Pray Always

Good morning brothers and sisters. I’m grateful to be speaking with you today with these fine men behind me. They have been such a positive influence in my life. I was asked to speak today on Elder Bednar’s talk from the October 2008 conference, “Pray Always”. He outlines his talk with three principles. #1, Prayer becomes more meaningful as we counsel with the Lord in all our doings. #2, Prayer becomes more meaningful as we express heartfelt gratitude. #3, Prayer becomes more meaningful as we pray for others with real intent and a sincere heart. Notice how with all these principles, they start with ‘prayer becomes more meaningful as we…’ then continues to the principle itself. This was intriguing to me. Elder Bednar starts, “Simply stated, prayer is communication to Heavenly Father from His sons and daughters on earth. ‘As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part’ (Bible Dictionary, Prayer). We are commanded to pray always to the Father in the name of the Son. We are promised that if we pray sincerely for that which is right and good and in accordance with God’s will, we can be blessed, protected, and directed.” As we know and have been taught, revelation is another form of communication from Heavenly Father to His children upon the earth. Prayer and revelation go hand-in-hand. If we ask in faith, we can receive our own revelation and knowledge to come to know the mysteries and peaceable things that bring joy and eternal life. These can only be known and understood by the power of the Holy Ghost. Revelations, as we know, are from the Father and the Son and are conveyed to us by the Holy Ghost. He is a witness and messenger of and for the Father and the Son. There are patterns used by God in the creation of the earth that help us understand how to make prayer more meaningful. In Moses chapter three, we learn that all things were created spiritually before they were born naturally on the earth. We learn that these spiritual creations preceded the temporal creation. Similarly, meaningful morning prayer is an important element in the spiritual creation of each day and precedes the temporal creation and execution of the day.

“Just as the temporal creation was linked to and a continuation of the spiritual creation, so meaningful morning and evening prayers are linked to and are a continuation of each other. Consider this example. There may be things in our character, in our behavior, or concerning our spiritual growth about which we need to counsel with Heavenly Father in morning prayer. After expressing appropriate thanks for blessings received, we plead for understanding, direction, and help to do the things we cannot do in our own strength alone. For example, as we pray, we might:

  • Reflect on those occasions when we have spoken harshly or inappropriately to those we love the most.
  • Recognize that we know better than this, but we do not always act in accordance with what we know.
  • Express remorse for our weaknesses and for not putting off the natural man more earnestly.
  • Determine to pattern our life after the Savior more completely.
  • Plead for greater strength to do and to become better.

Such a prayer is a key part of the spiritual preparation for our day.” Throughout the day, we need to keep a prayer in our hearts for guidance and continued assistance, keeping our thoughts “be directed unto the Lord” (Alma 37:36). During our day, we may notice that we speak normally when we would tend to speak harshly. In that moment of recognition, we offer a silent prayer of gratitude.

“At the end of the day, we kneel again and report back to our Father. We review the events of the day and express heartfelt thanks for the blessings and the help we received. We repent and, with the assistance of the Spirit of the Lord, identify ways we can do and become better tomorrow. Thus, our evening prayer builds upon and is a continuation of our morning prayer. And our evening prayer also is a preparation for meaningful morning prayer.”

Principle #2: As our prayer becomes more frequent and meaningful and we counsel with the Lord in everything we do, we also express heartfelt gratitude. Elder Bednar tells of an experience he and his wife had. “During our service at Brigham Young University–Idaho, Sister Bednar and I frequently hosted General Authorities in our home. Our family learned an important lesson about meaningful prayer as we knelt to pray one evening with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Earlier in the day Sister Bednar and I had been informed about the unexpected death of a dear friend, and our immediate desire was to pray for the surviving spouse and children. As I invited my wife to offer the prayer, the member of the Twelve, unaware of the tragedy, graciously suggested that in the prayer Sister Bednar express only appreciation for blessings received and ask for nothing. His counsel was similar to Alma’s instruction to the members of the ancient Church “to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39). Given the unexpected tragedy, requesting blessings for our friends initially seemed to us more urgent than expressing thanks.

Sister Bednar responded in faith to the direction she received. She thanked Heavenly Father for meaningful and memorable experiences with this dear friend. She communicated sincere gratitude for the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and for the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to face adversity and to serve others. Most importantly, she expressed appreciation for the plan of salvation, for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for His Resurrection, and for the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel which make it possible for families to be together forever.

Our family learned from that experience a great lesson about the power of thankfulness in meaningful prayer. Because of and through that prayer, our family was blessed with inspiration about a number of issues that were pressing upon our minds and stirring in our hearts. We learned that our gratefulness for the plan of happiness and for the Savior’s mission of salvation provided needed reassurance and strengthened our confidence that all would be well with our dear friends. We also received insights concerning the things about which we should pray and appropriately ask in faith.” 

While there was nothing wrong with Sister Bednar’s first prayer, we should always be thankful for something, event if everything is not going that way that we want it to.

Principle #3: Praying for blessings and desires in our own personal lives is good and proper. But we need to pray for others, both those we love and those who despitefully use us. We learn a very vital lesson from Lehi in the Book of Mormon. He prayed to the Lord “with all his heart, in behalf of his people” (1 Nephi 1:5). We’ve all read this verse multiple times as we’ve read the Book of Mormon but have we stopped to think about this verse? In answer to his prayer, Lehi was shown a vision of the destruction of Jerusalem. Consequently, Lehi rejoiced. Please note that this vision came in response to a prayer for others and not as a result of a request for personal edification or guidance.

The Savior is a perfect example of praying for others with real intent. The night before His Crucifixion, Jesus prayer for His Apostles and all of the Saints. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. …

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; …that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

John 17: 9, 20, 26

What a beautiful prayer given to those that stood with Jesus! His prayer was simple, given for his followers. We are commanded to pray always, out loud and in our hearts, in public as well as in private. Prayer becomes more meaningful as we pray of others with real intent and a sincere heart.