Monday, August 3, 2015

Neal A. Maxwell on the process of sincere prayer

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) served as a Seventy from 1976-1981, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until his death from cancer in 2004.
"Prayers, which come so naturally to the child, are difficult for the 'natural man.' The process can be puzzling at times even for some sincere petitioners. Paul gave us this personal insight on the importance of our being guided by the Spirit as we pray: 'Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered' (Romans 8:26, emphasis added).
"Some have difficulty with the reality that prayers are petitions even though God knows all and loves all anyway. True, we are not informing God, but we are informing ourselves by reverently working through our real concerns and our real priorities and by listening to the Spirit. For us merely to say, ritualistically, 'Thy will be done' would not be real petitionary prayer. This would involve no genuine working through of our own feelings. There would be no experience in agonizing, in choosing, and also in submitting."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "That Ye May Believe" [Bookcraft 1992], p. 178

Elder Maxwell was so good at pushing our thoughts to seek for new understanding. He reminds us first, using Paul's statement, that the best prayers require spiritual promptings and urgings.

But it's understanding the process of prayer that I found so helpful in this excerpt. We're not informing God of our needs and desires when we pray. We're "informing ourselves" as we work though "our real concerns and our real priorities." We're learning to submit. As the Bible Dictionary informs us,
"The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings." (Bible Dictionary s.v. "Prayer")

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