One of the greatest blessings we enjoy as children of a loving God is the opportunity to connect to Him through personal prayer. We Mormons follow a basic pattern in our prayers — we address Heavenly Father with reverence, give thanks, petition God with our needs and desires (using ‘thee, thou, thy, and thine’), and close in the name of Jesus Christ.
What do Most People Pray For?A recent survey performed by LifeWay Research and reported by Religion News Service shows that Americans pray about the following:
Family or friends — 82%
Their own problems or difficulties — 74%
Thanks for recent blessings — 54%
Their own sins — 42%
People in natural disasters — 38%
Appreciating God’s greatness — 37%
Future prosperity — 36%
People of other faiths or no faith — 20%
Government leaders — 12%
Celebrities or people in the public eye — 5%
None of these — 2%
Mormons probably pray about all of these things, but would probably add our missionaries, members of the armed forces, our church leaders, and increasingly, would Jesus please come soon.
How Many Kinds of Prayer are There?
We might need reminding that there are many kinds of prayers, and we might want to choose one form when it is specific to our circumstance. This might help us to focus our minds, hearts, and our faith to a single purpose when we pray. Here are 25 kinds of prayer you might want to try.
1. Prayer of gratitude. The perfect time to acknowledge God’s greatness and loving kindness. It’s always a wonderful experience to just give thanks and not ask for anything.
2. Prayer for forgiveness. For this, preparation is needed. We must first acknowledge our distance from God and wish to be reconciled with Him. This is a first step in the repentance process and begins with the realization that our thoughts and actions have offended God.
3. Prayer over sacrifice. Ever pray over your tithing and fast offerings, or that quilt you made for humanitarian aid? Notify God that you are making an offering, and you wish it to go to building up the kingdom, helping the poor, or rescuing the afflicted. Send it on its way with a prayer in your heart and try to imagine the people who might benefit from your offering.
4. Prayer upon rising. Does the prayer with which you great the day differ from the prayer that ends it? Perhaps it should. Productivity, safety, guidance, and the company of the Holy Spirit are all needed as you begin your day. Also thanks for a night’s sleep (whenever you happen to get one) and the realization that you’ve awakened in good shape.
5. Prayer upon retiring. What a great time to review the day and repent of the harsh word, the hasty judgment, the unkind thought. This is when I go child by child and pray for my children.
6. Acknowledgement of God’s children around you. Once before a meal in a bustling restaurant, my friend uttered a quiet but audible prayer on the food and asked God to bless everyone at that restaurant with the needs and righteous desires of their hearts. Suddenly, my mind and heart awakened to the people around me. Total strangers I had ignored before. It was a miraculous transition and a blessed one. Next time you are at Disneyland…
7. Prayer before a meal. If any Mormon prayer has become formulaic, it’s this one. A great family home evening exercise would be to dissect this prayer and see what you’re really after. I am always grateful to have food available when I want it, a blessing unknown to many of God’s children on the earth.
8. Prayer after a meal. Gotcha. Mormons don’t do this, but Jews do, and think of the value of thanking God for a meal well-enjoyed after it’s done.
9. Prayer of invocation. An invocation is the act or process of petitioning for help or support; a prayer of entreaty (as at the beginning of a service of worship). So, an invocation would be the opening prayer in any church meeting, but could it also be the prayer just as you are leaving for a trip or starting school?
10. Prayer of benediction. Surprisingly, a benediction is also an invocation. We invoke blessings from God at the closing of a church meeting or other event. Usually the benediction is the closing prayer, the short blessing with which public worship is concluded, but could it also be the prayer of thanks after a successful trip or semester at school?
11. Psalm. Most of us are not songwriters, but most of us are singers. God has said, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (D&C 25:12). Notice the Lord said nothing about how well we sing. Sing the hymns as if you had written the words yourself, and they become prayers very easily.
12. Communal prayer. Many prayers performed by Mormons are for the congregation, too, as with opening prayers in sacrament meeting or Relief Society, but this specifically refers to the Church and to God’s kingdom rolling forth in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. Most prayers in ancient Israel were communal in that they were prayers for all Israel, and not just for the individual. These prayers can be lifted for missionary work, for humanitarian relief, for our church leaders, for the sincere-hearted of the world to be prepared to receive the gospel.
13. Prayer in the temple. For all those whose names have been submitted due to trials or illness, these have a special, profound power not just because of where the prayer takes place, but because of the worthiness of the supplicants.
14. Prayer for healing. Often accompanied by fasting and with family and friends participating, these prayers are lifted in emergencies where a loved one is sick or injured. Where the priesthood power is not present, the prayer of faith can bring forth its own miracles.
15. Prayer of remembrance. In Old Testament times, the yizkor, or prayer for the dead, was thought to aid in their salvation. We utter prayers of remembrance on holidays set apart to remember all our dead, or those who died in battle. We can pray for ancestors to accept the gospel in the spirit world. We can pray for those whose names we take to the temple. Another form of a prayer of remembrance is to recount our spiritual experiences that are the anchors of our faith.
16. Sacramental prayer. This is perhaps the only prayer in Mormonism that is pre-written and read verbatim. In fact, it must be perfectly recited, because it is an ordinance with saving power.
17. Covenantal prayer. We make covenants at baptism and in the temple, but we also make covenants personally and privately in prayers lifted to our Father in Heaven. We might be reminded of the experience of Lucy Mack Smith, who, ill and near death, covenanted with God that if He would save her life, she would seek Him with all her strength. She recovered, and kept that covenant.
18. Prayer for help in service. This is the prayer of Visiting and Home Teachers as they seek to be perceptive to the needs of the families they teach; also of the Relief Society, Primary, and other auxiliary presidencies as they seek guidance in the service they render. Some members of the Church claim that these prayers are the ones that illicit the most inspiring answers, the most spiritual experiences.
19. Prayer for guidance in making decisions. Should I choose this college, marry this person, move to this city, join the military, serve a mission? The Lord promises guidance for these life-changing decisions, and the answers we receive are often so revelatory, that they become spiritual anchors for us all the rest of our lives.
20. Political prayer. If the study mentioned above is correct, not many of us are praying for our governmental leaders. Or for good people to choose to volunteer to lead. Or for moral goodness to triumph in the public square.
21. Preparedness prayer. Do you have enough water in your emergency storage? Have you asked Heavenly Father that question? A Mormon father in Haiti was inspired to fix his back gate. Then Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake. Had he not done so, he and his wife would not have escaped their back yard in time to avoid a crumbling stone wall whose collapse could have killed them. What specific preparations do we need for our own, personal circumstances?
22. Prayer of helpless desperation. The old adage is that there are no atheists in foxholes, because all are praying for their very lives. This is when you are at the end of your rope and only God can save you. For many, this is their very first experience with personal prayer.
23. Prayer of surrender of will. Often, this prayer follows #22 (the prayer of helpless desperation) after it has been answered, and #1 (the prayer of gratitude). In it, we confess the fallibility of our own will, and surrender it to God. Really the only thing of value we have to give Him, the gift of our will into His care can be the real beginning of our lives ….
24. Prayer of release. From this life to the next. It is our final benediction upon everything that is temporal and temporary. It is at that moment that we begin to see what is really important.
25. Prayer for those left behind. Do we realize that mortals on earth are not the only ones praying? Millions and millions who have gone before and have already passed to the other side are praying for us, and for God’s will to be done; for evil to be finally defeated, and the Plan of Salvation to achieve its end. Have you ever contemplated that while you are praying fervently for one thing, your ancestors and heaven’s angels are praying that you won’t go that direction, so that something better will come to pass? Prayer and getting answers to prayer might be more complicated than we thought!