Hymn text by William W. Walford, 1772-1850. View the full text of this hymn.

prayer

The simple double long meter and the pounding rhythm of bum BUM, bum BUM, bum BUM, bum BUM make this an instantly recognizable hymn, as well as an easy one to learn to play. It’s not uncommon to enter a Latter-day Saint home and hear a child plunking this tune out on the piano. There’s nothing too tricky about it, which is fitting, because when you get down to it, there’s really nothing too tricky about prayer. We address the Father, we offer thanks for blessings received, we ask for further blessings, and we do so in the name of the Son. Amen.

It’s simple, and perhaps because it’s so simple, it’s easy to overlook. A child can pray, and sometimes after a lifetime of prayer, our prayers can feel rote and facile, like a child’s. “Thank you for this day. Bless us to be happy. Bless us to be nice.” We may catch our minds wandering during a prayer, and often, we may catch ourselves nodding off. Sometimes it’s difficult to make something we repeat so often into a meaningful act.

And make no mistake–our prayers are intended to be meaningful acts. When we pray, we address our Father and are called “from a world of care and bid… to [our] Father’s throne [to] make all [our] wants and wishes known.” Prayer allows us to remove ourselves from the world and stand before a loving Father who wants nothing more than to hear from us. He doesn’t want us to hold back. He wants to know all of our wants and wishes. He wants to hear from each of us, and often. We are to pray in good times as well as in “seasons of distress and grief.”

But if He is so anxious to hear from us, why doesn’t He begin the conversation, we may wonder. We may wonder why we never hear an audible answer to our heartfelt prayers. We may wonder why we bother with the futility of it all when it seems so meaningless and solitary. It’s an easy question to ask ourselves, and an easy challenge to our faith until we remember that it’s our faith itself that powers the interaction. Our faith is tested by being required to address a being that we cannot see or hear, but who is real nonetheless. As we exercise faith in Him, our faith is strengthened as we receive our answers through the confirming presence of the Holy Ghost. Our asking for blessings can often unlock favors the Father is only too willing to bestow on us but that are made conditional on our asking. “Thy wings shall my petition bear,” we sing in the second verse, “to him whose truth and faithfulness engage the waiting soul to bless.” We are waiting for the promised blessings of prayer, yes, but He is also waiting for our prayers so that He can provide those promised blessings.

He wants us to pray. He implores us. We are asked over and over to pray, whether in our church meetings, in scriptures, in counsel from our leaders, in teachings from our parents and family, and so on. And we are counseled to do so not merely on occasion, but to do so as a way of life. We pray always, hoping that by drawing nearer to the Lord, He will draw nearer to us. And He does so, just as He has promised. When we feel His love come as an answer to prayer, even if we don’t see His face, hear His voice, or feel His presence, our faith is strengthened, and our desire to pray increased a day at a time.

And since he bids me seek his face,
Believe his word, and trust his grace,
I’ll cast on him my ev’ry care
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Image credit: “cold prayer,” flickr user Keith Riley-Whittingham. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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