In his great sermon to the poverty-stricken Zoramites on the hill Onidah, Alma taught the principles of faith and obedience. Then, turning to the subject of worship, he referred to the teachings of Zenos. Rising to add his testimony to that of Alma’s, Amulek exhorted the people to pray as Zenos had done.
“Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
“Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
“Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
“Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
“Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
“Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
“Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
“Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
“Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
“But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
“Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.” (Alma 34:17–27.)
For years I have wondered how it might be possible for my heart to “be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually.” Then I discovered a key which opened the door of continual communication with my Heavenly Father.
I often discussed with my sociology students the work of George Herbert Mead, a great analyst of human behavior. George Mead was especially interested in the human mind and in the way it operates. His explanation of the thought process, perhaps because of its simplicity, has profound implications. According to Mead, thinking is essentially a conversation we hold with ourselves. “We can hear ourselves talking, and the import of what we say is the same to ourselves that it is to others.” (Mind, Self and Society, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934, p. 62.)
This described precisely how my mind works when my thoughts are just meandering along. My lips don’t move, and nobody hears me. But constantly, almost without interruption, I am saying things to myself: “It’s time for me to put out the garbage. I wonder how Dave (my missionary son) is doing today. I hope it isn’t too cold today where he is in Minneapolis. Well, I’d better get going, or I’ll be late for work. Oh, I didn’t put gas in the car yesterday. Maybe I don’t have enough gas to get to work. I wonder if I have time to stop on the way to school.”
If that kind of thinking is a conversation with ourselves, why not turn it into a conversation with God? And prayer isn’t much different from thinking. In fact, it has many similarities.
If, instead of talking to myself, I talked to my Heavenly Father, then my thoughts would be prayers. I’d be including Heavenly Father in every aspect of my life, every decision I make. I would, in essence, be praying continually, as Amulek taught.
With this insight, I find my heart is more frequently drawn out in prayer. My Father in Heaven has become for me an ever-present friend who listens as I talk to him. My thoughts become more meaningful and more holy when I direct them toward the Father:
“I wonder how Dave is doing today. Father, please watch over Dave today and keep him safe. Please lead him to those who are seeking thy gospel. And thanks for letting me raise that fine son, and for his goodness and willingness to serve thee. Well, I’d better get going or I’ll be late for work. …”
Of course, I often slip back into talking just to myself, operating on my own. But more and more I am aware of the nearness of the Lord and the influence of the Holy Ghost. In those precious moments when my heart softens and I know that my Father hears me and loves me, how I love him! I love to call him Father. I praise and adore him, and my gratitude for him deepens day by day as my heart is drawn to him by prayer.