Confession: I used to fall asleep during my prayers. ALL. THE. TIME This changed last March when I was reading the Book of Enos and I was struck by how long he prayed. A day and a night. I was pretty sure I’d never prayed for more than a few minutes in my life—except for when I fall asleep. (And I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count.) I’ve read that section many, many times. But for some reason that day I decided to act. I figured if Enos could pray all day and all night, I could pray for 10 minutes.
To make sure it was really 10 minutes I set a timer on my phone. I also grabbed a little notebook and started making a list of things to pray for. I knew if I was going to pray for that long I’d need some sort of game plan to keep my mind from wandering. So I wrote a list and started to pray. After 6 minutes I was finished. I thought for a moment and added some more items, mainly the names of friends who were struggling. The timer definitely made me expand the circle of people and things I prayed for.
About an hour after my prayer, one of my prayers was answered. My daughter at BYU was trying to get a passport for her mission and she had a tight deadline. I hated that living several states away I couldn’t do the normal mom things to help her get ready. I was so grateful when she texted me that it was all taken care of. I found the little notebook I’d written my prayer in and put a checkmark by Lizzy’s passport. Right then I started writing a list of blessings that I could thank God for during my evening prayers. That night as I thanked God for my blessings I felt completely overwhelmed by his love for me.
Since then I have filled up two prayer books with prayers and blessings. I’ve almost filled up my third. In addition to putting checkmarks by answered prayers. I also write down anything I feel inspired to do while praying and put a star by it. Every week or so, I look over my book. I love putting in the checks by answered prayers, literally counting my blessings.
Of course some prayers aren’t answered and some prayers haven’t been answered yet. But having a record of my prayers makes it clear to me that God answers as many as he can. Also, I’ve realized His rate of answering prayers is much higher than my response to promptings received during prayer. In the Book of Mormon we are told to pray over almost everything. (Read Alma 34.) So I don’t consider anything too trivial to prayer about. I’ve prayed for gift ideas. I’ve prayed for help reserving a coveted fire pit at the beach. (I got the last one.) And I prayed for months that there would be snow at our Girl’s Camp. The first snowfall in that part of California came early this winter it hit the weekend before camp and it was record breaking.
Now before I write anything in my book I ask God to help me know what to pray for and it’s wonderful to see how His vision is much larger than mine. Shortly after starting my prayer book I felt inspired to pray for my friend Carla to find someone as awesome as her to marry. I hesitated before writing those exact words down. Carla was just past 40. She’d been single so long. How could my little prayer change that? Besides, she’s an FBI agent that bakes, gardens and can dance. No one could be as awesome as her. But I felt like I should write it down. So I did. Week after week I wrote those same words. I finally mentioned it to Carla. And she said, “That’s funny I’m dating someone new. Keep praying!”
Today I watched her try on her wedding dress! I might have teared up. She’s getting married in May and I actually know the guy; and he actually is almost as awesome as her. Almost.
Did my prayer make that happen? I’m not sure. Carla has given her heart and soul to the service of God. If anyone deserves the blessing of an eternal marriage she does. And lots of worthy people have been praying for this blessing for a long time. What I do know is that my prayer was answered. And even though my prayer book kind of looks like my to-do list for God, that’s not what it is, not really.
Why does God ask us to pray? He’s omniscient, he knows what we want and need before we even ask him. We don’t pray to procure blessings. We pray to build a relationship. God inspired me to pray for my friend Carla to give me a little glimpse of His goodness, to teach me to never give up hope, and to make it a little easier for me to say goodbye to her when she moves across the country in April.
My prayer book is not a to do list for God but rather a record of my relationship with Him. A tangible list of all the ways He has blessed me and my loved ones in the last year. A reminder that He lives and He cares about the details of my life. I still set the timer on my phone. Most days my prayers go longer but I always make sure to take at least 10 minutes out my day to really pray. Because if the creator of the universe wants a relationship with me I can give Him 10 minutes.