How long do you pray?

[ 7 ] Comments

by Nick Galieti

I have spent some time working at an event for another faith (not to be named) for the past week. While some of their beliefs are still unknown after being here a week (very little doctrinal exposition from my opinion), one thing struck me as different than a practice within the LDS faith. I am not sure if this practice is common in the faith, or if it is just at this convention/event, but they have setup a special room on site for praying. Not just any kind of praying, marathon praying.

Okay, maybe not marathon praying, but 90 minutes of prayer. It made me think, how long do members of the LDS church typically pray? Is there too long to pray? Would we be better off on an individual level if we had these longer prayer sessions?

7 Responses to How long do you pray?

  1. Liz C says:

    In our meetings, prayers are not supposed to function as a Sudden Sermon Opportunity (though the invocation offered at a funeral this winter was one awesome example of an SSO combined with a best-friend eulogy, and it will long be remembered as a highlight of the day… how many prayers include, “He was a good-hearted man, as thou knowest, Heavenly Father, right up to the day he kicked it and shuffled off his mortal coil. We’re thankful to have known him,” ?) so I’m in favor of short, sweet, and to the point for those.

    With personal and family prayer, I tend to think we ought to be praying long enough to express what’s in our hearts, and listen for answers. For just my personal prayers, I aim to pray long enough to get my will coordinated with my Father’s will for me, and sometimes, that takes awhile. When I’m praying from sheer gratitude in my personal prayers, I’ll sometimes wake up in the morning, say “Amen,” and hope my dreams were grateful, too.

    There is something to be said for the self-discipline of meditative prayer. We have some great examples in the scriptures of those who tapped into some pretty amazing communication due to their determination to pray for as long as it took.

    I think we can learn a lot from other belief systems who do practice lengthy meditative prayer, and also from those who use short ritual prayer and practices to give a frame to additional worship (such as the blessings and candle-lighting with Jewish practice… our family gets a lot more out of scripture reading when we light candles and have a prayer before and after, so that’s one set of shorter ritual prayer/practice that really improves our personal efforts.)

  2. jendoop says:

    Your question leads me to ask the bigger question: “What is prayer?”

    Often in LDS culture we consider it to be folded arms, bowed head, sometimes kneeling. It’s more and less than that- meaning that prayer can look very much like contemplation, napping, or yoga and it can be as simple as the passing thought, “That strawberry was delicious, thank you Heavenly Father for creating it!”

    After being in the temple on Saturday I think the entire endowment session could be called a prayer – it is sacred communication between us and our Heavenly Father, with personal revelation included. Is a temple sealing a prayer? Could the entire time of silence and contemplation during the sacrament be considered a prayer? What about a hike or a run when we are contemplating spiritual matters and mentally conversing with God? Often I write to pray, it helps me think in a more structured way so that I can remember what I’m praying for, and what personal revelation I’m receiving. It doesn’t gel with the traditional reverence aspect (bowing my head and closing my eyes), I give that type of reverence at other times.

    I’m trying to tear down the wall between “prayer” and “the rest of my life.” I hope to live with a full heart continually drawn out to God, asking for his input and guidance along the way, giving thanks often, pondering, meditating, and inviting him into my moments of work and joy, not necessarily to do anything for me, but just to be with me. While also participating in shorter moments of traditional, head bowed eyes closed, prayer.

    In my life if I were to pray 90 minutes a day, in a room with nothing else, no books, head bowed eyes closed, I would likely come up with a list of wants and demands 90 minutes long. I’d rather spend 10 min on my knees and 80 minutes serving and working.

    • Monica Lynn says:

      What a beautiful expression of a desire to live with Heavenly Father each day. I have always loved the Bible Dictionary explanation of prayer, one part of which explains that prayer is the means by which our will is changed to be in line with that of Heavenly Father. As we honor our sacramental covenants to always remember the Savior and live with a heart full of gratitude and drawn out in continual prayer and live worthy of the constant companionship of His Spirit, maybe it matters less where prayer ends and begins and our whole lives become a continual prayer, continually communicating to our God and receiving His love and guidance back.

  3. templegoer says:

    I have had longer prayer experiences that are pleas for calm in the midst of great pain, which have been constructive, but generally for me elongated prayer just leads to obsessing over the things over which I have no control. I’m not so good at the ‘handing it over to God’ thing. Largely my prayers are expressions of love and efforts to trust in God, and answers seem to take the form of ‘get on with it and deal with the consequences’. What I do experience most often, whilst I’m getting on with it, is sweet intimations of a more excellent way, which often take me time and work to define and live into practice.

  4. MSKeller says:

    As long as it takes. That sounds flip, but it really is the truth. I’ve done the ‘all day’ thing in my life, and that was what I needed at that time. I’ve done 30 second prayers, and like the above comments, I’ve done it with my arms folded and head bowed, on my knees, on my chair, in my closet and driving my car. . .

    I think prayer is hugely personal, and asking folks to put a timer on it is ludicrous in my mind. Asking or providing a chance to ‘try it’ is wonderful however. Sometimes that is the very thing someone needs to break through a ‘stuck’ place.

    Just pray. No matter where, how, how long, . . . just do it.

  5. SilverRain says:

    Most of the long, formal prayers I’ve heard are more about the pray-er than the prayer. I’ve spent days and days in earnest prayer, all while walking around and doing what else I’m doing. The goal is as others have said, to pray continually.

    If people really understand what prayer is: the process by which we bring our will in alignment with God’s will, they would see that formally kneeling with arms folded and head bowed are tips of the iceberg of prayer. They are important punctuation to our everyday life, but they are often not where the real work of prayer happens.

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