When I was young, back in the time of the dinosaurs, we had this saying: “You can’t get a million-dollar answer to a 10-cent prayer.” That is so true, but what is a million-dollar prayer, and how do I know when I get the answer? Last article, I talked about prayer as a conversation with God.
A conversation is never just one-sided, which is what I catch myself doing much of the time.
I have learned there is more to prayer than a grocery list and checklist. “Thank you for this, and thank you for that, and please bless me with this, and please bless me with that.” Certainly, that is the pattern we teach our children, but when we are grown up, we need to “put away childish things.”
In other words, our prayers need to change. Prayer needs to be real communication with our Heavenly Father.
The first step to having a million-dollar prayer is allowing ourselves time to pray. For many of us, our lives are jam-packed with things to do. Meals for the kids, the rush to the bus, the deadlines of work, the rush to home to cook again, the homework, the cleaning – and the list goes on.
Most of us have a daily list that trails far into next week. Of course, if we take time for Facebook, kick back time in front of the TV, surfing the web or leisure reading, we are swamped.
To have real communication, we are going to have to give up a few worldly pursuits. It is hard, but sacrifice is part of showing our devotion to God. Do our prayers need to be long and drawn out? No, just long enough to feel communion has taken place.
The Lord’s Prayer is not very long, but it is a pattern for us to follow in communicating with the Lord and covers things we should be concerned about if we want to pattern our lives after the Savior.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Jesus honored His Father as we should honor the Father. Pray for the Kingdom to be built so the world will be filled with the spirit of God even as Heaven is. Pray for our needs, ask for forgiveness of others as we need to be forgiven, and pray for strength to overcome temptation.
Finally, and most important, we need to return glory to the Father.
All that sounds like a compact grocery list. But remember, Jesus was giving us a pattern and instructions on what we should focus on in our prayers.
He counseled His followers to avoid vain repetition or, in other words, saying the same thing every time we pray; He didn’t expect us just to repeat His prayer every time we pray, though it isn’t a bad thing to memorize it and pray it sincerely. That certainly wouldn’t come in the category of vain repetition.
How do we avoid vain repetition in our daily prayers? Don’t we need the same things every day? Yes, sort of, but prayer isn’t so much about what we want; it is more about what God wants for us. We need prayer to find out what that is.
The Lord already knows what we are going to ask before we ask Him, so what is the point? It is the spiritual growth and the studying it out in our own minds that bring blessings. Paul’s epistle to the Romans gives us some insight:
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Paul is telling us that the Spirit will teach us what to pray. Sometimes we can’t even express our feelings. We are so caught up in our problems that all we can do is speak in spiritual “groanings.” As we talk through our feelings, the Spirit of God can help us sort them out and will give us direction as to how to solve our problem.
Sometimes it isn’t even a problem. Sometimes a thought comes into your mind telling you that someone needs your help. You might also receive instruction on what you need to change in your life to bring you more peace and happiness.
You can recognize God’s messages because they come into your mind with a swift feeling of peace and light. These thoughts are so different from what you were praying that you know it came from a spiritual source and not your own thoughts. If you act on those promptings, your life will change for the better.
A word of caution: Always watch for the feeling of peace and light. Sometimes people mistake the voice of the Adversary for spiritual guidance. Be certain God will not tell you to do something that will harm other people or go against his Commandments. You are not Abraham.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get into the spirit of prayer. That is where gratitude and giving glory to God comes in. Gratitude is recognizing what God has done for you, and you could go on and on with list after list of things you are glad God has given you, but that is only part of giving glory to God.
Giving glory to God means you recognize with every fiber of your being that you are nothing without Him. You are only a speck in this mighty universe He created. If you have ever stood alone beneath the night sky and pondered how small this earth is in the vast uncharted universe of stars spreading across forever, you get a sense of how insignificant you are.
That overwhelming feeling is the beginning of giving glory. It is a feeling that cannot be expressed in words, but it changes how you think and how you respond to God.
If you want to have the Spirit, you must take time to focus on who is listening to your prayers. That changes everything.
Instead of making a list – we are thankful for our many blessings of health and prosperity, we are thankful for our abilities and talents – what if we started our prayers with a list of miracles we have seen in our lives or create a list of miracles we have read from the scriptures? Remember, this is the same God who parted the Red Sea.
This is the same God who changed water into wine. This is the God who made our eyes to see and our ears to hear. He is the one who brought Lazarus back to life after three days. What if we remembered that He is not subject to the angry storms and the elements of water and wind?
He walked on water, and one stormy night He commanded the storm, “Peace, be still.” What if we really got a sense of who we are talking to before we ever opened our mouths? Our prayers would be monumentally different.
How we approach the Lord makes all the difference in whether we really expect Him to answer. Our expectations are the beginning of faith.
Often when we approach God in the humblest attitude is when we have a problem to solve. We need something desperately for us or for someone else. It is easy to pray then, but what if we don’t recognize we have a problem? We certainly don’t want to ask for one.
At least, I don’t feel strong enough to ask for adversity to make me grow. If we don’t have a problem, how do we pray with real intent? If you don’t recognize where you need to grow, it is time to ask the soul-searching question posed by the rich young ruler to Jesus, “What lack I yet?” Or, who do I need to serve today?
If your mind is right, and you expect an answer, you will get the million-dollar response to your heartfelt prayer.