Prayer in Mormonism
God, our Heavenly Father, loves us and He wants what is best for us. Because we have forgotten what it was like to live with Him before we came to earth to gain bodies and experience, we sometimes feel lonely or out of touch with things divine. We yearn to have contact with the Lord to feel deeper meaning in life, as well as greater guidance and comfort. Mormons understand the vast importance of prayer to answer these needs.
Mormons believe that prayer is the way we can communicate personally with our Heavenly Father. In very few instances do Mormons offer prayers with precise or specified wording. (One example of this is the prayers that are uttered in the blessing of the sacrament—or sanctified bread and water which symbolize the body and blood of Christ.) Usually, Mormons say more spontaneous prayers, consisting of earnest expressions of gratitude and need that are put into words on the spot. Avoiding the vain repetition of prayers learned by rote, members of the Mormon Church merely follow a simple pattern to guide them through a prayer. They start by addressing God with words such as, “Our dear Heavenly Father.” Then, with humility and reverence they thank the Lord for various specific blessings, whether they be food about to be eaten, returning health after an illness, the opportunity to gather in a church meeting and learn more of Christ, the finding of employment, the birth of a child, peace and happiness felt with one’s family, and others. “Count your blessings” is practically a motto of Mormonism, and Mormons know that it is inappropriate to only ask the Lord for things without taking time to recognize and express gratitude for the truly countless ways in which the Lord has already blessed us. Thus, “We thank Thee for . . .” usually takes priority in a prayer.
Expressions of gratitude are generally followed by special and specific requests. Mormons ask for help and blessings in their family life, in school and work, in fulfilling special roles or callings in church, and overall in continually doing good and being spiritually and physically protected by the Lord. They seek for divine guidance in making important decisions, in rearing children, and in keeping the commandments. They understand that the Lord’s will takes precedence in the fulfillment of prayerful requests, so if, for example, a person prays that a family member will be healed of an injury, he still leaves it up to God, who can most wisely decide if and when the healing should occur. Mormons often add to a request words like, “. . . if it be according to Thy will.”
Mormons are taught to always pray in the name of the Savior. He stands as our Advocate, our Mediator, and it is by His grace that we can receive blessings of the Father and be cleansed to return some day to His holy presence. So it is that prayers are concluded with a phrase like, “We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Mormons offer personal prayers to the Lord both morning and evening, and whenever else they might feel a need or desire to do so. These individual prayers are best offered in the privacy of one’s room, in a kneeling position with head bowed, eyes closed, and arms folded or hands reverently clasped. Besides praying in this manner, Mormons are taught to continually keep a prayer in their hearts, thinking of the Lord’s goodness and actively seeking for His influence and guidance in all activities at work, school, and play. In this state of mind people can be better prepared to make good choices when they come up: being kind instead of rude; setting a good example as a follower of Jesus; being honest and virtuous and thoughtful; obeying inspiration from the Holy Ghost instead of yielding to temptations from Satan.
Family prayer, morning and night as well as at mealtime, is also strongly encouraged in the Mormon Church. Family members need strength, unity, and strong affection for one another in order to rely on each other for spiritual and physical support. Prayer is a wonderful means by which family relationships can be improved, enhanced, and maintained. One family member offers the prayer, and the others voice their agreement and commitment to the words of the prayer by saying, “Amen,” at the end. They all feel reverence for Deity, and their love for Him and for each other grows.
Prayers are offered in various meetings of the Mormon Church, and members can again feel closer to each other and to the Lord, and they can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost better, who testifies of Christ’s gospel through subtle feelings of the heart. Public prayers are not an occasion to preach a sermon or to display one’s verbal skills. Rather, prayers should be maintained as a reasonably concise form of worship and supplication.
Praying is the way by which people can receive revelation through the Holy Ghost. A person generally can receive revelation that comes as aid for himself, or for those over whom he has a degree of responsibility, such as a parent for his children, or a bishop for his ward (local congregation). God works in this pattern so as to help His children avoid the confusion of some misguided individual suddenly saying that he has received revelation pertaining to church leaders that are actually above him in the hierarchical order. The principle of stewardship is critical to the proper functioning of Christ’s Church.
The act of prayer is truly a wonderful privilege and resource. We gain insights into the nature of God and our relationship to Him in His great plan of happiness. When we neglect this gift of communion with God, we risk losing great and joyful blessings. The Book of Mormon declares: “For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray” (2 Nephi 32:8).