Is Prayer About God?

jmb275 Mormon 38 Comments

What does prayer mean? What is its purpose in our lives?  Today’s guest post is from jmb275.

For much of my life I really loved the Bible Dictionary definition of prayer. This definition emphasizes our need to communicate with God as His children. More specifically it states:
“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”

I often wonder about the form of prayer. You know how it goes: address Heavenly Father, thank Him for blessings, ask for blessings, close in the name of Jesus Christ. What does this mean?

Recently I read “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan. There is a portion where he pokes at our understanding of prayer. He says:
“Does prayer work at all? Which ones?  There’s a category of prayer in which God is begged to intervene in human history or just to right some real or imagined injustice or natural calamity – for example, when a bishop from the American West prays for God to intervene and end a devastating dry spell. Why is the prayer needed? Didn’t God know of the drought? Was he unaware that it threatened the bishop’s parishioners? What is implied here about the limitations of a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient deity? The bishop asked his followers to pray as well. Is God more likely to intervene when many pray for mercy or justice than when only a few do? – Carl Sagan, “The Demon-Haunted World”, p. 276″

I think Sagan’s point is a good one. Many literalist religious folk are sure that their prayers make the difference and that God blesses them, or others because of their prayerful efforts. At the very least they have confused correlation and causation, not to mention several other logical fallacies. They tend to ignore the times that God doesn’t bless anyone, or at least not in the way we want, and they regular find convenient explanation for God’s actions, or lack of actions. Many of them even stand in disbelief that a skeptic cannot see the hand of God in a recovery after well-meaning prayers on behalf of the afflicted. The entire idea of God answering prayers seems, to me, to be a bit presumptuous by assuming we are capable of speculating on God’s behavior. Worse than that it feels a bit too puppet-like for me.

On the other hand, I think Sagan has missed a very important metaphysical aspect of prayer. I will try to elucidate these points by responding to Sagan’s questions.

  • Sagan: Does prayer work at all?
  • jmb275: Yes, but I don’t think it works in the way that many believe – both skeptics and orthodox alike.
  • Sagan: Which ones?
  • jmb275: All that are asked in sincerity, because that’s what makes the prayer effective.
  • Sagan: Why is the prayer needed?
  • jmb275: It isn’t needed in an external, literal sense. But it may be helpful in a personal sense.
  • Sagan: Didn’t God know of the drought?
  • jmb275: Yes, I suppose so, but that’s irrelevant because prayer is not about God.
  • Sagan: Was he unaware that it threatened the bishop’s parishioners?
  • jmb275: This is once again irrelevant.
  • Sagan: What is implied here about the limitations of a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient deity?
  • jmb275: Absolutely nothing is implied because many skeptics, like many literalist religious people, have largely misunderstood the purpose of prayer.
  • Sagan: Is God more likely to intervene when many pray for mercy or justice than when only a few do?
  • jmb275: No, because prayer is not a matter of God intervening, or about numbers, or about blessings.

So what is prayer? To me, prayer is a personal yearning. It is our opportunity to commune with the inner god, the god in embryo. It is our opportunity to clear our mind, to focus on our most fundamental wants and needs, and decide what is really important in our lives. Most importantly, I believe it is our opportunity to reflect, and show gratitude – whether to a personal God or just something other than ourselves. Similarly, I also find great value in meditation, clearing my mind, focusing on breathing, living, and just being. It is my own personal and literal study of ontology.

Recently President Monson, in an Ensign article said:

“Will you join me as we look in on a typical Latter-day Saint family offering prayers unto the Lord? Father, mother, and each of the children kneel, bow their heads, and close their eyes. A sweet spirit of love, unity, and peace fills the home. As father hears his tiny son pray unto God that his dad will do the right things and be obedient to the Lord’s bidding, do you think that such a father would find it difficult to honor the prayer of his precious son? As a teenage daughter hears her sweet mother plead unto the Lord that her daughter will be inspired in the selection of her companions, that she will prepare herself for a temple marriage, don’t you believe that such a daughter will seek to honor this humble, pleading petition of her mother, whom she so dearly loves? When father, mother, and each of the children earnestly pray that the fine sons in the family will live worthily that they may, in due time, receive a call to serve as ambassadors of the Lord in the mission fields of the Church, don’t we begin to see how such sons grow to young manhood with an overwhelming desire to serve as missionaries? – President Thomas S. Monson, “Come unto Him in Prayer and Faith”, Ensign, March 2009″

Let me offer my interpretation of the above remarks. I believe that family prayer, like personal prayer is for us. We do it because it helps us show our love, reverence, and respect for those we love. We do it because it is our opportunity to plead aloud for solutions to the problems each family member faces, announcing our support, and love for that individual. We do it because it instills in our children, and ourselves, a reverence for a cause more noble than preservation of self. We do it because it gives us a chance to count our blessings, and name them one by one.

I submit that prayers are more about us than they are about God; that family prayers are effective because of what we say (overheard by our loved ones), not necessarily by any acts of God; and that the purpose of prayer is to align our will with what’s really important in our lives. Hopefully, what’s really important are other people, and our relationships with them. In this way we become the agent to secure the blessings that God is willing to grant to us and others. God’s blessings, I submit, are not conditional upon us asking for them, but are dependent on us recognizing the needs of others, placing them above our own, and becoming the means of providing those blessings.

So what do you all think? Does God literally answer prayers? Or are the prayers answered because we focus on what we need? Is there an unseen force in collective prayer, whether in large groups, or just a family that God recognizes? Or is it an exercise in coming together in a unified purpose?  Take the following two polls and tell us what you think.

[poll id=”45″] [poll id=”46″]

Discuss.

Comments

comments

Comments 38

  1. Thanks for the topic, JMB275. This is one I need to hear people’s experiences on, as my beliefs on this seem to be in flux at the moment.

    I think prayer is definitely for me. In ancient days, hunters would pray to the spirit of the beast they killed, reminding them of the sacrifice the animal made so they could live. I don’t think there was intervention from a beast god, only that the hunters were to be reminded of the sacred nature of killing in order to live, and develop personal characteristics of respect and reverence for nature. In that same way, I need to be reminded of my place in God’s universe and have reverence for it.

    At the same time, I believe God can intervene based on faith through prayer, but I think it is less often than we like to believe. If I already studied it out and know an answer, I don’t need intervention. If I have a wrong idea and need to learn from it, that too doesn’t need intervention (I’ll learn God’s will the hard way). But there are times I have felt an outside spiritual force has put thoughts in my head, and so I believe prayers can be answered (occasionally, as needed).

  2. Thanks for this.I think i pray increasingly to develop my relationship with God,because I know He would like for us to talk.

    I think I’m loving Him more and asking for less.

    I think I’m beginning to let go of the other stuff-a little.

    I still rave for what I want,but I accept that God’s purposes are being brought to pass in the universe whatever stuff is happening to me.I don’t think I have to like that,just try to live with it as graciously as I can.

    So,I get where Carl Sagan is coming from,but I think part of the process of prayer may be getting over ourselves.Then the rest of the time I think god is beating me up and that if I don’t believe in him that’ll show him.

    However,I will consider addressing God about specific issues in relation to my children in their presence.I have always thought that this may be a little below the belt,since they need to have as much agency as possible at their disposal in these decisions-i think it’s important to have a sense of ownership over your choices. Sometimes a child makes choices that we would not wish,but they too have a process to go through in their relationship with their Heavenly Father.But you got me thinking.

  3. It seems that everyone’s experience with prayer differs significantly. I’m curious about your experience with prayer. You’ve taken the time to write about prayer and as one of your readers I would like to know more about you. Would you be willing to answer your own questions and a couple I have? If so, here are a few questions:

    1. Have you received an answer to prayer about the Book of Mormon as outlined in Moroni 10:4-5?

    2. In the last 12 months have you received an answer to prayer that was significant enough to write about in your journal (assuming you keep a journal) or moved you to share it in testimony meeting?

  4. I’m interested in the concept of divine omniscience. Is it a late addition to the definition of the Judeo-Christian deity? The reason I ask is that when I read the OT, I get the sense that the patriarchs, David, and others prayed and thought that throught their communication with God could change His divine will in their favor. Hence the many prayers for victory on the battlefield, or to curse one’s enemies, or for a bountiful harvest, or for healing from real or perceived ills, medical and sociological. In fact, the whole concept of sacrifice to deity was to provide an acceptable offering that would turn God’s attention and power toward your cause, be it material, political, or spiritual.

    So when did God stop being persuaded by human prayers?

  5. I’ll add another thought…the part where we ask for intervention can become that self-fulfilling practice.

    If I pray for a job, I will be more likely to be positive about finding it and try harder to look for one.
    As I try harder to look for one, the opportunities increase in finding one.
    When I find one, I am affirmed my prayer was answered.

    I still think that God can have His hand in it, but maybe when He doesn’t need to, He just lets us benefit from positive thinking. The result is still bringing me closer to Him.

    And if I need to find His will, sometimes I can’t find it until I touch the water and see the ripple-effect to see what to do next. Faith is acting and as we act, the vision becomes clearer. Prayer gives us that confidence we can act.

    That may all sound like I’m saying it is all in my mind, but really I believe that is how God can teach me and lead me along (just not as literally as I thought when I was younger and believed in Santa Claus).

  6. This is a thoughtful post about a subject that deserves thoughtful and even prayerful consideration. I disagree profoundly with the suggestion that prayer is merely a way to align our will with God’s — why pray at all since his will is going to be done anyway? Aligning our will with God’s doesn’t take prayer, just accepting whatever happens in fatalistic resign.

    I have addressed these issues at length in Exploring Mormon Thought vol. 2 from a philosophical perspective. The kind of prayer you suggest is very different than that urged by Alma who passionately implores us to to pray over everything in our lives essentially, like our flocks and families. It is also different than Jesus teaches, for Jesus we are to ask for our daily bread — or for his kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Why ask? Couldn’t God just feed us all? He could, but it appears that he wants to give us our daily bread as a shared life where what we receive is recognized as a gift from him in response to our imprecations. He wants us to ask. It is true that we end our prayer “thy will be done,” but that doesn’t mean “just do what you would have done without my prayer,” for then prayer truly is futile. What that means is as I see it is: “let thy will and law rule on earth so that earth truly is heaven.” God’s kingdom is found where ever his will is done, and by submitting to him so that his will done, his kingdom is found in our hearts and manifest in the world in which we live.

    I believe that the kind of prayer that you urge is thoughtful but based on false assumptions about the kind of being that God is and the kind of relationship he seeks to have with us. If you are right, it seems to me that the only prayer that makes sense is: “Dear god, do what you were going to do before I opened my mouth — on second thought, forget the whole thing.”

    Does God know that I am sick before I prayer to be healed? Of course. But perhaps God waits on us to ask so that we don’t become spoiled and so that we can see his hand in our lives in answer to prayers . . . and so that we can develop a personal relationship with God of child to parents. There are numerous reasons that God may have for waiting on us to ask before simply giving to us (and I discuss a number of them in my chapter on this issue). In response to the argument that it is impossible to judge when God answers prayers, I suggest that those who have eyes to see will in fact see and those who don’t believe in answers to prayers will never see. Is that arrogant? Not in my view — it is what Christ states will occur with those who know him and ask. Remember, Sagan was an atheist and he isn’t exploring what prayer is about but suggesting that it is just stupid to pray at all.

    Given the Mormon view of God, new possibilities are created in our interaction with God so that what is impossible without us becomes possible for God to achieve with us and with our cooperation with Him thru prayer. That makes prayer an essential component of co-creating our world with God

  7. @Heber13
    Thank you for your thoughts. I think you got the gist of what I was saying.

    “If I pray for a job, I will be more likely to be positive about finding it and try harder to look for one.
    As I try harder to look for one, the opportunities increase in finding one.
    When I find one, I am affirmed my prayer was answered.”

    I think there’s a lot of truth to this. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy!

    God certainly could have his hand in it, I don’t know.

  8. re 6: “In response to the argument that it is impossible to judge when God answers prayers, I suggest that those who have eyes to see will in fact see and those who don’t believe in answers to prayers will never see. Is that arrogant? Not in my view — it is what Christ states will occur with those who know him and ask. Remember, Sagan was an atheist and he isn’t exploring what prayer is about but suggesting that it is just stupid to pray at all.”

    So, in other words, Blake, if a faithful member reads the scriptures and prays about them, follows the commandments, has a desire to believe, etc., and yet he just can’t get that spiritual confirmation…that’s obviously a sign he didn’t *really* desire to believe. Or he didn’t desire hard enough. He wasn’t faithful enough. He didn’t pray long enough. He must not have been all that great in his following the commandments, and so on.

  9. @Jared
    1. Have you received an answer to prayer about the Book of Mormon as outlined in Moroni 10:4-5?
    I would say that I probably have. For me, these things are not that black and white. I had thoughts when I prayed as Moroni outlined, some of them were affirmative, some not so much. Since then I have prayed in this way NUMEROUS times with absolutely no “answer” at all. Is that clear as mud? It is for me!

    2. In the last 12 months have you received an answer to prayer that was significant enough to write about in your journal (assuming you keep a journal) or moved you to share it in testimony meeting?
    Ooh, this one’s tougher. Yes, I do keep a journal. This is really hard for me to answer, and gets at the core of my beginnings of doubt. I would say that, had you asked me this 12 months ago I would have said yes. However, I was very orthodox and literal in my belief. As Heber described, if I asked for something, and it happened, I immediately ascribed this to God ANSWERING my prayers, without any skeptical analysis. Since then I have become much more questioning, or rather, I let out the questioner that had been repressed within. Let me give a good example.

    About two years ago as a new graduate of BYU I was deciding where to accept employment. I had done my decision matrix like a good nerdy engineer, and still didn’t really know what to do. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and went to the temple and prayed, etc. Eventually running out of time, I had to make a decision. I was in the temple right before my deadline to decide and I “felt” that I should take employment for my current employer. At the time I ascribed this “prayer answered” status and felt it was a blessing from God in my behalf.

    About one year ago I let out the questioner within (a complicated ordeal I won’t go into here). I started analyzing my “answers” and other aspects of my testimony. I realized something very important for me. When I asked that question so many times about where to take employment, I had not actually received any answer at all. Rather, I had decided that amongst a lack of any inspiration at all I would just choose whatever I thought was best. Once I admitted this another important realization came. The same thing had occurred in almost every important prayer of my life, marriage, school, major, employer, mission, etc. Every major decision I’ve ever made has been an intellectual decision made by my own rational mind, despite the “answered prayer” status I gave those decisions in my orthodoxy. My wife initially accused me of a life of lying. That hurts me because at the time I didn’t think I was lying, I thought I was being faithful and humble. In retrospect, I was not being honest with myself. I have lived a good life and have been richly blessed and I’m grateful for that. Most of the decisions I’ve made have come because I thoroughly research and investigate my options and decisions before committing.

    I don’t pretend that I haven’t had spiritual experiences, I have. I just ascribe them mostly to psychological processes now rather than God’s intervention.

    Maybe if I am able to do another post I will divulge my personal story of how I got here. I’m sure the suspense is riveting for everyone! 😉

  10. I remember Elizabeth Smart’s situation all over the news, and when Father Smart said publicly on the news that Elizabeth’s return is evidence God hears and answers our prayers, there was one news commentator that took great offense, because his daughter was abducted and brutally murdered and not returned…despite all their prayers. I remember him saying, “Does Mr. Smart think they are more worthy or does God love his daughter more than my daughter?”

    That has always stuck with me. I don’t know how anyone makes sense of when God intervenes and when He doesn’t. Prayer becomes a very tricky thing personally.

    That is why I go back to the fact that I pray for my benefit to discover God’s will, and then I hope for direction and intervention, but just have to accept God’s will in whatever the outcome. At least I need to do my part and then learn from it.

    Although prayer is a topic in primary classes- it really becomes a complex question, IMO.

  11. Re:6
    “I believe that the kind of prayer that you urge is thoughtful but based on false assumptions about the kind of being that God is and the kind of relationship he seeks to have with us.”

    Please instruct me on the kind of being that God is and the kind of relationship he seeks to have with us.

    “If you are right, it seems to me that the only prayer that makes sense is: “Dear god, do what you were going to do before I opened my mouth — on second thought, forget the whole thing.””

    I think you may have missed the point of the post. I am suggesting that the purpose of prayer has nothing to do with God, but rather to manifest the yearnings of our soul independent of God. What you’ve suggested here would be the opposite of that. This doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t represent your deepest feelings, or express your relationship with God as you see it. This sounds more like a prayer Sagan might offer.

  12. Even if there is no god, I think prayer can be beneficial as a form of meditation. However, it can be heartbreaking as well.

  13. @Heber
    “That has always stuck with me. I don’t know how anyone makes sense of when God intervenes and when He doesn’t. Prayer becomes a very tricky thing personally.”

    Yes, it is tricky. For me, I have dealt with this by questioning the very assumption that God exists. Having done this I don’t need to try to make sense of when God intervenes and when He doesn’t.

    I like the term “open-minded agnostic humanism with a propensity to believe in God.” That’s my position.

  14. re 9:

    Maybe if I am able to do another post I will divulge my personal story of how I got here. I’m sure the suspense is riveting for everyone!

    jmb, please do not be deceived: It isn’t a question of “if” you’re able to do another post. Everyone here is wondering why you haven’t come on as a permablogger yet.

  15. #9 jmb275–

    Thanks for providing answers to my question. I appreciate the time you took, the detail, and introspection that was apparent in your answer.

  16. For me, prayer is more a tool for communication than anything else. It is the way I let God know how I am feeling and what I am thinking. I believe He already knows what I am telling Him, but I find it comforting and helpful to articulate those thoughts and feelings.

    As far as the question of prayers being answered, I draw a distinction between my prayers and my requests. My prayers are almost always answered, in the feelings I have and the influence of the Holy Ghost that I feel. My requests, however, for the most part tend not to be granted. One of the reasons for this, I think, is that frequent miraculous interventions defeat the purpose of faith and agency.

    I have found that my prayers have changed over the past decade or so, as I have come to that understanding. I no longer pray for relief from my various health issues, but simply ask to be supported through them. I don’t often pray that specific things will happen, but rather I pray for the ability to accept the things that do happen. Through prayer, I have been able to learn the things God wants me to learn from my experiences.

    I can’t speak for anyone else’s experiences, but these are some of my thoughts on the matter.

  17. Wouldn’t it be mind-blowing if we only get to see God once we become god, and it turns out to be us. I realize that sounds like stoner talk, but that would be awesome!

  18. #8 Andrew S, I think you are reading into Blake’s comments things he doesn’t assert. I’ll quote Blake from a presentation he gave a few years ago:

    D&C 46 suggests that some have a spiritual gift to know for themselves through the spirit; others have a spiritual gift to have faith in the words of those who know. That seems to me to entail that not everyone will have such direct spiritual confirmation because for them the fact that others have such experiences is sufficient to sustain their faith. In fact, I’ll quote D&C 46:11.

    For all have not every gift given to them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God…. To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus is the Son of God, and the he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they might also have eternal life if they continue faithful.

    I suggest that that implies that there will be people, even though notwithstanding the promise in Moroni 10, for whom they will not have a direct religious experience. I know lots of faithful Latter-Day Saints, notwithstanding earnest study and long prayer, have not received the burning in the bosom of which I speak. In fact there was a wonderful Relief Society President in Genova who was constantly in crisis because the Elders had promised her that all she had to do was ask and she would have the spiritual experiences like they had. I suggest that maybe her faith was sufficient, and she did have faith.

  19. jmb275, Blake has written three books so far on the type of being he believes God is and, to sum it up in this context, as I understand Blake, he believes that God seeks peers who choose to enter into a loving relationship with Him. He also believes that God experiences our lives with us intimately (not just cognitively) and feels our pain and joys. He believes that God is not static, nor is his behavior pre-determined, but that he responds to our actions and is actively engaged in our lives to bring about our mutually beneficial purposes. Therefore, praying to God is an act of conversation which can result in God being persuaded and in God persuading us. The idea is that the yearnings of prayer can result in at-one-ment with God where we can share his love, mind, wisdom, power, glory, etc., and we share our love, mind, wisdom, power, glory, etc. with him (this is the condescension of Christ). This is the purpose of prayer.

  20. re 21:

    SteveS, I could offer a heretical view that was popular with my good friend Marcion 1900 years ago.

    see…you ever notice how God seemed to be one way for a while…and then this Jesus dude appears on the scene, and God magically becomes another way. I mean, God used to be all, “rah rah rahaaaaaa DESTROY vengeance mayhem!” and then with Jesus, he’s like, “Oh, guys, love love love!”

    It seems that God stopped being pursuaded by prayers magically around the ushering and fulfillment of the law.

  21. Andrew S. — Kent has already done a better job of defending me than I could do, but I just don’t see how anything I said could be construed to assert either that: (1) every prayer will be answered exactly as asked; (2) everyone who prays will have a spiritual experience confirming their faith. Perhaps you could point me to what led you to that conclusion in what I say. However, let me assure you that I don’t believe either (1) or (2) and I’m pretty sure I didn’t say anything to the contrary.

    When I pray, God talks back to me. When I ask questions, often the answer occurs to me immediately in surprising ways. Once I asked where my lost son was and the answer was spoken back to me immediately and I found him right where I knew I would — but only after I was told in prayer. I know not everyone experiences that, but it is just what I experience. However, I anguish over prayers for others that go unanswered as I have asked and I sometimes feel that God has given a stone instead of bread. Sometimes I argue with God — tho I have never won the argument. I’m just amazed that he listens to me at all.

  22. Andrew S. — ““those who don’t believe in answers to prayers” who “will never see.”

    Yup, I do affirm that. If you don’t have faith, you’ll never see with eyes of faith. Full stop.

  23. I’m reminded of a CS Lewis quote as paraphrased on the movie “Shadowlands”:

    “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

  24. “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

    Absolutely brilliant!! This is a great summation of my thoughts on the matter.

    @Blake and @Kent
    “he believes that God seeks peers who choose to enter into a loving relationship with Him. He also believes that God experiences our lives with us intimately (not just cognitively) and feels our pain and joys.”

    I believe this too (albeit in a more metaphorical sense). That’s why I’m so confused as to why Blake is suggesting that I don’t understand the nature of God or the relationship He seeks to have with me. Maybe I just didn’t articulate it very well. I’m inclined to wonder the same thing hawkgrrrl mentioned:

    “Wouldn’t it be mind-blowing if we only get to see God once we become god, and it turns out to be us.”

    Anyway, I can’t help but feel that Blake did a bit of assuming when he mentioned my “false assumptions” about God.

    To divulge a bit more let me say that I fully respect Blake’s experience with prayer and God and his son. That’s amazing. Oh how I wish something like that could happen to me. I have always said if I could obtain some “unmistakable witness” that the church is true (in a TBM sense), or that God exists I would rescind all my heterodox ideas and go back to being orthodox. I tried so hard. I prayed, and fasted, and read, and pondered, and listened and then got…nothing. It’s all been very disheartening!

  25. re 24 and 25:

    So, is what you’re saying that if you have faith, you may receive answers from God, but if you don’t have faith, you simply will not?

    This seems like a really bad game.

  26. Re: Andrew S
    “It isn’t a question of “if” you’re able to do another post. Everyone here is wondering why you haven’t come on as a permablogger yet.”

    Well, I haven’t been invited. I just figured if you guys thought I added to the group you’d invite me, otherwise, I’d just keep plugging along!! I didn’t want to push my luck or anything!

  27. At JMB in Comment #9

    Like you, most of my life-changing were not accompanied by strong spiritual promptings, but were ultimatley decided by rational logic, despite weeks of prayer, fasting and temple attendance.

    I take comfort in this quote from Brigham Young (in the Church BY manual from 10 years back, p.46) “If I ask him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life…and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgement will teach me, he is duty-bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so for all intents and purposes.”

    My feeling is that God wants all of us to become gods, and that will require all of us to make perfect decisions every single time. To help us develop that skill, he often leaves us to our own devices.

  28. In my experience with prayer, I have received answers when I have truly needed them, but I have also not received answers when I have truly needed them (maybe “needed” should be replaced with “wanted”). I believe that God is involved in every single one of our lives intimately whether we pray to Him or not. I don’t think He comes closer to one of His children because they pray to Him, but I do think we move closer to Him and we come to understand what His will is for our lives, whether we recognize it immediately or not. Prayer benefits us greatly because God sees the whole picture and He knows what will bring us lasting joy, even though we may suffer much pain and sorrow to get to that joy. When we seek to understand His will and we tell Him that is what we desire, we can be assured that He is leading us along. If we struggle about things related to church or Him, we can be assured that He is patient and will lead us through it, if we remain with Him and trust that He is there.

    I think it is important to remember that when we are too overwhelmed to pray or to angry or hurt, He is still there and will wait for us to approach Him when we can. He is capable of taking anger and hurt from us if we ask Him. What is great about prayer is that we can ask for Him to lighten our burdens and He does. Even if the burden is lifted for several hours before we start to feel it again, we can return to Him in prayer and ask the same thing again and know that He will help us again. When we find ourselves in this type of situation where a burden is heavy and not taken away, but lightened at times through prayer, we come to understand more about ourselves and God. To me, the gift of having a burden lightened through prayer, if even only for an hour or two at a time, is one of the greatest blessings of prayer.

    I believe prayer is for us to show our love to our Maker, to show what we desire, to express who we are and what we care about the most. It is also to ask for help and relief. It is for us to come to know those things about ourselves, things we cannot understand any other way, because God already knows us perfectly. He knows where our breaking point is and what our hearts truly desire. He knows our deepests hopes and fears, and what we are capable of becoming. He also knows how much we love Him or how much we don’t. The wonderful thing is His love isn’t dependent on our love for Him. He loves us no matter what and always will. Just knowing someone is there 24/7 to listen, even if we can’t speak our prayers, even if we cannot even whisper them, if they are just our heart breaking, He hears, understands and responds whether we immediately recognize His presence or not.

  29. “So what do you all think? Does God literally answer prayers? Or are the prayers answered because we focus on what we need?”

    I have had answers come to me that were difficult to hear and were not something I was focused on or even expecting, so having had this experience I would say that God does literally answer prayers.

  30. Yes, Heavenly Father does hear and answer my prayers. I have total faith that he will let me know one way or another that which I have prayed about/for. My faith is never shaken when things happen in a way contrary to what I have prayed for. I believe we all are given those experiences which will make us more like God wants us to be. I know it is important to Him that we always pray constantly and with gratitude because it is important to us.

  31. Re: Clark #31
    “I take comfort in this quote from Brigham Young (in the Church BY manual from 10 years back, p.46) “If I ask him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life…and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgement will teach me, he is duty-bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so for all intents and purposes.”

    My feeling is that God wants all of us to become gods, and that will require all of us to make perfect decisions every single time. To help us develop that skill, he often leaves us to our own devices.”

    Thank you for this. I appreciate it. Of course you certainly could be right. My approach, after this realization, coupled with many others, was to question the basic assumption of God’s existence altogether. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope so. For me, God was the last thing I doubted. Of course the church was first. And I still think I have a propensity to believe. But I’m more inclined towards Albert Einstein’s views of God. He believed in some sort of creating force, or energy, that unifies us and created the harmony we see around us. But he was doubtful as to the existence of a personal god. Good thoughts though, thank you.

  32. Andrew: “So, is what you’re saying that if you have faith, you may receive answers from God, but if you don’t have faith, you simply will not?”

    No Andrew, it isn’t a matter of God answering your prayers but of having eyes to see the answers to prayers when they come. Sometimes (as is obvious) the answer is “no” or “yes, but not in the way you thought,” or “what is coming your way answers your prayer by giving you challenges you didn’t want but from which you may grow.” I have prayed to be filled with love, only to be given challenges that stretched me to learn to love. I didn’t see that coming, but when I finally got it I saw it in answer to my prayers. Further, if you don’t have faith, you just won’t pray at all because prayer is the quintessential act of faith. Even the “God, if you’re there . . . ” prayers are acts of faith because maybe, just maybe someone is listening. What surprised me was when God started talking back.

Leave a Reply to jmb275 Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *