.

    I just try various things, like meditation (which is also a great way to connect for me), and various rituals that I invent or borrow and adapt from other religions. I do what seems to feel right at the moment, and follow the spirit. I try to make it new and real, so it’s always fresh.

    I’m trying to remember my divine nature, and connect with god as often as I can during the day, so that I hopefully climb and approach a higher state constantly. It’s like athletic training, sort of, only for the spirit. I realize it’s pretty heterodox, though, and I don’t tell many people about it. I’m sufficiently anonymous here that I don’t worry about you guys deciding I need to be confined for my own good or anything. =)

    I am sort of a sufi Mormon, I guess, if that makes any sense, which it probably doesn’t. =)

    Spiritual experiences come at random times for me, occasionally while praying or dancing, or reading scriptures but more often just at random times not correlated with any particular activity. However, I do notice that the more I pray and try to connect with god, the more often those experiences do come. So I know that I have to ask before I can receive, and I try to ask often, and listen even more.

  5. Deborah says:

    Love your comment, Tatiana. Thanks. Dancing, leftovers, and cleansing showers . . . I could add more sacred moments to my life when you put it like that.

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