Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I am thankful for all my blessings, but it seems if I list them I will be repeating the same things in my prayers every day. How do I keep my prayers from being the same?

New Era

Prayer is one of the most important acts you can do as a member of the Church. It is the way given to us to communicate with God. We use prayer to ask for guidance and blessings, to express gratitude, and to seek for answers.

The Church uses very few set prayers, primarily the sacrament prayers and the baptismal prayer. In other circumstances, individuals, whether praying in private or for a group, use their own words and phrases as appropriate to the occasion. Often we fall into the habit of using the same words or phrases, almost without thinking. That’s where the problem comes in. It’s not thinking about what we are saying that can cause prayers to seem hollow. Sincerity in prayer is not measured by using different words or phrases each time we pray. Sincerity is a matter of the feelings in the heart.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “The problem is, I think, that so many of us pray as if we are ordering groceries. We pick up the telephone and say, ‘Is this the right place to place my order?’ and we proceed right to dictating our order. When we have then ended that list, we hang up. Pray in faith. Believe in God … that He will hear and answer your petitions (Church News, 4 Nov. 1995, p. 4).

We have been taught to pray after the manner Jesus Christ prayed as recorded in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Jesus used simple, expressive language, and he warned against praying just to be seen of men (see Matt 6:5–8; 3 Ne. 13:5–8). He also warned against “vain repetition,” words used over and over again without sincerity.

The scriptures give additional instruction about prayer. We are told to pray always and to give thanks to God for our blessings as well as to ask for the things we need. In Alma in the Book of Mormon, we are told to, “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. …

“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 34:20–21, 26–27).

This tells us that the Lord wants us to pray about whatever concerns us. Nothing is unimportant or trivial if it is a concern in our lives.

However, we must also remember to be continually grateful to the Lord. This not only helps us focus on the source of all goodness, but it makes us happier by bringing to our minds all the blessings we have received.

If you catch yourself reciting a memorized list in your prayers, then it is time to rethink just exactly why you are praying.

Take a few moments before you pray to think about the purpose of your prayer and what you would like to say.

Express to the Lord just why you are grateful for certain blessings.

Ask for help in solving problems.

Always remember to pray that God’s will be done.

Your list of blessings may not change greatly from day to day, but taking the opportunity to think about and thank the Lord, who has blessed you, can be a great thing to do every day.

Readers

When I say my prayers, I consciously say to myself, “This is my Father I’m talking to. I can open up and say what’s on my mind. He’s there to listen to me.” It always brings me a feeling of peace.

Michelle Van Genderen, 16 Boise, Idaho

There is nothing wrong with being thankful for general blessings, but almost every day we receive small blessings. We should thank our Heavenly Father for little things too.

Robbie Winston, 12 Vancouver, Washington

When I pray it is like I am having a personal conversation with Heavenly Father. I tell him about my day and ask for help with problems that present themselves or traits I wish to change. I thank him for specific things that happened to me that day, especially for help I received dealing with something I had prayed about before.

Rebecca Westwater, 18 Marshalltown, Iowa

As I was growing up, I learned how to pray more sincerely and differently by listening to the prayers of my family members. I think a sincere prayer comes from the heart no matter how often the same things are said.

Tagiilima Sauia, 17 Mapusaga Fou, American Samoa

Heavenly Father knows all the things you stand in need of already. Prayer is a way for you to express gratitude and keep in touch with your Father in Heaven. If you are sincerely thankful for something, it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat it. Heavenly Father is just overjoyed to hear from you.

Haley Rasmussen, 16 Bountiful, Utah

There are many things for which I am grateful, and my expressed gratitude to God may seem redundant at times. But God knows our hearts. I don’t believe you have to write a new “poem” to God every day in order to be sincere. Prayers that are similar day after day aren’t necessarily bad.

Elder Daniel Thrower, 19 Portugal Porto Mission

[photo] Photography by Bryant Livingston; posed by model

[illustration] The Savior set the example of prayer. He warned against praying just to be seen of other men or using vain repetitions. He taught his disciples the form prayers should take (see Matt. 6:9–13), and he encouraged us to “pray always and be believing” (D&C 90:24). (Painting Jesus Kneeling in Prayer and Meditation, by Michael Jarvis Nelson.)