While my sister Rayna was visiting our family, I asked her “What’s God been teaching you lately?” She paused for a few minutes, but didn’t respond. I asked her again “Rayna, you didn’t answer my question.” Again, it was silent.
I pressed for the third time she said “I’m thinking about it! I don’t know. What’s He been teaching YOU lately?”
“Do you keep a revelation Journal?” I asked her. “You need a place to write down impressions when you pray and speak with God.”
“Do YOU keep a revelation journal?” She asked me
“I do. I could tell what God has said to me today, yesterday, last week, last month”
“OK. Then, tell me.” She said.
I shared with her some impressions taken in my revelation journal- which is really just a notes sections on my phone. I also shared with her how I began to change my prayers from speaking to God to speaking with God.
5 Ways to Improve Your Prayers
1. Be a good conversationalist
Suppose for a moment you had a friend that approached you and said “Dear Friend, thank you so much for being my friend. And for sharing some of your food with me. And for hanging out with me. Thank you for this. Thank you for that. Thank you for this thing again. Please, let us hang out some more. Please let us be friends in safety. Please that. Please this.”
If your friend continues this one sided monologue with no intent for it to become a conversation, it would feel a little awkward. If you want to change the inspiration available to you through prayer, stop making it a one sided conversation.
To pray is to speak with God, the Eternal Father of our spirits—not at Him but with Him.Elder Kevin W. Pearson (Improving Your Personal Prayers)
To me, this means opening up the prayer to be a two way communication. I say something and then I expect a response. For my personal prayers I don’t just start with “Dear Heavenly Father” and then immediately proceed into a list of things I’m grateful for.
Instead, after I address Him. I wait for a response. I try not to speak a monologue directed at Him. But I try to engage in a back in forth conversation with Him. It’s “a wrestle.” It takes work, faith, and focus. I ask Him questions and He not only answers, but He also will ask me questions. I express gratitude and He lets me feel His expression of love in return. I speak to Him as my Father and he responds to me as His child.
If you want your prayers to be more meaningful, start treating it more like a face to face conversational and less like a “knee-mail.”
2. Prepare to Pray
When Joseph Smith was preparing to pray his first vocal prayer, he reflected on God’s promises in the scriptures that God does answer prayers. Joseph believed in what is written in James.
If any of you lack bwisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.James 1:5
He applied to this scripture to himself and believed wholeheartedly that if he asked God which church he should join, God would not leave him in darkness.
I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed bwisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know;
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in adarkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would bgive liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.Joseph Smith History
Joseph’s Humble prayer was in fact answered answered. But it was answered at least in part because of the preparation he did prior to praying. He studied the scriptures, prepared himself mentally, decided what it was he wanted to ask, picked a time and location to speak with God, and he believed that God would speak to him.
Then, “he listened to the Lord. Oh, what rapture must have filled his bosom, for he saw the living God!” (Joseph Smith’s First Prayer)
One night in the MTC, I was feeling restless. I didn’t know exactly what was keeping me up. But the thought came to me that perhaps Heavenly Father wanted to speak with me. I reflecting on how Joseph Smith prayed in faith with nothing wavering that God would answer. I tried my best to believe that if I got out of bed and prayed, God would answer my prayer too.
I got out of bed and went into the hallway. As I knelt, I tried to visualize Heavenly Father in mind listening to me. Once I had a clear image and my mind was focused I began my prayer.
“Heavenly Father, I am here. I am listening. Do you have something to tell me?”
I experienced feelings I had never experienced before. Felt things that I didn’t know were possible to feel. Learned things that I never dreamed of knowing. The response from the heavens to that simple prayer was surprising and uplifting. It has been a source of comfort and strength throughout my life. The details of the experience are too sacred for me to share here. But this much I can tell you. God does hear and answers prayers. The more preparation you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.
3. Ask inspired questions
I’ve had many prayers that I ask things that I want to know. What school should I attend? Should I take this job? Should I buy this house? Where should we live? How do I help this child?
The key to personal revelation, however, isn’t in what questions we have. But rather what questions God wants us to have. True prayer happens when what your asking for, is what He wants you to be asking for.
Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.
We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ—when His words abide in us (John 15:7). We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart.Bible Dictionary- Prayer
Sometimes the easiest inspired questions are “What should I be praying about?” or “Who can I serve today?” or “What questions should I be asking right now?”
4. Write it down
Writing down what you feel when you pray is an act of faith. You’re showing God that you really believe He is communicating to you through the Holy Ghost. As you write His words that come to you in both your mind and heart, He will give you more revelation.
Write down in a secure place the important things you learn from the Spirit. You will find that as you write down precious impressions, often more will come. Also, the knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life. Always, day or night, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, seek to recognize and respond to the direction of the Spirit.By Elder Richard G. Scott
To Acquire Knowledge and the Strength to Use It Wisely
An old Chinese proverb states, “The palest ink is better than the best memory.” Elder Richard G. Scott also taught, “Knowledge carefully recorded … enhances the likelihood of your receiving further light” To survive spiritually in these days, you’ll need to recognize feelings that come from the Holy Ghost and then do your best to preserve and nurture those feelings.
I often have words come to my mind as I pray that are accompanied with a feeling of peace. At first, I had a difficult time discerning between these thoughts and my own thoughts. Writing them down and acting on the thoughts helped me become more receptive to recognize God’s voice vs my own thoughts.
5. Trust Him
Recognizing answers to our prayer can sometimes be very difficult. While I believe we can have meaningful experiences where we speak with God daily, it is a mistake to assume that every prayer we offer will be answered immediately. I have felt the Holy Ghost in almost every nightly and morning prayer. However, I have not have every question answered, every problem solved, or every pain taken away in the moment I wanted it to be.
When God doesn’t answer a prayer, I still take that as an answer. It means He trusts me. He wants me to grow from this experience. He wants me to move forward just doing the best I can until there is more direction from on high.
God doesn’t withhold answers for a lack of concern. He does it because He loves us- perfectly. He wants us to apply the truths we know and grow with it. We need to try to use our best judgment to make the correct decisions. In time, He does answer in His own way.
We all make mistakes. We misbehave like a child. We do foolish things. One of the first temptations is the hesitation to pray. It’s wonderful to remember we have a Mediator who works things out when we obey His counsel and repent. You can tell the real spiritual statue of a man or a woman by how quickly and often they repent. Trust that He loves you. Trust that He hears you. Trust that the answers will eventually come, if not in this life- then in the next. Trust that everything that can work out for your good.
I know God is at all times and in all circumstances our Loving Father. He wants to speak with us and not just have us speak at Him. Prayer takes practice and work. Try challenging yourself to pray at least for 5 minutes each morning and night. Once you accomplish that, go for 10, then 15. Soon you’ll no longer need to glance at the clock as you will begin to have conversations with Lord.
I was 14 years old when I remember stopping a routine prayer of “thank thee’s” and “Please Bless’s”, and I asked this sincere question. “Father, are you really there? Are you really listening?” To which came a response that fully embraced me with His assurance that I was in fact His child, that He was in reality listening to me, and that He does absolutely answer our prayers and will speak with us.