I’m teaching the Priesthood lesson today. You may have had this lesson already; we may be a week behind you. Before I get into the lesson, I thought it might it might be nice to get some quotes on prayer.
“There are two kinds of people: those that say to God ‘Thy will be done.’ And those to whom God says ‘Ok, have it your way.’ C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.
“Under certain circumstances profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” Mark Twain.
Larry King wrote a book called Powerful Prayers. He tells a joke on page 25.
“A rabbi and an alcoholic bus driver arrive in heaven at the very same moment. The rabbi is shocked when the bus driver is greeted with great accolades and immediately asked to come inside while the rabbi is told to wait outside for a moment. After a while the rabbi is brought inside and he immediately asks God why he had to wait after performing God’s work on earth while the bus driver with the drinking problem was given a hero’s welcome. God says, ‘Rabbi, when you spoke in synagogue everyone went to sleep. When the bus driver was on the job, everyone was praying.’
The Gospel Principles manual divides the lesson into 5 questions. I think we could have a good discussion based on these questions.
What Is Prayer?
While I like this question, I think this lesson is so bland that it deserves a little spice. I’ve been reading a book titled “The Road Less Traveled and Beyond” by M Scott Peck.
“I’ve said before that I am a born contemplative. This means that setting aside time to think—and pray—is as natural to me as brushing my teeth. My routine involves a total of almost two and a half hours a day, in three separate forth-five minute intervals. No more than a tenth of that time is spent talking to God (which is what most people would consider prayer) and another tenth listening to God (a definition of meditation). For the rest of the time, I’m just thinking, sorting out my priorities and weighing options before making decisions. I call it my prayer time because if I simply called it my thinking time, people would view it as less ‘holy’ and feel free to interrupt me. But I’m not being dishonest. In many ways, thinking is akin to prayer.
My favorite definition of prayer—one that doesn’t even mention God—comes from Matthew Fox, who describes prayer as “a radical response to the mysteries of life.” Thus prayer has everything to do with thinking.
Why Do We Pray?
CS Lewis said, “I don’t pray because it changes God; I pray because it changes me.”
Let me quote from Larry King’s book again. He interviewed Tom Robbins on pages 50-51,
“I think a lot of prayer is nothing more than deity panhandling. People ask for God for money, for cars, for girlfriends and boyfriends, and for help in their work. I don’t think that’s the Deity’s function. At least, I don’t know, I find something tacky about that. The only think that I ask God for is protection and safety of my loved ones—and myself.
When Should We Pray?
Larry interviewed Steve Young on pages 169-170,
“I don’t pray to win because that’s not appropriate. I pray for safety and for clarity of mind. There have been many times when I have left the sidelines for the field and I say a quick prayer for clarity of mind.”
How Should We Pray?
J Willard Marriott on page 149,
“I’ve always been taught it’s not necessarily good to pray for the end result. But it’s good to pray for assistance and help in whatever you need to do….I’ve come to believe that fasting is an important part of prayer. It cleanses the body and weakens you to the point where you are more humble and attuned with what you need to say, and it helps you listen.
When I fast and pray, I always say the prayer at the end. It’s more effective in the end that it is in the beginning. I think you are more in tune with the spirit….Prayer is work and the Lord requires a lot of work sometimes.
How Are Prayers Answered?
Steve Young said on page 170,
So many times we learn by unanswered prayers. So many times there are prayers we say—“Gee, if this would just work out once”—but what we need isn’t always what we want, it’s what the Lord knows is best for us. The purpose of mortality is to learn.
On page 163, Larry asks rabbi Irwin Katsof,
So I put the question to the rabbi: If a prayer is answered but we’re not given the tools to decipher it and are not even aware it has been answered because so much mishagoss—Yiddish for “craziness”—has been piled on top of if, then the prayer really hasn’t been answered. Or has it?
Another uncomfortable pause at the other end of the phone. Or maybe the discomfort was on my end? Let’s see, if an uncomfortable pause occurs and there’s nobody there to hear it…
“Larry, if a prayer is answered and your eyes aren’t open, then of course you’re not going to see it or understand it.
Why can’t God speak English? Why all the hoops?
What do you want? You want it delivered every morning like the newspaper? You want room service? You want a Larry Channel on your TV?”
I must admit, I started thinking about the last one and enjoying the idea…..