Wednesday, August 17, 2016

on effective prayer

This was my final lesson to the Relief Society as a member of the presidency before I moved to Utah. Enjoy.

The yogis teach that God gave us a head to give it to Him; He gave us a heart to pray. 

Prayer is one of my absolute favorite things. It may actually be my favorite thing. Communing with the Lord is something I have loved to do since I was a child and I love to do it now, and every day that passes I love it a little more. I pray all day long. I love it. 

I want to just share some of my thoughts on prayer for a few minutes, and then in a little while we will do a few exercises on prayer. You're going to love them. But this is my last week teaching you and I thought--what are the things I want to share with the Relief Society about prayer? Here are four of my thoughts about prayer.

Thought 1: We don't need to know how. 
God told the Brother of Jared to come to him with a plan for how to light his ships--but at the same time, He led Nephi forth with Nephi "not knowing beforehand" what was going to happen or what he was going to do. I feel that so many times we have our fancy plans of how things should work in our lives, and we take our plans to the Lord and beg for Him to put our plans into action, as if we are the experts on our lives. 

We not. We are not the experts on our lives. We barely understand anything that happens in our lives. We make up narratives, stories, to explain our lives to ourselves, but that's what they are: narratives. I look at my children and realize every day that I don't know what they're thinking. Half the time I don't even know what I'm thinking! And yet I want God to enact my plans for me? I'm an idiot! I'm clueless! God is the one that knows everything, not me. 

We don't need to know how. God wants us to make plans and He invites us every day to co-create our lives with Him. He wants us to ask him for what we want. And so we should. But humility is also so important. We don't need to know "how." It is safe to release the white-knuckled grip on "how" and tell the Lord: "I don't need to know how. Please, just fix this. Just fix me. I can leave the how up to You." 

So thought 1 is: We can leave the "how" to the Lord. Matthew 7:8-11:

 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that  seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Thought 2: Doing all things in the name of Jesus Christ

D&C 46:31 says, " And again, I say unto you, all things must be done in the name of Christ, whatsoever you do in the Spirit." How do we do "all things" in the name of Christ? 

I teach Kundalini yoga and meditation, which is a Christ-centered yoga and a mantra meditation. The main mantra that you will hear over and over if you ever take up kundalini is "sat nam." It is how the yogis say hello and goodbye, like "aloha" for Hawaiians. In yoga, and in your life, it is recommended by the yogis that on every inhale, you think the word "sat" and on every exhale you think the word "nam." So every breath, and remember that every breath is sacred, every breath incorporates the Sat Nam into the physical body.

 Sat Nam means, "the true name." Whose name is the true name?

We know that the true name is the name of Jesus Christ. The yogis believe in Jesus Christ and devote their yoga to the creation of what they call a "Christ consciousness," becoming one with Christ. I love that with every breath they are breathing His name in. What a way to "take His name upon us."

You don't have to take up kundalini yoga to learn from this concept. Do you remember Jesus Christ with every breath? When I breathe the Sat Nam I do. And I love it.

Thought 3: The importance of a daily spiritual practice

What does it mean to have a daily spiritual practice?

The prophets have called upon us to have one, and they have stated that it should include a serious ongoing study of the Book of Mormon and studies of the Holy Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and teachings of the living prophets.

Ezra Taft Benson said,"I would humbly urge all … to keep in close touch with our Father in heaven through prayer.” He said, “If we would advance in holiness—increase in favor with God—nothing can take the place of prayer.”

We are also supposed to meditate. David O. McKay said,

"We pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship there are two elements: One is spiritual communion arising from our own meditation; the other, instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is the meditation.Meditation is the language of the soul. It is defined as “a form of private devotion, or spiritual exercise, consisting in deep, continued reflection on some religious theme.” Meditation is a form of prayer. …Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord." 
That is in Chapter 4 of David O. McKay's Teachings of the Presidents of the Church.

So we are supposed to have a daily practice that includes meaningful prayer, serious scripture study, and meditation? How do we do that?

One secret is to schedule it. Another secret is to schedule it before the sun rises. Exactly one year ago, the Ensign published an article called "Filled with Life and Energy," in which they quoted Harold B. Lee as saying, 

“If you are to be successful as a General Authority, you will need to be inspired. You will need to receive revelation. I will give you one piece of advice: Go to bed early and get up early. If you do, your body and mind will become rested and then in the quiet of those early morning hours, you will receive more flashes of inspiration and insight than at any other time of the day.”

The article states,

Additional blessings are pledged to those who follow the Lord’s counsel on sleep. Consider these incredible promises: “Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (D&C 88:124; emphasis added). Invigorate means “to fill with life and energy.”

The yogis call the daily spiritual practice of prayer, scripture study, and meditation "sadhana." The Mahan Tantric of Kundalini Yoga has said, "Sadhana is a willful effort to prove you are not lazy about your own Infinity. When the sun rises early in the day, even idiots rise. But blessed are those who rise before the sun and prove that they are the children of the Almighty." The yogis say, only when you are in love with God, then can you perform sadhana, the daily spiritual practice.

Our daily scripture study and prayer and meditation is our way of showing God we are in love with Him! It is our way of showing we are not lazy about our own eternities.

For the yogis, including myself when I can, daily sadhana begins at 4 am and can take hours. Those hours are beautiful. But the Lord blesses us for every little effort we make to keep His counsels on sleep and on daily spiritual practice. I know that as you even just set your alarm back five minutes earlier to make time in the morning for the Lord for just those five minutes, you will see incredible blessings. 

Thought 4: Becoming a living prayer

 The yogis teach that to be a yogi is to be healer, and to be a healer is to be "a living prayer." That is the thing that has been on my mind to teach and discuss today. How do we become living prayers?

While breathing a prayer about this, I was on Facebook and up came a meme from a fellow yogini, a meme of Mother Teresa. The quote is:

“I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” - Mother Teresa

Prayer changes US and we change things.
In Alma 34, we are counseled to pray over everything:
20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks
21 aCry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
>  23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
>  24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
>  25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
>  26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
>  27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
Sidenote: we are encouraged to pray over all sorts of things. The Power of a Praying series by Stormi Omartian is really fantastic when it comes to this. I got her book The Power of a Praying Wife and it just has huge lists of things to pray for on behalf of your husband. Pray for your husband's reputation. For his finances. For his physical health. For his friendships. Etc. It is a great book just because of how many ideas it has on what to pray for! But to continue:

But then the next verse, Alma 34:28, states,
And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
Part of becoming a living prayer is service. Becoming a living prayer means letting prayer change us--and the change it wreaks in us is a change of service, a change that leaves us desiring to reach out our hands to the needy, to seek out those who need our love.

In our ward, we have the Relief Society Presidency and a compassionate service committee, but truly, we are all on the compassionate service committee, or we should be. When prayer has wrought its change in our hearts, we don't need a calling to reach out to serve those around us. If we want our prayers answered, we need to be going out of our way to answer others' prayers, and to be the answer to others' prayers.

Okay. Now I have an activity for us.

Prayer Writing Activity

In September of 2015, Elder Henry B. Eyring wrote:

Before you begin your prayer, take a few moments to think about what you want to say. Consider questions you might have or things that have been bothering you—you can even write them down so you don’t forget. Use this time too to clear your mind from the ruckus of the day so you can focus on the gentle impressions of the Holy Ghost. If your mind tends to wander while you pray, try to visualize Heavenly Father listening. Speak in specifics. Also, leave a few minutes at the end of the prayer to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. You might write down your impressions in your journal.

 Take out your pen and paper. Right now we are going to write a letter to God.

It starts: Dear Father, comma. And now you write. Write your thoughts, your concerns. Or just say hi. Writing out prayers is an ancient prophetic tradition that continues today. Consider the Doctrine and Covenants. These are prayers that Joseph Smith wrote out. Some sections have his letter to God written out--consider D&C 121. Some just have the answers he got.

Now we will write the answers we get. Start with Dear Your Name, comma, and start writing what comes into your mind. Write down what you "hear" whether or not it makes sense. It may not "feel" like "hearing," exactly, and that's right. It's like mental hearing, with your spiritual ears instead of your physical ears. Write down what comes to you and you will find that if you don't want to write something that comes, you will be unable to write something else until you do.

This is what I call your letter from God. When it's done, you look at it and ask yourself: is this something God would write to me? And of course, pray for a second witness from the Holy Ghost. But praying this way has been recommended by the prophets, who counsel us as in the Eyring quote to write down our thoughts and questions, and then write down our impressions too.

Once I was praying about a very specific dilemma a friend was dealing with. I wrote out my prayer: Dear Father, what should I know for my friend? The Lord gave me two paragraphs. They didn't seem to match up or make sense. One was about her life, and one was about a kind of obscure aspect of my life!

A few hours later that friend called about her dilemma. She said, "I just don't know what to think about X." I was stunned. I said, "I prayed about that this morning and this is what I got." I read her the first paragraph, the one that seemed to apply.

She said, "But what about how my problem impacts this obscure part of your life, Allie?" 

Once again, I was stunned. The answer to her question was in that second, non sequitur paragraph. The Lord knows everything and He's often willing to share if we ask.

 I know that Jesus is real, He is alive, He is here, He loves us, He loves YOU, and as we get to know Him better through meaningful prayer, we will grow in favor with the Lord. 

I love you guys. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 


  1. Thanks for sharing. Oh it would be so awesome to go to RS with you!

  2. I loved reading this as I can so relate. I offer prayers up to God in much the same way and have often received answers beyond my understanding, at the time. I love this time with my Heavenly Father. This is a true principle and I am so happy you are helping bring others to this awareness!