Getting to Know God Through Prayer
Who is God?
We hear about God all the time. Whether that be Jesus, or a higher power is often left up to interpretation. Point being, we've all heard of "God", but, who is God? What role does he have in our lives? What is our relationship to him? And what kind of a relation is possible to have with a God?
Regardless of whether you believe in God or not, whether you have accepted him, or merely acknowledged him, I hope to share with you my testimony that he is real, and that he is more to us than just "a higher power".
Our Relationship with God
They don't call him God the Father, or our Heavenly Father for nothing. This title describes God as he is: The Father of our Spirits. We are literally children of a divine being! And that divine being knows us each personally, and he loves us beyond our comprehension.
"Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:39
No action, deed, attitude or sin can separate his love for us. Our actions may be able to separate ourselves from him, but he will always love us unconditionally.
So, how can feel of God's love for us? How can we understand his role as our Heavenly Father? Well, how better to get to know someone, than to talk to them? That's right, you can talk to God. No, its not as simple as sending an email, writing a letter, or dialing 1-800-GODLINE. No, the first step is Prayer
"For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray." - 3 Nephi 32:8
"Prayer is a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul. Think of it: the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father." -Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer, Richard G. Scott of the Twelve Apostles
Some of us might argue that we've never received an answer to a prayer. I'll point out that not always are prayers answered immediately, or in the way we expect them. I've found in my life, that often times an answer is received gradually, an often with silent confirmation. Sometimes it may be an event, or something somebody says/does. And every time (if not most) it's never quite as I'd expected it to play out. One very important factor I have to keep reminding myself of is, it's not my will. God knows what's best for me. I may want the cookie right now, but He knows I should first have the apple. Sometimes we may not understand God's reasoning, but I know that everything works out in the end.
How Do I Pray to God?
There are many ways to pray, and God hears all of them. You can pray in your heart, you can pray vocally, or you can pray traditionally.
"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." -Matt 6:5-7
Jesus taught the true manner of prayer after he said this to his apostles in verses 9-13. While at first glance it may appear to be in direct opposition with what he'd previously stated, look at it as more of a template, or pattern to follow. Like this:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. - When starting a Prayer, we often begin "Dear Heavenly Father", or "Our Father in Heaven". Note also that "Hallowed" is capitalized. This is referring to the way we refer to our Heavenly Father. Much like the way one would refer to a person of higher power, like a King or a judge. using terms like "Your Honor", or special dialect. In prayer, we use the language of the scriptures, mostly terms like "Thee, Thou, Thine" etc. This shows respect and Holiness to God.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. - This is relating to God's will, not ours. Though we have our wants and desires, God is over all. We must align our will to God's will. Yes, we can ask for things we may want or need, but always keep in mind, its in God's time, and in his will.
Give us this day our daily bread. - We can ask for the things we need. Daily bread, being a reference to the Children of Israel and the Manna from Heaven. Given daily to support their life and health.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. - This being Repentance. We should always reflect on our daily actions. What did we do wrong? Where can we improve? Forgive us our transgressions, faults, weaknesses and sins. But most importantly, we need to forgive those who trespass against us. How can we expect to obtain mercy, if we ourselves aren't merciful to others?
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. - Ask God for protection, for strength to overcome, to bear trails, for safety and security. Always remembering its God's eternal plan for us, he is in charge, and we are nothing without him. Ending the prayer In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
However, a prayer doesn't have to be this great, complex thing. It can even be very simple. The point of a prayer is to converse with God. It can be something as simple as thanking him for getting that job today, or asking him for help through a tough trial. You can tell him about your day, what you're excited for, or a question you may have. He just wants to hear from you.
Pray to God Directly
God is a living being. No, perhaps we can't talk to him face to face like some prophets of the past have, but that doesn't mean he's not still out there, listening to us. God wants us to pray to him directly.
"The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths." -Psalms 135:15-17, "...and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:" -Revelation 9:20
Back in the day when this scripture was written, one of the most common materials used to make idols was gold/silver. Sometimes stone or marble was used, depending on the time period/location. This scripture is still in play today, but perhaps substitute "silver and gold" with "plastic", "electronics", "paintings", "molds", etc. Where do our priorities lie? Ok, so perhaps not everyone kneels down and worships their electronic devices, but just how much time are we spending on them? Are we forsaking our other important duties for the creations of our hands?
Aside from prioritizing between God and the things of this world, this scripture is also relating to the people praying to graven images. They were praying to the materials in the shape of the being they'd crafted. Stone can't hear, can't see, can't talk. Gold and silver also. The same goes with plastic and paintings today. Yes, it is good to have images of God and Jesus, among many other scriptural references around us today to help us keep the spirit with us, but are we praying to the images and figures by themselves? They aren't real, rather they represent something that is. Why pray to a representation? It can't see, hear, or speak. When we pray to God, we should pray to him directly. He is real. He can see us, he can hear us, and he speaks to us through a still, small voice.