Many Mormon rules are not about what we don’t do. They are about what we should do. Prayer is a “do” rule for Mormons and it is one of the most important.
Mormon is a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormons are commanded to pray often. They start and end each day with a personal prayer. If they are married, they also pray with their spouses. If they have children or other people in the home, they have a family prayer twice a day. Naturally, they also bless their food, although the morning family prayer might include the blessing on the food.
Of course, Mormons are encouraged to pray any time they’d like as well. They pray before beginning to study the scriptures, before church meetings, before leaving on journeys, when they are making a decision, when they are sad….and sometimes they pray for no particular reason at all. Just as we sometimes call a family member or friend just because we want to talk and hear their voice, Mormons learn they can call on God anytime they like and they don’t even need something important to say. God is never too busy for us. When we want to talk, He wants to listen.
Mormons have very few formal pre-written prayers and these are used for specific ordinances, such as baptism or the sacrament (communion). When Mormons pray on their own or to start or end a meeting, they say the words that are in their heart. There is a pattern to prayer, but within the shape of that pattern are many possibilities.
First, they address God by name. Mormons pray to God, not to Jesus. They do pray through Him—we’ll see how that is done soon. This is to follow the example set by Jesus Christ when He prayed and to obey the instructions He gave us and which are found in the Bible.
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” John 14:13-14.
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” John 15:16.
And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23-24.
The Bible says to pray to God in Jesus’ name, so that is what the Mormons do. Usually they begin their prayers by saying something like “Dear Heavenly Father,” or “Our beloved Father in Heaven.” Next, they thank God for the blessings He has given them. Of course, this requires them to have spent time noticing the good God did for them in the past day or so and that helps them to see what is good about life. Too often we get caught up in what is wrong and fail to notice what is right—and there is always something right. It also requires them to acknowledge their dependence on God for blessings, rather than trying to take credit for everything themselves.
Following this, they can—but don’t have to—ask for what they need. Before their prayer, they will have taken stock of their lives, noticed what they can fix themselves and what will require God’s intervention. Mormons believe they should do for themselves what they can. After all, God is their literal Father in Heaven and good parents seldom do for children what the children ought to be able to do themselves. It isn’t good for the children and it isn’t good for us. We don’t like in bed and pray that breakfast will appear on the table, cooked and plated. We get up and cook it. Now, if we are poor and have no food despite having done our best to get it, we can ask God to help us obtain food. Then we ought to get up and go do something to help Him. He can’t, for instance, find us a job unless we’re willing to search for work, write a resume, and develop skills. We do our part and God does His.
Mormons also understand their prayer requests must be reasonable and must be asked for in God’s name. We can ask for help in being able to pay the rent, but not for the money to become a millionaire who never has to work again. We also have to understand that what we want isn’t always what is best for us. Sometimes God answers yes, sometimes no, and sometimes “Not yet.” When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane to have the bitter cup removed from Him, He added that He wanted it only if it was God’s will. That is how we have to pray as well.
When Mormons are finished talking to God, they close by saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen,” or something similar. This is how they honor Jesus’ request to ask God in Jesus’ name.
Of course, prayer isn’t meant to be a one-way monologue. It is a dialogue. Mormons stop talking, either during the prayer or after it, and sit quietly, waiting for God to respond to them. He isn’t of course, going to appear and they usually don’t hear voices. But they do receive answers. Mormons generally study the issue, make a decision, and turn to God for confirmation. The confirmation most often comes through a warm, peaceful, and loving feeling in the heart. Sometimes, as they sit quietly and wait, inspiration comes to mind. In time, they learn to identify which come from God and which are their own thoughts.
You don’t have to be Mormon to pray or to receive answers. This is a rule anyone can follow any time at all. You just need a few quiet minutes to talk to God.