Hearing a child pray is arguably one of the most adorable things ever. Hearing their tiny voices speak to a Father in Heaven who loves them dearly is priceless. When children pray, there’s something about their quiet, humble voices that let any adult listening know that their prayer is sincere.
Sometimes I find myself praying and repeating the same things over and over. Sometimes after a long day I’ll climb in my bed and start to pray, but my thoughts trail off as I fall right to sleep. And sometimes I try to say a sincere prayer, but my mind wanders elsewhere and before I know it, I’m thinking about deadlines and worldly, off-topic things.
I think we’ve all been through similar scenarios. We have good intentions when we pray, but we often forget the divine power that comes with sincere prayer and that it’s a gift from God. It’s truly incredible that we can pray to our Father in Heaven in faith and He’ll answer through the Holy Spirit and inspiration. He is ready and willing to communicate with us through prayer because He loves us.
Because prayer is such a sacred gift, we should treat it as such by praying often and sincerely. Here are a few ways you can make your prayers more meaningful in your everyday life.
1. “Be still” before and after you pray.
Try to turn all noises and devices off (or put them away) 10-15 minutes before you start praying. In our busy world silence can feel uncomfortable, but taking time to be alone with your thoughts will help you know exactly what you want to say to the Lord. It will also prepare you to hear any revelation he might have in store for you.
Once you finish praying, stay on your knees and listen for a few minutes. Communication is a two-way street and prayer is no different. If you finish your prayer and immediately look at social media or turn on the TV, you’ll be distracted and out-of-tune with the gentle promptings of the Spirit.
2. Give a gratitude-only prayer.
When you’re going through a difficult trial, it’s natural to want to plead with Heavenly Father to make it go away or make the burden light. It’s easy to forget the many things we’ve been blessed with.
If this is the case for you, it’s more important than ever to show gratitude for the incredible things Heavenly Father has blessed you with. Make an effort this week to say a gratitude-only prayer and look for the Lord’s hand in your life as you prepare to do so. As you give thanks, you’ll be able to see the incredible things the Lord has already done for you.
3. Keep a prayer list.
Just as prayer helps you through trials and gives you guidance and direction, it can lift up and help others. If you know of someone going through a trial, making a life decision, or if you just feel prompted to pray for a specific person, you should follow through and pray for them.
Praying for another person shows love and compassion. When your heart is filled with Christlike love toward others, your prayers will become more sincere and meaningful. Try keeping a list on your phone or in a notebook of people you think to pray for or things you want to thank Heavenly Father for throughout the day. This can help us learn what it means to "pray always."
4. Tell Him about your life.
Heavenly Father knows us better than we know ourselves. Before we were sent to earth, He knew exactly what we would go through and He knew we would need His help. When I first heard the idea of telling Him what I’m going through, it felt awkward because I knew He already knew my situation.
One night some months ago I was struggling, stressed, and couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing and I couldn’t focus on one thing at a time, let alone fall asleep. I knew I wasn’t going to calm down at all unless I talked through my thoughts to someone, so I started whispering my concerns to my sleeping, unconscious husband. I started feeling a little calmer when I realized I was talking to the wrong person. I needed to turn to my Heavenly Father. I continued voicing my concerns out loud and felt strongly that He was there listening. I easily fell asleep soon after.
He knew I was struggling that night, and He knew why. I didn’t have to tell Him. But talking through my stresses and concerns was so incredibly helpful and I remember feeling so loved. He cares about every detail of our lives, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem.
This goes the other way around, too. Tell Him about how great your day was. Let Him know how grateful you were for whatever tender mercies you experienced that day. He loves hearing about your victories, so let Him into every part of your life.
5. Accompany your prayer with scripture study.
Prayer and daily scripture study are the best ways to invite the Spirit into our lives. Heavenly Father often answers our prayers through certain scriptures, and studying the word of the Lord every day will help us receive answers and have the Spirit with us.
President Thomas S. Monson’s said in his October 2013 conference address, “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls. We can find answers to our questions. We learn of the blessings which come through keeping God’s commandments. We gain a sure testimony of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Their love for us. When scripture study is combined with our prayers, we can of a certainty know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true.”
6. Do your part.
Prayer requires more than getting on your knees and talking. While that’s a major part of it, you have to be willing to put in the work associated with whatever answers you might receive. Elder Bednar beautifully wrote:
“Prayerful inquiry through asking, seeking, and knocking entails both holy communication and consecrated work. The blessings we seek, such as inspiration and direction from our Heavenly Father, require some effort on our part before we can obtain them. And prayer, as a form of work, is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings (see Bible Dictionary, ‘Prayer,’ 753). We press forward and persevere in the consecrated work of prayerful inquiry after we say ‘amen’ by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father. We seek and knock both before and after we ask in faith.”
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7. Be ready for revelation when it comes.
I often receive answers to prayers when I’m least expecting it. It happens when I’m driving in silence, walking by myself, or when I’m reading a talk or scripture that touches my heart. I often wonder how much inspiration I would receive if I would take more time to read uplifting messages and sit in silence instead of filling my life with noise.
This is something we could all work on. It’s so important to be ready to hear what the Lord wants us to know. President Russell M. Nelson said in his April 2018 conference address, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”