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Is Prayer Essential?

I was having a conversation recently that has been percolating in my mind and heart. I thought I’d spill it out here and see what happens. So this friend asked me, “Do you think you can have a meaningful relationship with God without personal prayer?” My immediate reaction was, no. The more I think about this question the more I see so many things within it that are relative and subjective that I can’t really decide how I feel about it anymore.

I know people that are extremely spiritual that don’t pray at all. I know people that struggle to feel a sense of God in their life, but yet they pray constantly. What is prayer anyway? Is it the simple and straightforward things we learn in Primary, or is it a multifaceted thing that can mean different things to different people?

Are the spiritual people that aren’t prayers really talking to God, just in their own way so as it does not fit the generally accepted idea of prayer? Are the constant prayers doing so in word only and not truly seeking God and his wisdom, hence the lack of closeness to Him?

My belief has always been that prayer is essential. I am no longer sure this is such a concrete or absolute thing. There are so many questions I have about this topic. Here’s to hoping for wisdom within your words!

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • MB November 25, 2012, 1:14 am

    Let’s take it down to a mortal level first to explore what you know or believe about the topic. Consider your answers to the following questions:

    Is it possible for two people to have a relationship if one or both of them do not use words? Is it possible for two people to communicate if one or both of them do not use words?

    Can you think of a time when deep meaning was communicated between two people without words?

    Do two people to have a relationship if one of them is feeling anxious about the fact that they don’t currently have the relationship that she expected it would be?

    What constitutes communication between two individuals?

    What constitutes a relationship?

    If your relationship with and understanding of person A is different that another person’s relationship and understanding of person A, does that mean that you don’t have a relationship with person A?

    I think that if you answer those questions you may be able to frame the definitions of “communication”, “prayer” and “relationship” for this discussion more precisely in your own mind. And I think you will need to do that before you are able to create both a well-reasoned approach and a cogent answer.

    I look forward to hearing more.

  • Amy Lockhart November 25, 2012, 12:06 pm

    The flaw here was me thinking I needed, or was capable of, answering a question about something so personal in a definitive way. To be able to define prayer for any other person than myself is impossible.

    When I think of this friend and the related discussion, now somewhat removed from the emotion of the situation (this post was written a couple of months ago when this friend was going through something quite traumatic and searching desperately for answers), I am able to see that what was needed was not definition, but rather redirection back to self.

    Thanks to your questions, I was quickly able to see that my business in the situation was to listen and support rather than somehow be able to come up with enough scripture references and authoritative quotes to convince her of something that only she is able of determining. I wish I would have had your questions then. I feel I fumbled around quite a bit trying to “prove” something to her in order to “help”.

    As far as personal prayer is concerned, I think personal is the key word. We do have ceremonious, or set patterns for prayer, during meetings and such. There are examples of basic respect and possible phrasing/wording given through scripture and our leaders. There are exacting prayers offered when sacred ordinances are concerned. Offering no discredit to those sacred occasions, I do believe that each person must have a personal relationship with God, and personal prayer is paramount. How, when , why, or what we use prayer for in that respect is something that is not exact, and defining that for ourselves is very much a part of our individual spiritual journey here.

    I spent a long time merely mimicking what I saw and carrying out “instructions” if you will, rather than seeking to communicate with the Lord. Once I crossed the threshold of understanding the personal in prayer, my prayers became something more than words in the proper order and during the prescribed times. That process is not something I could even begin to describe in words.

    I have had powerful and sensational answers to prayer. I have had frustrating silence in times of perceived “need”. I have heard “no”, more than “yes”. Perhaps my least favorite is the all to frequent, “not yet”, or “in time”. All of it has come as a result of having my own relationship with God rather than checking boxes on a prayer sheet and asking for stuff to make life easier.

    My heart is open and my mind pours through it. All things and all answers, no matter their bitterness at the time, can be for my own good when I seek to make it so.

    Thanks MB again for those questions.
    Amy Lockhart recently posted…Absolute UncertaintlyMy Profile

  • Michael J. Snider November 30, 2012, 8:41 am

    What is prayer? Here’s how Bruce R. McConkie defines it in the Bible Dictionary:
    “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. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”

    I realize there are people who seem very spiritual who never pray at all but think you may be making an unwarranted assumption. Jesus was the most spiritual being ever to walk the earth, and He regularly sought seclusion to get on His knees and pray. I’m not saying that communication with God only happens while on our knees…I’m saying that regular, secluded, bowed/knees-bended prayer is indeed essential.

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