Bottom line: prayer is key to our salvation. And when I say salvation, I'm talking about here and now.
So here are some tips I've learned from both success and failure with prayer.
1. Prayer can feel silly when you're not sure God exists. But it can still be meaningful if it comes from the heart.
2. It's OK to start a prayer with, "God, if you exist, please help me with X..."
3. Rote prayer is about as useless as no prayer at all.
4. Rote prayer has nothing to do with whether you're reading a pre-written prayer from a book or not. It does have everything to do with whether your heart is in it. You can read a prayer from a book and if you mean it with your whole heart, it can be totally efficacious. And you can improvise a prayer off the top of your head, but if it's a litany of prayer platitudes that everyone just prays as some sort of prayer "filler," and you don't really mean any of it, that won't make it any more efficacious than if you had just read empty words from a book.
5. Some of the best prayers are when we don't ask for anything, and we just tell God what's going on in our lives, and thank him for all the good stuff.
6. Of course God already knows. But he still wants to hear from us.
7. If it doesn't feel like there's any good stuff, it's OK to just be silent and ask God to comfort you.
8. You can pray anywhere. On the bus. In the shower. Riding your bike. In between sentences while you're having a conversation. At a gay bar! (True!) God would rather hear a sincere prayer from you in any of those places than a rote, meaningless prayer mouthed while you're on your knees in some supposedly sacred place.
9. Think about what's going on in your life, and what you need to pray about before you pray.
10. If something feels amiss, if you feel bad about something, but you don't know quite what, that's a good time to pray.
11. God loves prayers of repentance. If we're doing things right, we will probably pray a lot of these kinds of prayers.
12. When you ask God to help with stuff, try to spend more time praying for others than for yourself.
13. When you pray for others, try to pray for them what they would pray for themselves. Otherwise, your prayers risk turning self-congratulatory and hypocritical. (Worse than rote prayers.)
14. Yes, we can pray without going through the motions of prayer. We don't need to be on our knees. We don't need to follow a prayer formula, etc. But going through the motions of prayer is important sometimes too. The motions can help remind us that when we pray, we are addressing a real person, who listens to us and responds to us.
15. It is important to listen after a prayer. (Or even before a prayer.)
16. Listening can continue after we get up off our knees. (Sometimes it needs to.) Sometimes we need to listen all day.
17. It's possible to listen while you're doing other things. Sometimes you have to focus on something else, but when you're done focusing on that something else, remind yourself to go back to listening.
18. One of the greatest blessings you can receive through prayer is the blessing of the Spirit's presence. That's one of the most important things to ask for in prayer.
19. One of the main reasons we need to pray is to help us gain an appreciation of the nature of our relationship with God.
20. We benefit the most from any individual prayer when that prayer is part of a life pattern of praying "always."
21. Prayer is a privilege.
I lived for many years without prayer. Looking back now, I'm not sure quite how I managed.
My greatest wish for anyone reading this blog who doesn't have prayer as a part of his or her life is that you might find some way to make it part of your life.
Gay Mormons need to pray for each other. Most of us are in need of all the help we can get. If anyone needs prayer, it's us. We need to remember each other in our prayers.
I will gladly pray with you, gay or Mormon or none of the above... I will gladly pray with you in person or over the phone. I will gladly think of you and offer prayers for you. Just email me, get in touch, however.