The Power of Habitual Prayer

Why praying sometimes doesn’t work like it “should”, and how I fixed that
my testimony
personal stories
scripture of the day
book of mormon

Wednesday January 17, 2024

my testimony
personal stories
scripture of the day
book of mormon

I want to share my experience with how prayer has turned from not very meaningful to substantively helpful in a matter of a few short weeks.

Consider the scene:

Children jumping on beds. Refusing to get dressed or brush their teeth or go to the bathroom. Screaming from the other room. Screaming from this room. Exhausted after a long day. I just want things to change and be different.1

Any parent comes across this more than once per day.

Most of last year I felt like I wasn’t getting a whole lot out of my prayers. A few comments:

Okay. So that’s last year. Lots of prayers. I know God loves me regardless of how effective they are. And I know they could be better.

Back to the scene. There were several times last year when the kids were nuts and I needed to calm myself down. It was hard. I tried a few times to go and pray but just felt like “it’s not working!” Im praying! Why can’t I get to a better state of mind?! This prayer thing isn’t working for me and I’m doing it wrong.

I never felt like prayer wasn’t good or useful. Just that I couldn’t get it to do what I wanted it to do for me: fix me. I figured: maybe I need to pray differently. Or try XYZ thing.

Okay, so throw up a prayer and hope it sticks. Change me! I’m here.

Nope. Didn’t work. I’d still be struggling with patience in those circumstances.

Last night I had a new experience. I did pray the same way I’ve prayed before when stressed. No, I didn’t get fixed - God doesn’t fix us like that. Instead, while praying I remembered a mindset Find the Fun that I had discovered last week. That’s all that came to mind. I left the prayer still agitated because a kid was about to jump on another kid while I was praying and I had to leave the prayer.

What happened though? I was just like 20% less stressed as I tried focusing on Find the Fun.

Okay, so the night went better than it did last week. I had something in my mind to hold on to.

What’s the difference between the me yesterday and the me of three weeks ago? I changed my relationship with prayer.

I’ve been trying to have just one good prayer per day. It’s a goal for this year. And a good prayer is one where I try to get some type of insight. Like meditation. Just pray until an insight. Setting a timer helps me. Doing it in my office or a place where I’m alone helps too. And when I’m done, I write down the insight.

Most of the time the insight isn’t like from God or anything. I don’t hear a voice. I don’t have any mental image. The insight for me usually comes from me hearing myself pray. “Oh, I didn’t realize that was on my mind” or “oh, how did I think of that?” I’ve come to learn that this is a spiritual prayer. This is praying by the spirit. When I desire to connect with God (get something out of my prayer), I’m elevated ever so slightly (I’m grateful for small things).

And that’s it: I’ve been doing this for about two or weeks now and my relationship with prayer is changing. I no longer want it to fix me. I see it as a way to try to connect with heaven in a small way.

And that’s the realization: the power of prayer isn’t in the hail Mary’s. It’s in the consistent relationship with it.

I do believe a Hail Mary is better than no Hail. So hail away.

And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries Mosiah 21.15

The Lord hears your cries even if you’re wicked. Pray regardless. But there is a concept of Him being slow to hear at times: feeling the effect of prayer requires consistency. But he’s happy to help any time we come to Him. He’s not vindictive. He’s not “I told you so” or “you should be coming to me more often than this”. That’s how we treat each other, with pride. God isn’t like that. Heavenly Father wants us to come to him, and he’ll hear our cries.

Translating this to me: i wasn’t wicked or anything. I was just a stressed out dad. But I think the principle applies: if I have a lackluster relationship with prayer then he’ll be slow to hear. Or, said another way, I’ll be slow to hear. Slow to see. More reactive. More knee jerky and less patient. More thinking “why doesn’t this prayer thing work for me?”

So that’s my insight. Make prayer meaningful and it starts to pay dividends slowly. Very slowly. But I also believe in compounding interest.

if your investments gain 0.1% each day of the year, do you know what your returns would be over a year? 44% increase. So if you invest $100 today, by the end of the year you’ll have $144 if you keep reinvesting your returns. Thats insanely good! But that’s math. that’s compounding interest.2

So shoot for a 0.1% prayer. That’s all it’s gotta be to get massive returns.

So that’s the invitation: try to make prayer meaningful (whatever that means to you, not me). And try to do it consistently.

But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness. Alma 34.26

Pray alone in your wilderness. Find somewhere.

  1. while writing this the insight came: I’m in the state of mind of wanting them to change. This is a mindset of control (Stop trying to change people. Stop it.). The fallacy a mind believes is “if only they’re better I’d be at more peace”. Consider the alternative: if they were peaceful but I’m still in a mindset of control. Would I be happier? Perhaps I would feel more comfortable (less noise in my ear). But I’m going to posit that a person in a mindset of control, regardless of whether they’re being listened to and their control is being obeyed, aren’t happy and aren’t mindful. They aren’t present with what is. A healthier mindset for me might be: “anything could happen, delightful that they’re food now, but it’s okay if they misbehave. They’re kids! How can I Find the Fun in this moment?”↩︎

  2. The math is this: 1.001^365=1.44. Or, your daily return is 1.001. Invest $10 and you’ll have $10.01 by the end of day one. Invest $10.01 on day two and gain 0.1% and you’ll have $10.02001 by end of day two. Do this 365 times and you’ll have $10*1.001^365=$14.40↩︎


Bryan lives somewhere at the intersection of faith, fatherhood, and futurism and writes about tech, books, Christianity, gratitude, and whatever’s on his mind. If you liked reading, perhaps you’ll also like subscribing: