The Predicament of Prayer

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Predicament of Prayer title image

I remember preparing for my first sacrament talk. I was barely twelve years old and spent all Saturday evening writing and dissecting my talk for the next day like any true procrastinator. I did not use the New Era or ask my parents to help me write it — thank you very much. This talk was going to be my thoughts and my testimony in my own words.

Luckily for me I have a very supportive mom who offered to read it over when it was completed. Not to add to or take away — but to check it just in case.

In case of what you ask? Well. . .

Part way through her reading she started giggling. Which was unexpected because I hadn’t written anything humorous. That giggle turned to all out muffled laughs with her trying her hardest to keep it in. With me looking quizzically on she grabbed her scriptures, went to the New Testament and tried to look at me in the eyes without laughing.

She was really trying.

When she calmed down enough she explained, “Megan, Jesus Christ did not atone for our sins in the Garden of Yosemite.”

<<light bulb>>

Then she showed me the passages in Matthew chapter 26. G-E-T-H-S-E-M-A-N-E, sheepishly I walked away with talk in hand, erased the erroneous error and carried on.

To say this was a turning point in my young life would be an exaggeration, but it did clarify a lot of early childhood confusion. Living in Sacramento Valley, I always wondered why my family never made the four-hour trek to the sacred Garden of Yosemite. Shouldn’t it have been a priority?

Like many of my life’s misfires, I’ve learned to take it all in stride and made sure my mother always checked my church talks, school papers, and any other form of written declaration to edit out the malapropisms that have haunted me my whole life.

Friends and family don’t even flinch now when I mis-speak. Often misplacing a vowel or two and ending up with a completely different meaning than what I truly intended has been cumbersome to say the least. It’s ok though — they get me and get my meaning.

My brother was not deported by the Army to Afghanistan.

You cannot mammogram towels with your initials.

Erratic and erotic are two entirely different behaviors.

Incompetence should never be replaced with impotence.

And a haiku is not to be confused with the Haka.

Even with the cringe-worthy misfires, vocalizing my mind and heart is second nature to my extroverted persona. Likewise, my willingness to speak and be heard has made the concept of prayer an easy commandment for me to grasp. My mind can be muddled and my words may twist and turn but Heavenly Father patiently listens, and just like those who know me best, He always understands what it is I am trying to iterate. And through years of diligent prayer I’ve come to better understand and appreciate Him as well.

“Pray, pray, pray and read your scriptures every day!” still sings loud in my heart with my Grandma’s voice. It was her mantra: her code and her answer to everything.

E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

She recited it daily, wrote it on our Birthday cards, Christmas Cards and when her hand started cramping from all the litany of cards, she created an acronym accompanying her signature with an abundance of exclamation marks.

PPPARYSED!!!!!

When such a great example has been set, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is lucky enough to have had such a devoted and determined grandmother.

girl praying with scriptures in her lapThe practice of prayer doesn’t come easy to everyone. Just because it feels natural to me does not mean it is as easily applicable to others. I’ve never really dived into this effect until a dear friend opened up to me about his own misfires with prayer.

“I’ve tried to pray. . . I don’t hear anything.” He confessed, “It’s empty. Why?”

Thousands of miles away Adam is currently fighting over-seas for our country. He has read the Quran, the Torah, Bible and has recently finished reading the Book of Mormon and has started again. While lying in bunks in the middle of a desert he has devoured the texts and wants so desperately to understand.

A lot of which he has been able to appreciate simply from being in the military. Something about Ammon chopping of the arms and the stripling warriors helped him relate and not feel so out of place. When his fellow soldiers mocked him for reading it, he simply bashed their noses in with the blue vinyl paperback. Plausible missionary tactic? Probably not, but it had the intended results he wanted, and no one bugs him about it anymore.

It’s a legendarily strong book in his circle: literally. Good thing he didn’t have a quad.

So when he texted me his misgivings about prayer and if they really work or not, I sat there in my comfy bed, in my safe house thousands of miles away from wars, danger, and destruction, and I prayed. I thanked Heavenly Father for the friendship I had with Adam. I thanked Him for the safety I had because of our dedicated soldiers. Then I asked that I would somehow be able to tell him what he truly needed to hear — what he’d understand. What could really help him?

“I have ten more minutes, then this phone will be out of service and I won’t be able to text you for a while.” He prodded.

I was running out of time. I took a deep breath, whispered a final prayer and started texting back.

“You might never hear anything.” Wow Megan, way to start off strong, nothing like blank-point reality to smooth things over. Where was I going with this? “But you will start to feel differently. You start thanking God for more things. God answers prayers often through other people.”

No answer, so I continued, “Prayer is an exercise, a habit that you work up to. The more you do it the more in tuned to the Spirit you become. Start simple and just keep doing it. Pray, pray, pray and read your scriptures every day.”

“And that will work?”

“My grandma says so. What you want to achieve is a meditative state, where you clear all distractions and reach an inner focus. Just concentrate on quieting your mind for now — so that you can start feeling His presence. Because He is there.”

“Ok, I’ll do it.”

“And when you’re able to talk again I will ask you if you remembered to pray.”

“Deal.”

You’re probably wondering when the deep gospel principles are going to pop up in this article. Surely you’ll read some powerful message rendered in a new and inspiring way to reach your inner spiritual core.

Is PPPARYSED it?

Yes, it is.

Too often we try to over-analyze the simplest of commandments. Look for a new angle or over-hyped experience. If I was to have any sort of moral to this story it would be to maximize your efforts and limit your expectations. The honest truth is that there is no guarantee prayer will always work to your limited human capacity — but it will always be heard. It’s our responsibility to reach out and accept whatever outcome happens and not let it deter our resolve to keep on praying.

God isn’t always going to speak directly to you, if ever.

Pray anyway.

He will not always answer.

Pray anyway.

You will not always like the answers.

But pray anyway.

Sometimes you will feel like no one is there. Empty space.

Pray anyway.

So that when you’re surrounded by darkness and danger is at your doorstep you’ll realize you never stopped praying.

And when words fail you: listen.

Megan is a thirty-something single mom blogger who lives in Portland, OR. She has worked in Pharmacy for the past 15 years and spends her free time free-lance writing for parenting blogs and writing fiction. When in "time-out" (of her own accord) she reads and writes, then reads some more. You can find her blog at The Accidental Librarian. Her historical fiction novella is available here on Amazon The Max Effect.