Jesus often knelt down to pray to His Father in Heaven, setting the example for all of us today. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called Mormons, are strong believers in prayer. Their history begins with the prayer of a fourteen-year-old boy who wanted to know which church to join. God answered that prayer by coming in person, with His Son, Jesus Christ, to prepare Joseph Smith for his future role in the restoration of the gospel.
Although God doesn’t normally arrive in person to answer prayers, He does always answer them. He may say yes; He may say no; He may say “Not Yet,” but He always answers them, and always in the way that best furthers His plans. We see things with a limited human view, but God sees things from an eternal perspective, and knowing all, He knows what would be best for us, even when we are unable to understand the answer ourselves.
How can God know what is best for so many people? He knew us before we were born. We lived with Him in Heaven prior to our births, as spirits. Our spirits took the form of people, we had gender, and we had personality and talents, but we didn’t have a body. During this time, we knew God and lived in His presence, and He knew us and loved us as individuals. So, when we came to earth, He was completely prepared to make plans for each of us. There is a grand, overall plan for all His children, but there is also a very personal, very individual plan for each of us. He sees us as individuals, not as a group.
We can regain that close, loving relationship with God by learning who He is, learning what He hopes of us, and learning how to communicate with Him.
Prayer is a two-way method of communication. We can use it to talk to God, but He also speaks to us. He isn’t distant and far away. He is as close as we will allow Him to be. We may not see Him in person; we may not even hear a voice, but we can learn to recognize when He is speaking.
There are those who counsel not to pray about things because you can’t tell if the answer comes from God or Satan. The Mormons know this can’t be true. God can do anything at all, and so He can certainly answer our prayers in such a way that we know without a doubt He is speaking to us. After all, He instructed us to pray to Him for advice:
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
The Book of Mormon teaches that when God instructs us to do something, He always provides a way for it to be done:
1 Nephi 3: 7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
And so, Mormons trust God to answer their prayers, because He told them in the Bible to ask and He promised that if they did, He would answer. God always keeps His promises.
Mormons use recited and memorized prayers only on a few very specific occasions. Most prayers are very personal, given from the heart of the giver. However, there is a basic pattern followed by Mormons as they prayer.
They begin by addressing their Father in Heaven by name, in a respectful way Following this, they thank Him for their many blessings, being specific about the blessings they’ve received. Next, they ask God for those things they have need of, if they choose to do so. Finally, they close in the name of their Savior, Jesus Christ, and end with the word Amen.
They are encouraged to pray often. They have both family and personal prayers each morning and evening. In addition, couples pray together daily for their family. They pray before each meal. Families also have additional prayers before special events, travel, trials, blessings, and changes in their lives. Of course, members are also encouraged to pray continuously, being in constant communication with God as they go about their day.
Prayer is a central principle of LDS daily life, as it is the primary means for building a warm and loving relationship with God and for staying safe in our life’s journey.