This is a parable about prayer. I have two young boys, one has special needs and the other is just special. They balance each other out and keep my days very full of adventure. They are also very different in nature. Each says their prayers before bed but those prayers are about as different as they can come. My special needs child says the same prayer every night. Most nights he rushes through it as fast as he can. It is correct in form as well as a crucial part of his bedtime routine but that is as far as it goes. He lacks the ability to understand that it should be anything else. We’ve worked so hard to help him understand that when someone speaks to you, you need to say something back that he’s taken this to heart. He has decided that since Heavenly Father doesn’t talk back (like a telephone conversation) that prayers are not conversations, they are routines.
My other son is a conversationalist to the extreme. He loves to talk and share his thoughts with anyone who will listen. Prayers are another opportunity to talk. He treats this as his one-on-one time with Heavenly Father. He talks extensively, as if he were talking to his best friend at a sleepover, about his day, his feelings, his hopes and dreams. I’ve learned valuable lessons about prayer from each of my sons.
As adults I think we all fall someplace along the continuum I’ve just described. Some of us may have never gained a testimony of prayer at all. It may be lacking entirely from our lives, or we may treat it as a routine. We go through the motions but never feel it reach our hearts. Others of us may come to our knees expecting to hear from a dear friend. We talk, He listens. He talks, we listen. Most of us, I think vacillate between the two extremes.
When I find myself becoming more routine and less personal in my prayers, I try to think of my sons. The Savior has asked us to “come unto Him” and one of the sweetest ways we have to heed that call is in the gift of prayer.
He wants to hear from us, He cares about our day, the little things and the big things we encounter as we try to be more like Him. It’s okay to take our time. It’s okay to laugh with Him. It’s okay to cry with Him. It’s okay to listen for His answers, they will come.