Let me start off by saying that I do believe in prayer, despite the fact that I'm not really sure how it works. As Mormons, we're supposed to be creative with our prayers, avoiding "vain repetitions." I've always been mindful of this, but I've always found it a challenge to come up with new things to say. I'm usually thankful for all the same things and hope for all the same things. There have been variations during the different stages of my life, but it's usually basically the same: I'm extremely thankful for a roof over my head, food on the table, good health, and to live in a free country. (I can add many things to this list, the more aware I become of the world around me.) And I always wish for continual good health for me and my loved ones, as well as that we'll all come home safe and sound each day from our individual routines. I will often include someone who's on my mind, if I think they could use some extra help from above. I figure it can't hurt.
So aside from the things I mentioned above, I don't pray for much regarding myself. I've been very fortunate and blessed with the things I mentioned already, but I tend to avoid praying for specifics because I usually don't get them. I'm not angry or bitter about this because I honestly try to believe that God knows better than me what's best, so I leave it in His hands. I told my bishop once that my personal philosophy with prayer is that I think out in my head what's best, tell the Lord I'm going to do it unless He stops me (i.e. if He thinks it's wrong), and then hope for the best. I think he thought I was joking, but I wasn't. I've never gotten answers in the typical Mormon fashion of personal revelations or burning bosoms. It's more like a perpetual "stupor of thought" that I try to trust in and it usually turns out OK in the end. So instead of dwelling on it and getting frustrated, I choose to give things a lot of thought, a little prayer, and just dive in. It has worked out OK for the most part. Before I started taking this approach and just waited around for an answer from God, I felt like a squirrel in the middle of the road that can't decide which way he wants to go, until he usually ends up getting run over by a car.
A couple of years ago, I asked the Lord for something very specific. However, I was very mindful of the fact that it was perhaps wasn't right for us. So although I told the Lord that we wanted this thing, if He knew it wasn't right for us, then we didn't want it because we knew it could easily turn into more of a liability. If it was wrong for us and the answer was no, then we were honestly OK with it. Anyways, we were given what we asked for and were very happy about it for a while until we realized that it wasn't going to turn out the way we hoped. Now a significant sum of money could potentially be lost (or at the very least tied up for a long time) and we're stuck in a situation that we're not very happy with. I think back to the day when I asked the Lord for this, pleading with Him to not give it to us if it wasn't going to work out, because I could foresee happening exactly what has happened now, and I wonder why He gave us this "blessing." I don't want to make this into a bigger deal than it is. I still have a roof over my head and food on the table. Things could definitely be a lot worse! But it's enough to make one question whether God really hears all prayers and whether they really all matter. It makes me wonder why He would want anyone to throw money down the toilet for no good reason when they were willing and ready to accept a simple "no" in the first place.
So all this brings up another point about prayer that I've always wondered about. We know that we should always have an open and humble heart when we pray for something. We have to be willing to accept that what we are asking for is not part of his will for us or the person we are praying for. Let's use the example of a man with cancer. Only God knows whether this person is going to live or not. So we're all fasting and praying for him, that he will live. But does any of it matter? God has decided already whether this person is going to live or die, and the best we can do is pray to be able to accept His will if he dies. Or is God's decision not yet made and is it riding on how many people pray for this man? Could it even be that enough praying can make God change His mind?
So I will continue to pray that we all get home safely each day, but sometimes I do wonder whether I should just save my breath. Or then again, maybe that one prayer will be enough to change His mind.
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