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Written by Al Carraway
I had never said a prayer in my entire life until the elders asked me to start. I had no idea how to pray, and it was incredibly awkward for me. Not only did I not know how or what to say, but the idea of talking out loud to a God I didn’t even know existed at the time seemed a lot like having a conversation with myself. I had a church pamphlet that the missionaries had given me that had instructions on the back, in bullet points, about how to pray. I would pray with one eye closed and the other eye on the pamphlet because I didn’t even know how to start a prayer.
But the more I did it, the more comfortable it became. And I learned firsthand that every single prayer is heard when it’s done with real intent. It was through my awkward prayers that I was able to know and feel that there really is a God. I could see solutions, opportunities, and blessings in my everyday life that showed me that not only is He there, but that He cares.
He cares about me. He cares about the simplest of things that matter to me. I can count on one hand how many times Heavenly Father actually spoke in the scriptures. It is usually His Son—Jesus Christ—or the Spirit who speaks. But every one of us can speak to God directly. How cool and sacred is that?
I also learned, repeatedly, that specific prayers receive specific answers. Regardless of how you feel—confused, hurt, mad, alone—tell Him everything. Honest prayers are crucial. They’re crucial for conversion. They’re crucial for receiving answers. They’re crucial for receiving comfort and strength. They’re crucial to build up a real and lasting relationship with God that will help you through absolutely anything life brings your way. When you close your eyes to pray, picture Him standing right in front of you. Talk to Him like you would a real person, because the reality is, He is.
Force yourself to say a prayer no matter how frustrated you are. Pray hardest when it’s hardest to pray. It was in my honest prayers that I received more detailed comfort and counsel through all of my trials. It’s important to vent and open up fully and completely to your Father in Heaven. But it is crucial to listen—and not just listen to what we want to hear.
Sometimes I have no idea what I should be asking Heavenly Father for during a trial. A trick I’ve learned, is asking God for help with my prayers. When you start your prayer, simply ask, “Heavenly Father, help me with this prayer,” and then continue speaking to Him. Every time I have done this, I have found myself asking for things I never thought of—things that were completely inspired and His will.
It’s not often that I check my messages on Instagram (for several reasons), and it’s pretty rare that I respond, especially to contentious messages about me or the Church. But I just happened to check my messages one day, and read one from a fourteen-year-old girl I did not know who follows my posts. She wrote two large paragraphs cussing me out and cussing out the Church. She was an active member as far as attendance goes, but went to church only because of her parents. I didn’t even know how to begin to address everything she had yelled at me about, so I just closed out of the message and thought I’d leave it at that. But I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I reopened her message later that day, and the next thing I knew, I gave her my cell phone number and we were texting. What? I know. So weird. After over an hour of her opening up to me with her struggles and feelings, she told me that she had just barely said a prayer: her first prayer in a long time, and perhaps her first honest prayer ever. Immediately after she told me this, her language and tone completely changed. She confessed that her prayer had left her in tears. She was able to feel peace and comfort for the “first time” in a long time. She confessed that she had felt God there for her.
The very next day, she texted me first thing in the morning. She was still super-positive and hopeful about her challenges, just as she’d been the night before. Unfortunately, only two hours later that same day, she started cussing me out again, questioning God and His hand in her life.
Are we allowing the adversary to let us overlook and dismiss those sweet experiences and bring us away from God? Do we expect help to come in a certain or specific way that we had in mind? Are we failing to recognize the unsuspected help and guidance from people, resources, or feelings? The adversary knows when we have spiritual experiences and will be right there to try and rob us of the light and progress we receive. One of his greatest tools is doubt. “Did I really feel that way?” “Did that actually happen?” Sometimes we wonder where God is and why He doesn’t help or answer us. Truth is, when we turn to Him, He always does—just like that girl who was brought to tears when she prayed because of the comfort of His presence and spirit that surrounded her.
It is important to note that Satan most often gets to us by our thoughts. He is the one that tells us that we can’t pray, that we are not worthy to talk to God, or that God is not listening. He is the one that tells us we don’t have time to read, or that Church is too long or not important. Do not listen. Do not let Satan win. It’s easier to recognize the adversary when we ask ourselves, “Is this preventing me from doing the right thing? Is this preventing me from turning to God?”
The following was taken from the book You've Got This currently on sale at cedarfort.com.