When thou prayest...
I was recently in the shower, something I do every day, an idea came to visit me. After I informed it that I was busy at the moment, and if it would wait for a minute I would write it down, well... here is what I got. In the Book of Matthew chapter 6, versus 5 to 8, the Lord talks about how not to pray. I want to look at each of those verses, and what I get from them. In verse 5, the Lord says:
5 ¶And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
I used to make a joke that this was in reference to the Evangelistas that used to pray out loud in their churches, not to talk to God, but to rat each other out for their sins. Now that I look at it with more mature eyes, I see that Jesus was actually telling us that our prayers are to be between us and God. Notice how after Christ tells us what not to do, in verse 9 he teaches us how we should pray: "After this manner therefore pray ye:". So these instructions are personal, not group prayer instructions, and we are to do it in a private conversation with the Father. He confirms this in verse 6:
Interestingly, Christ assures us that God will see and hear our prayer and grant our requests. He gives us another caution, however.
This one used to trouble me, but I have some new insight into it. When Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon, he got to a point where he had translated 116 pages of content. Martin Harris asked to be allowed to show the pages to his wife, hoping to convince her of the truth of the work. Joseph asked several times to be allowed to let Martin take the pages. Each time the Lord told him no. Finally, Joseph was given permission; something that reminds me of myself telling my kids; "Fine! Do what you want, but I told you no."Martin lost the pages, and Joseph was chastised by not being allowed to translate "for a season". How often to we weary the Lord through prayer, asking for things that we don't need. When I read verse 8, I realized that what we need to do is ask for what we need, not what we want. Notice Christ says the Father knows what we need, not what we want.
When we approach God, we need to know what we want, but also need to remember that His will WILL be done, regardless of our opinions. He will do what is best for his children, from an eternal perspective. What we need to do is rely on the Spirit to tell us what we need, and then be willing to pray and ask for it; letting the Spirit "show unto [us] all things what [we] should do"(2 Ne 32:5). In Helaman 10, Nephi is promised that "all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." (Helaman 10: 5) When we ask the Father in prayer for those things we need as prompted by the Holy Spirit, in the Name of Jesus Christ, we are promised that "[we] shall receive." (Matthew 21:22)