Relief Society Lesson 5: Prayer, the Passport to Spiritual Power

I really have no set method for teaching RS lessons, so I thought for the purpose of this blog post, I’d share a number of my favorite quotes from the manual and post some questions and reflections. I’ve organized my thoughts according to the sections in the lesson manual (though there is one section I skipped). All the materials in quotations are from the lesson manual. Anything not in quotes is my own thoughts. I didn’t include additional outside quotes or scriptures because I didn’t have time, but feel free to share any favorite quotes or scriptures on the topic of prayer. And sorry I didn’t include page numbers—I used the on-line version of the lesson. –Seraphine from Zelophehad’s Daughters

We are required to pray, just as we are required to keep any other commandment.

The first section talks about how prayer is a commandment. One of the quotes from President Kimball is: “Prayer is not an optional activity; it is basic to our religion.”

Question: Why is prayer required? Why are we commanded to pray? Why is prayer “basic to our religion”?

In this section, I liked the phrase at the end of the last quote, “Prayer is the passport to spiritual power.”

Question: In what ways can prayer be a “passport to spiritual power”? Have you had experiences in your own life where prayer has functioned in this way?

Our prayers should include expressions of gratitude and humble pleading for Heavenly Father to bless us and those around us.

The second section of the lesson lists a whole bunch of things we should pray for. Feel free to look over this part of the lesson and discuss any of the things that Kimball lists. I wanted to highlight a couple of my favorite quotes:

“We pray for wisdom, for judgment, for understanding. We pray for protection in dangerous places, for strength in moments of temptation. We remember loved ones and friends. We utter momentary prayers in word or thought, aloud or in deepest silence. We always have a prayer in our hearts that we may do well in the activities of our day. Can one do evil when honest prayers are in his heart and on his lips?”

Reflection/question: I love the idea that by remembering to “have a prayer in our hearts,” it will increase our desires and our ability to live righteously. I think it’s true that if we truly manage to put ourselves into a reverent, humble state of mind (which is the state of mind I strive for when praying, though it’s often hard to get there), it also puts us in a state of mind where we are least likely to commit disobedient, rebellious acts Have you noticed this kind of phenomenon in your own life?

“It is such a privilege and joy to pray to our Father in Heaven, such a blessing for us. But our experience is not finished after our prayer is completed. Amulek correctly taught: “And now behold, my beloved brethren, … after ye have [prayed], if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.” (Alma 34:28.) We must never forget that we are to live the gospel as honestly and earnestly as we pray.”

Reflection/question: I like how President Kimball has linked prayer to action. How can we better link our prayers to righteous and service-oriented actions?

In our private, personal prayers, we can commune with God and learn His will.

I really liked the quotes in this section that emphasized honest, authentic prayer. There have been periods of my life where I have been really angry at God, and so my options were 1) not to pray, 2) pray and pretend I was grateful and humble when I really wasn’t, or 3) pray and express my frustration and anger to God. I’ve realized that while God certainly prefers humility to anger, He’d much rather have me expressing my anger to Him and trying to work through it in the context of our relationship than offer insincere prayers that have nothing to do with what I am truly feeling (or just stop praying altogether).

“Some things are best prayed about in private, where time and confidentiality are not considerations. Prayer in solitude is rich and profitable. Praying alone helps us to shed shame or pretense, any lingering deceit; it helps us open our hearts and be totally honest and honorable in expressing all of our hopes and attitudes.”

“In our prayers, there must be no glossing over, no hypocrisy, since there can here be no deception. The Lord knows our true condition. Do we tell the Lord how good we are, or how weak? We stand naked before him. Do we offer our supplications in modesty, sincerity, and with a “broken heart and a contrite spirit,” or like the Pharisee who prided himself on how well he adhered to the law of Moses? [See Ether 4:15; Luke 18:11–12.] Do we offer a few trite words and worn-out phrases, or do we talk intimately to the Lord for as long as the occasion requires? Do we pray occasionally when we should be praying regularly, often, constantly?”

Question: How can we make our prayers more authentic and honest? What are the benefits of having prayers that are authentic and heart-felt?

“Prayer is such a privilege—not only to speak to our Father in Heaven, but also to receive love and inspiration from him. At the end of our prayers, we need to do some intense listening—even for several minutes. We have prayed for counsel and help. Now we must “be still, and know that [he is] God.” (Ps. 46:10.)”

Reflection/question: I like how this quote emphasizes that prayer is two-way communication—part of prayer is listening for God’s answers. How can we increase the two-way communicatory nature of prayer? What does it mean (for you) to “listen” for answers to prayers? How can we increase our ability to listen and understand God’s answers?

We should make time every day for family prayer.

Okay, so I’m single and have been living on my own for over 10 years now, so I don’t do the family prayer thing pretty regularly (which means I don’t have much recent experience with family prayer). But I was intrigued by the following quote:

“In the family prayer there is even more than the supplication and prayer of gratitude. It is a forward step toward family unity and family solidarity. It builds family consciousness and establishes a spirit of family interdependence. Here is a moment of the rushed day with blatant radios hushed, lights low, and all minds and hearts turned to each other and to the infinite; a moment when the world is shut out and heaven enclosed within.”

Reflection/question: When I think back to the family prayers I had growing up, I didn’t necessarily dislike them, but I was always impatient for them to end, and I certainly didn’t feel like family prayers built family unity (that happened more through game-playing and music-making). So, how can we tap into the power of prayer during family prayers? How we turn the reality that is often family prayer (a time when kids have a hard time kneeling still and just want to go off and do their thing) to something that builds family unity and “a spirit of family interdependence”?

Because Heavenly Father knows and loves us perfectly, we can trust His answers to our prayers.

“Learning the language of prayer is a joyous, lifetime experience. Sometimes ideas flood our mind as we listen after our prayers. Sometimes feelings press upon us. A spirit of
calmness assures us that all will be well. But always, if we have been honest and earnest, we will experience a good feeling—a feeling of warmth for our Father in Heaven and a sense of his love for us. It has sorrowed me that some of us have not learned the meaning of that calm, spiritual warmth, for it is a witness to us that our prayers have been heard. And since our Father in Heaven loves us with more love than we have even for ourselves, it means that we can trust in his goodness, we can trust in him; it means that if we continue praying and living as we should, our Father’s hand will guide and bless us.”

Question: How can we use prayer to further our trust in God?

“We should pray in faith, but with awareness that when the Lord answers it may not be with the answer we expect or desire. Our faith must be that God’s choice for us is right.”

Reflection/question: Even though it is often discussed, I think a really important topic to touch on when discussing prayer is how to negotiate getting answers that are a disappointment to us. How do we deal with disappointment when we do not get the answers we desire? How do we learn to trust the answers we are given by God?

Deborah

Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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  1. Eve says:

    Seraphine, sorry I’m so late in responding to this.

    I’m intrigued by many of your questions. I particularly like your observations on anger and frustration with God. It’s taken me a long time to learn to be angry at God well, if that makes sense, to approach him with my anger in the faith and trust that he can help me work through it, rather than, as you said, pretending I’m not angry or just avoiding him altogether.

    I’ve always heard that after our prayers we should pause and listen for a response. Somehow prayer has never worked that way for me. I do the listening in the course of the prayer itself–I pray about something, and as I pray, I find myself responding to what I feel God is telling me about that issue–or as I begin to pray, I feel strongly that I ought to pray about a particular issue and feel a sense of inspiration about what to pray for.

    I feel as if the two-way communication of prayer is part of the vocalized prayer itself, if that makes sense. Sometimes I even pause in the middle of praying to listen or consider before I go on. But I feel that if I just pray for everything at once, and then do all my listening at once, at the end, that limits the possibilities for dialogue. It feels more artificial that way, less like an authentic conversation.

  2. Seraphine says:

    Eve, thanks for your comments.

    The whole God-anger thing is something I’m still trying to sort out. I know that God wants me to be honest and emotionally open in our relationship, but I still have a tendency to avoid God when I’m angry at him (I usually don’t pretend I’m not angry anymore, though–I think I do so much emotional pretending elsewhere that it just becomes too exhausting to do it with God too). I’m still trying to do a better job of taking my anger to God so that I can work through it in healthy, productive ways.

    That’s interesting that the listening is actually built into your prayers. For me I think it varies. I do listen while I’m in the process of praying, but I also do the pause-after-you-pray-and-listen-for-a-response thing. Still, my answers (if I get any) often come later, when I’m reflecting on an issue while driving in the car, for example. Which means I do have a lot of prayers that feel like one-way conversations.

    I do like the model that you suggest, though, of listening while you pray so that it does feel more like an authentic, two-way conversations.

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