Why pray?

Why pray?

So, when turning to the scriptures to find and get answers to our questions, what role should prayer play? How can we ensure that we are involving God appropriately into the equation, so it’s not just an intellectual exercise to study the scriptures, but a spiritual one? The scriptures that tell us to ask and we shall receive, who are we asking? Are we asking the scriptures, or are we asking God? How do we structure that conversation?

I’ll admit, my prayers are not as sincere right now as they have been in the past. I find myself often turning to the same phrases that I’ve said many times, and not really thinking about what I’m saying.

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7)

Now, there’s nothing wrong with repeating the same thing every day, as long as it isn’t vain, right? But what does vain mean? One definition is “having no meaning or likelihood of fulfillment”. So a vain repetition is to repeat something without it meaning anything. If I pray for something and I really mean it, it doesn’t matter if I said the same prayer yesterday or 2 minutes ago. I just need to say prayers with meaning.

So, how do we say prayers with meaning? There are probably lots of ways, and I encourage you to write your thoughts in the comments. Here are some ideas that I’ve had as I’ve pondered the subject:

  • Remove formality. Make your language as regular as possible. Act like God is in the room with you, and you are having a conversation.
  • Listen. If you are having a conversation, and especially if you are asking questions, take the time to listen.
  • Think about what you’re saying. When giving prayers in public, we might feel a little uncomfortable if a person pauses to find their next words. Why should that make us uncomfortable. Isn’t that the essence of praying?
  • Pause. Try throwing in pauses into your prayers. At least one pause per prayer. It could be a pause to listen, a pause to think about what to say next, or a pause for the sake of stillness, or to feel the presence of your maker. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
  • Keep the conversation going. God asked us to “pray always”. I believe that means that we can talk to God in many different ways. We can think questions to him at any time, whether or not our eyes are closed. One of my favorite prayer activities is to try to converse with God throughout the day, about as many things as possible. Ask Him questions, tell Him what you are thinking, all throughout the day. This can bring so much spiritual closeness.

Prayer is an essential part of scripture study and spiritual development. We must take things to the Lord, and we must constantly look for ways to improve the way we communicate with God. As we look for ways to add meaning to our prayers and communication with God, he will guide us to the questions and answers that we should be seeking, whether through the scriptures or some other way.

What’s more important, the question or the answer?

What’s more important, the question or the answer?

Questions are the beginning of a journey. They are portals leading you to the adventure of seeking an answer. Once you get the answer, the quest is over, unless you’ve been able to uncover more questions along the way. If you feel like you have all the answers, you are deprived of the action of looking for them. It’s like downhill skiing. What part of skiing is the most fun? The journey, or arriving at the bottom?

Yes, answers are important, but even more so are the questions. What do the scriptures tell us about asking questions?

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5). Who doesn’t lack wisdom? Shouldn’t we all be constantly looking for questions that we can ask God, so that he can give wisdom to us liberally?

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7)

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.” (2 Nephi 32:4)

“If ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:4-5)

How many revelations were received by someone who had all the answers? Why would God waste his time giving revelations to people who aren’t looking for then.

When studying the scriptures, or anything, it’s imperative to continue to look for the questions. Questions expand and focus the mind.

This blog post originated from a question. I recently spoke to my dad about scripture reading. I said something along the lines of “How do I get engaged in scripture reading again? When I open the scriptures, I can’t help but feel bored. This is completely new to me. I’ve always had such a strong witness of the importance of daily scripture reading, but I’m just not feeling it right now. What suggestions do you have?”

I don’t remember everything that we discussed, but here are a few things that I learned. It all started with having the humility to ask a very honest question that I had been afraid to vocalize.

  1. Reading chronologically at a normal pace isn’t going to cut it for me anymore. While I haven’t memorized the scriptures, I’ve certainly read them many times, and it’s just too hard for me to get anything significant by re-reading the stories.
  2. I need to ask questions while I read
  3. I can’t read the scriptures on my kindle, standing on the train, after an intense day at work, and expect too much from the exercise. I have to put a little more into my reading than that.
  4. I need to write something to help engage my brain.

As a matter of fact, that last point is why I’m writing this post. I had thought that I’d be writing a very eloquent post once a week, but that’s just too much of a barrier for me. I’m going to try starting my daily blog again, but this time focus on my spiritual learning exclusively. Daily blogging is just easier than any other frequency. Sure, the messages will not be as meaty as they could be, but it’s the surest way to keep me accountable, and keep the momentum going. It’s how I plan to get more out of my personal scripture study.

What do you do to get the most out of your scripture reading? What questions are you seeking answers to? If you have any suggestions or questions, I’d love it if you could post  it in the comments.