Thanks for the question. I would love to answer it because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on what prayer means to me, why it’s important and why it’s valuable to me. Because you asked, I’ll share the experience I had that elicited my statement on Facebook.
Last night as I was driving home to Draper I was in the car by myself and decided to not turn any music on or anything so I could just have some quiet time to think. I’ve had some questions and concerns that have been on my mind lately so I wanted to take the time to reflect on them a bit. When I was about half way home, I all the sudden had the urge to talk to my Father in Heaven about them. Right there in the car I started talking out loud and saying everything that was on my mind, expressing my feelings, thoughts, fears, and hopes, basically as if I was venting to a close friend.
From an outside perspective it would’ve looked like I was mental or something, crying and talking out loud to myself, but to me it was one of the most comforting things to know that I wasn't just talking out loud to myself. I felt a very real connection and knew that Heavenly Father was in fact listening to every word I was saying and understood exactly how I felt. I just talked the rest of the way home and even a little longer after I pulled up, and by the end of my prayer I had a very quiet sense of peace about everything I had been expressing. Nothing overpowering or overwhelming, just that quiet peace that everything would be ok.
Even though this seems like a dramatic example, and certainly not every prayer I say is like this, it still illustrates the principles that have given me strength. In the Bible Dictionary under “Prayer” it says, “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part.” In my experience I felt the urge to talk to my Father because of just that—He is my Father! I knew He cared, would understand, and wanted to help. And not only that, but He knows all the answers! And even if it wasn’t the right timing for me to get all the answers, at least He’d listen and give me the comfort I needed to keep going and be patient.
As I’ve tried to think of prayer as simply talking to my Father (or any close friend) it has changed the way I pray. It becomes more real instead of the same thing over and over again. I can go to Him and say, “You know what, I had a really hard time today, and this is why.” Or “I’m really sad about this, can you help me?” (of course using the formal pronouns). As I’ve really gone to Him with my joys, sadness, concerns, fears, etc, I’ve felt a lot of comfort and strength in knowing that He’s always there to listen and to help, just as my earthly father would listen and help if I wanted to talk to him about all these things.
The reason I said I wouldn’t be able to survive without prayer is because without that blessing of being able to speak with my Heavenly Father I’d be left to figure things out all by myself. I wouldn’t have those questions and concerns resolved, and I wouldn’t be able to feel the peace and comfort that comes from talking to the One who knows all things. I’d feel helpless, hopeless, and wouldn’t be able to turn anywhere for any absolute answers. I survive on prayer because that’s the only source from which I can find complete peace and rest from all the hardships of life—because He’s right there with me helping me through it.
Prayer has been an incredible strength to me both in big and small things. As I’ve been through some of the toughest challenges of my life this summer, prayer has been the way by which I received guidance as to what I should do and the means by which relief came from heartache. But there have also been countless times where I’ve lost keys or something silly like that and I’ve prayed for help to find them and the image of where they are will pop into my mind and even before I end the prayer I thank Him for helping me find the keys because I know they’ll be there when I get off my knees.
I just had another experience today when I was looking for a specific shirt I wanted to pack for my trip to Disneyland this week and I couldn’t remember where on earth I had put it. I decided to pray and expressed to my Father that I wanted to find that shirt because it would help me be modest, and when I was done I had an impression to check my laundry basket again even though I had already looked there more than once. When I looked through it more carefully, sure enough, there it was. THAT is why prayer is such a strength to me, because I know that whenever I have a problem, big or small, there will always be a constant source of comfort and guidance. He cares about it ALL, and wants to help if we’ll just ask.
There's a talk about receiving answers to prayers that I absolutely love because it so clearly outlines the principles upon which Heavenly Father answers our prayers. "Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayer" by Elder Richard G. Scott, Ensign, November 1989. I'd encourage you to read it and try to identify the principles taught in your past experiences. I know that if you look closely, you'll see that our Father has answered you many times too. Keep looking and keep praying and you can have as sure of a witness as I do that Father in Heaven loves us more than we can imagine and wants to help us every day of our lives.