Though prayer is meant to be natural and instinctive, I have struggled at times to understand how best to appropriately communicate with my Father in Heaven. There are many principles to guide us in how we pray—what words and language we should use, what the environment should be like, how often we should pray, what we should pray for, how to expect an answer…
The list goes on. To be honest, I’ve placed a lot of pressure on myself when I think about these questions. I become anxious and feel distant from God. Recently, these thoughts came back to my mind when an official letter from December 2022 reiterated the need to use “words that express love and respect for Heavenly Father” when praying in church meetings, including using pronouns such as thee, thy, and thine.
Around the same time, I came across an older devotional with President Henry B. Eyring, where he gave the following response to a young woman who asked how to improve her prayers to make them more like a conversation.
“Be modest in your expectations. God is close and He loves you and He’d loved to have an actual conversation but remember He is God. I always worry when someone is speaking to Him in too familiar a way because it is not easy. Heavenly Father’s words, His ideas, are not exactly ours. So the idea of having a conversation where you’re chatting with Heavenly Father is probably a little bit of a lofty goal.”
For me, this culminated in a lot of stress and sadness. While I understood what President Eyring was teaching, that we need to approach God in reverence and not expect immediate answers, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t talk to God. I would kneel down and try to share my heart, but it felt so constrained and disingenuous. I’d get frustrated as I tried to funnel strong emotions through a formal prayer.
In one particular prayer, I cried out, “I want to talk to you like a daughter, not just a disciple!”
This is definitely a personal problem and one that not everyone may struggle with. But I believe we will all face times when we struggle to communicate with God for one reason or another. I’ve been pondering on how I can be both a beloved daughter and an awe-struck disciple in my communications. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
- In extremity is error. There’s a way to find balance in how we communicate with God. Some prayers may be more formal that others. Some may be more personal. God just wants us to do our best and talk with Him.
- The content of the prayer is more important than the logistics. Start by improving what you’re praying about and the rest will follow.
- Prepare for prayer. Create a sacred moment and ponder on what you want to say. Preparation will facilitate the appropriate reverence and respect, no matter your language.
- Allow God to consecrate your efforts. No matter what prayer looks like, don’t stop. It’s better to be honest and in constant communication with God than to not pray at all. God will help improve your prayers as you work with Him.
- Formal language can help slow you down and focus your attention on what you’re saying. View formal language as a way to be more intentional, not more formal.
The idea that I’m communicating with my Father is a deeply motivating and comforting principle. Balancing both my desire to talk freely and intimately and my desire to cultivate an appropriate attitude of respect and reverence takes time, but doing so is well worth the effort.