I grew up not knowing how to pray and never gave a thought to praying until I met the missionaries. Truth be told, I felt uncomfortable just at the thought of prayer because I didn’t know how. As I was learning about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I had many questions, and at that time the only resource I was taught was prayer. How grateful I am for that! Despite my fear of not saying prayers “correctly” and just talking, I learned something very powerful: honesty in our prayers is crucial to receive the answers we need. Heavenly Father answers our prayers, and it is through Him that the right answers come. Ask God, not Google. When things were hard, when I didn’t like how something was going, or when I didn’t understand things, I told Him. “Heavenly Father, this stinks.” Or “What on earth is happening with this?” and even “This is completely confusing and I don’t agree with this. Help me to know what Thou means.” Sometimes I feel like it’s easy to tiptoe around our true feelings and thoughts in fear of maybe offending God or something. I have found that holding back in prayers not only prevents answers and full conversion, but it also prevents an intimate, trustworthy, and real relationship with our Father in Heaven.
We know that Heavenly Father does in fact answer prayers and we can receive as long as we ask, but there are times when we may not know what to ask for. After addressing Him, we can ask Him to help us with our prayer. When I have done this, I have found myself asking and saying things I haven’t thought of before. Heavenly Father will always help us if we ask, even if it is asking Him to help us to know what to ask for.
Once we become comfortable with prayer, it can become easy to do a lot of talking, with not a lot of thinking, feeling, or listening. Sometimes our prayers seem like leaving a message on an answering machine of our wish list and then hanging up. To help overcome that, never forget who we are talking to. I can count on one hand how many times Heavenly Father actually spoke in the scriptures. It is usually always 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? When I close my eyes to pray, I picture my Father in Heaven standing right in front of me. When I do that it becomes a meaningful conversation. When we listen during and after our prayers, answers, understanding, comfort, strength, and the greater blessings God has in store for us come.