What an interesting look at how we can move beyond saying our prayers to genuinely praying to our Father in Heaven.
Joseph Smith spoke a great deal about effective prayer. On one occasion he made this observation:
“It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345.)
That the Prophet Joseph should place on this knowledge so high a priority tells us much about the importance of our personal communication with the Father. But knowing is not enough. There are obstacles between knowing and doing. Perhaps no other gospel activity is so easily mismanaged. My prayers are not unlike my golf swing. A huge variety of things can, and without careful attention, do go wrong. Consider the following stories.
The first comes from Daniel V. McArthur who remembered having lunch with Joseph Smith.
When noon came we were all called to dinner at Joseph’s house. The table was loaded down with cornmeal mush and milk, and at the bidding of Joseph we all stepped forward to our places around the table, standing on our feet. Joseph asked Joshua Holman, who was one of the wood haulers, to ask a blessing upon the food. He went at his duty with all his soul. As he had been a Methodist exhorter before joining the Church, he commenced to call upon the great and mighty God who sat upon the top of a topless throne, to look down and bless the food and asked many other blessings to rest upon the Prophet, etc.
As soon as he closed Brother Joseph said, “Brother Joshua, don’t let me ever hear you ask another such a blessing;” and then before we took our seats he stated his reasons for making this remark, and showed us how inconsistent such ideas were, and told us many things about God and who He was. (Backman, Milton V. Jr., and Keith W. Perkins, ed. Writings of Early Latter-day Saints and Their Contemporaries, A Database Collection. Excerpts. 2nd ed., rev. and enlarged. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, 1996.)
Joshua Holman found himself receiving instruction from the Prophet because something was wrong with the way he prayed. Clearly the obstacles to effective prayer are not to be solved by eloquence alone.