Growing up, praying was a very scary thing for me. My family would get up in the mornings and read the Book of Mormon and have family prayer. We took turns praying, and when it was my turn I would refuse to pray and I would end up in tears. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to pray. I was terrified. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, not praying right, and again not being good enough.
I wanted to be to be good at praying. I wanted to believe that God heard my prayers. One of my favorite primary songs was A Child’s Prayer. I still love this song. There aren’t many songs from my Mormon days I would teach my kids but I taught my kids this one.
Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
“Suffer the children to come to me.”
Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.
2. Pray, he is there;
Speak, he is list’ning.
You are his child;
His love now surrounds you.
He hears your prayer;
He loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav’n.
Words and music: Janice Kapp Perry, b. 1938
(c) 1984 by Janice Kapp Perry.
In the Mormon world, I grew up believing in ritualistic prayer. In the mornings when we had family prayer we would kneel, fold our arms, bow our heads, and close our eyes. What’s funny is everyone would always peek. No one ever kept their eyes closed the entire time. Especially during the long wordy prayers. And the language of Mormon prayers was always Thee and Thou. Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for bringing us here today. We ask that Thou bless us. It was confusing and scary to me. Growing up, my mom made us all a cross stitch that hung in our room that read, “Did you think to pray”. I remember when I was 11 or 12 making a prayer rock that you put on your pillow to remind you to pray before you went to sleep.
I remember when I was in jr. high or high school and one of my cousins was getting ready to go on a mission and he wanted his brother to say the opening or closing prayer for the service. Back then when a family member was leaving on a mission the whole church service was organized by the family. The parents spoke, the soon to be leaving missionary spoke, the songs were picked by the missionary, and the opening and closing prayers were said by family members. I remember the adults in our family having a discussion that they wouldn’t let my cousin say the prayer at church. I was upset and frustrated. Who are they to say who is good enough to pray. I’m not sure what was going on in my cousins life but I remember thinking, how do you make yourself “good enough” to pray.
I was never much of a, get on my knees and pray, kind of person. I have never been a person who uses big words and fancy language when I’m praying. I think that’s why I didn’t like to pray when I was younger. I really struggled with it and I don’t know that I ever prayed in church or in public, other than for dinner. That’s because the dinner prayer is basically a memorized prayer.
I remember going to my first Christian church service. The pastor sat in front of the congregation and closed his eyes, didn’t fold his arms, and just started talking in plain language, just like he was having a conversation. He said something like, “God, thanks for bring us all here today. We just ask that you join us here, be with us as we learn about your word today. Move on our hearts”. It was truly amazing to me. It wasn’t ornate and complicated. It wasn’t overwhelming and flowery, or so long that I was falling asleep by the time he got done. It wasn’t prideful and arrogant to show people how connected to God he was. It was simple, straight forward, honest.
Observing the church service and the plain language of the Pastor, I still struggled with my prayer life. It was hard to “find time”. About a year after I had become a Christian, I went to a ladies retreat. I rode with a friend who I really looked up to. She was, and still is, what I consider a prayer warrior. A prayer warrior is someone who dedicates themselves to praying for others. I really wanted to be a prayer warrior and looked up to her very much. I remember getting in her car and starting down the road. She said, “We should pray before we get going”. I thought she would stop and pull to the side of the road and pray; nope, she just started talking to God right there while she was driving down the road.
Praying as a Christian is so different that it ever was in my Mormon life. There are still times when I make it a point kneel in prayer, close my eyes, and fold my hands, but those times are rare. I am busy and I make excuses. If I had to “make time” to pray it wouldn’t happen. Since becoming a Christian and learning that prayer is just a conversation with God, and not about saying the right thing, in the right way, and making sure you’re good enough
I don’t think I realized how important prayer was until I became a Christian. My Christian grandparents told me how they had always prayed for my siblings and me, the water-girl on the basketball team found out I was a Christian told me how she prayed for me and that I would find Christ, and a few other people who’s paths I crossed through out the years told me they prayed for me to find Christ.
I felt I needed to share about prayer today because that is the first step to receiving grace. I know people struggle with that fist step, with prayer in general. They feel that they need to stop, get down on their knees, fold their hands, and close their eyes. They feel they have to say the right words and in the right way. That is not the case at all. Even if you don’t know what to say, even if you don’t have the words, just call out to Him! Just call out to God. He already knows what’s on your heart. He already knows your struggles. There have been many times over the years were I have just said “God, I have no words, I am hurt, and I am struggling. You know my heart, You know what I need.” God doesn’t want fancy words or rituals. He wants you. He wants your heart!!
I have had times when me prayer life has been strong and I have had times when I have struggled to take time to have that conversation with God. No matter what I know that God is there. God is the only “network” I need. The “network” is never busy. There is never a place where the “network” is always available. I am never in a place or a situation where I don’t have service. I have unlimited data, messaging, and minutes. Connect to the only network you can really count on God’s network.
I’m just a small town girl… living in a disconnected world.