- My message in the last general conference focused upon the gospel principle of asking in faith in prayer. Today I want to discuss three additional principles that can help our prayers become more meaningful, and I pray for the assistance of the Holy Ghost for me and for you.
Principle #1. Prayer becomes more meaningful as we counsel with the Lord in all our doings (see Alma 37:37).
Elder Bednar then explains that our morning prayers are for outlining our day, specifically outlining how we wish to act and things we wish to accomplish. Prayer during the day helps us to check in on our progress on the things we outlined in our morning prayers. Our prayers at the end of the day should summarize our results from our morning prayers and put us on track to prepare ourselves for the things we want to accomplish the next day. By doing this, our prayers are not separate, unrelated moments but a continuation of our conversation with a loving Heavenly Father. He explains.
- Meaningful morning prayer is an important element in the spiritual creation of each day—and precedes the temporal creation or the actual 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.
- During the course of the day, we keep a prayer in our heart for continued assistance and guidance.
- At the end of our 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. Morning and evening prayers—and all of the prayers in between—are not unrelated, discrete events; rather, they are linked together each day and across days, weeks, months, and even years. This is in part how we fulfill the scriptural admonition to “pray always”. Such meaningful prayers are instrumental in obtaining the highest blessings God holds in store for His faithful children
Principle #2. Prayer becomes more meaningful as we express heartfelt gratitude.
Elder Bednar tells a story of having an apostle stay at their home and as the evening was coming to a close, they gathered for family prayer together. This apostle encouraged Sister Bednar to pray and only thank Heavenly Father and not ask for anything. Earlier in the day, the Bednar's were informed of the death of a close friend and it seemed appropriate to petition the Lord on behalf of the surviving spouse and family. As she prayed and thanked the Lord for the plan of salvation and eternal families, the Bednar's gained a better understanding of how important gratitude is in their daily prayers. Elder Bednar says he has learned:
- The most meaningful and spiritual prayers I have experienced contained many expressions of thanks and few, if any, requests.
He then challenges us to find this out for ourselves.
- Let me recommend that periodically you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts.
Principle #3. Prayer becomes more meaningful as we pray for others with real intent and a sincere heart.
Praying for others is another important step to finding more meaning in our prayers. Ask the Lord to bless those in greater need than we are builds gratitude for the blessings we personally have.
- Petitioning Heavenly Father for the blessings we desire in our personal lives is good and proper. However, praying earnestly for others, both those whom we love and those who despitefully use us, is also an important element of meaningful prayer. Just as expressing gratitude more often in our prayers enlarges the conduit for revelation, so praying for others with all of the energy of our souls increases our capacity to hear and to heed the voice of the Lord.
Elder Bednar concludes with a series of questions that can bring more meaning to our personal prayers.
- Do our spouses, children, and other family members likewise feel the power of our prayers offered unto the Father for their specific needs and desires? Do those we serve hear us pray for them with faith and sincerity? If those we love and serve have not heard and felt the influence of our earnest prayers in their behalf, then the time to repent is now. As we emulate the example of the Savior, our prayers truly will become more meaningful.
As I have tried to make prayer more personal in my life, I have found Elder Bednar's outline to be very helpful. Prayer is a daily event and not just something that happens before work and before bed. My goal is to create a relationship with my Father in Heaven and not just seek for Him when I need something or want something.