Last week we discussed our need to continue looking for the answers we need in our lives no matter how long it takes. Certainly that process will involve prayer.
If your prayers are anything like mine have more often been, you’ll be quite familiar with the checklist exercise. Even if you begin by thanking God for your blessings, your prayers can still be rote activities in which you repeat the same vain desires for your life to be better.
Is there a way to take prayer up a notch? Of course there is! The answer lies in the Sermon on the Mount.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Sermon on the Mount may be the best handbook ever written on discipleship. I’ve also described an annual tradition I have of studying the Sermon on the Mount during the last 40 days of the year as a way to renew my own discipleship of the Master.
This tradition has benefited me greatly. One of those benefits has been insights into taking my prayers to the next level. Here’s one such insight: If you want to take your prayers to the next level, have a care for His work.
Thy Kingdom come
The first words (“after this manner”) indicate that what follows is a model. Examining each part of this model reveals its structure: First comes an acknowledgment of God and His work. Then comes a pleading for our needs, both temporal and spiritual. The final part connects with the first by again acknowledging God.
Thanking God for our blessings is one way to say, “Hallowed be thy name.” But what comes after — “Thy kingdom come” — is something few of us practice. We rarely discuss with Him our own individual participation in His work. And yet it is one of the key practices for taking our prayers to the next level.
The better approach
It makes sense when you think about it. One of the purposes of prayer is to build a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Which approach is more conducive towards fostering that relationship? Approaching someone to speak only of your needs and wants? Or approaching someone to speak of his or her needs and wants?
Obviously it’s the latter. Yet so many of our prayers are more the former. We disburse a list of everything God needs to do for us so that our lives will be better.
Yet how better would our lives really be if we approached Him to discuss His needs and wants? We know what those are. “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Is it any wonder that the Master first taught His disciples “Thy kingdom come” before teaching them “Give us this day our daily bread”?
This of course doesn’t mean we should never bring our own needs and wants before our Maker. We just shouldn’t lead with it. You build a relationship with someone by having an outward focus, and that means leading with their needs and wants, not yours.
Advance His work
God’s work is so expansive that the possibilities for our prayers are truly endless. That’s quite fitting since Endless is His name (D&C 19:10).
You could talk about those who you home teach or visit teach. You could discuss your efforts to find the names of your ancestors and provide them with the opportunity to have the ordinances of salvation and exaltation. You could talk about your member missionary activities. Or you could discuss your current calling in your ward or stake.
Perhaps you’re struggling with bringing an inactive member of your ward or your family back into Church activity. You could even discuss your own personal ministry. Every effort to bring goodness into the world advances God’s work. And I’ve long advocated partnering with the Lord to embrace your own personal ministry.
Whatever aspect of God’s work you choose for your focus as you lead your prayers, you’ll notice an immediate change in the quality of your prayers as you begin with a care for His work. That’s been my experience.
If you want to get out of a repetitive prayer rut, or you just want to improve your prayers, trying having a care for His work. The increase in the quality of your prayers will result in an improved your relationship with your Heavenly Father that you can feel. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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