Early in my investigation of the church as a teenager, I went on a campout with trip. In awe, I said, “I’ve never prayed so much in my life. Every time we turned around, it was time for another prayer.”
Prayer was quite a challenge for me when I was first learning about the church. I had always prayed at bedtime, but they were memorized and recited prayers concluding with a list of people to bless. The idea of prayer as a conversation was new to me. In addition, I found it hard to remember to pray at other times of the day, and mornings were especially challenging for me.
I felt self-conscious at first, just talking to God. I was worried that I’d forget the pattern the missionaries outlined. They said to first address Him by name, then thank Him for my blessings, ask for what I needed, and conclude in the name of the Savior. I worried that if I did it wrong, my prayers wouldn’t make it to Heaven.
In time, my Laurel advisor taught me that God works with what we know. There is a pattern to follow, but He listens even if we don’t follow it. There are times when we’re having a spontaneous conversation with Him and won’t follow the pattern. There are times when we simply forget. God hears us anyway.
To help me learn the pattern, I wrote the steps on a card and placed it in front of me as I prayed. I opened my eyes before each step to remember what to do. Eventually the pattern was natural and I no longer needed it.
The next battle I faced was to remember to pray in the morning. Many members use a prayer rock or a prayer bear to help them remember. Choose something that represents prayer to you (such as a rock with the word prayer painted on it, or a teddy bear with a satchel holding a picture of Jesus) and place it on your pillow. At night, when you remove it from your pillow, you’ll be reminded to pray. When you put it back on your pillow in the morning, you’ll also be reminded. I also found it helpful to make a sign to put at the foot of my bed that I saw first thing in the morning, since I wasn’t a consistent bed-maker.
Making prayer a conversation was a bit more challenging. No little reminders could help me with that one. However, I placed pictures of the First Vision and the Savior near the bed and found it helpful to look at them just before and sometimes during my prayers. I tried to imagine God sitting right beside me as I talked to Him. As I got to know God better through study and prayer, conversation became more natural for me. In many ways, getting to know God isn’t much different than getting to know anyone else. The more time you spend together and the better you know each other, the more comfortable you are talking. So spend as much time as you can with your Heavenly Father and conversational prayer will soon feel natural to you.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.