Talk on Personal Prayer

I was looking for something else on my work system, and I happened to stumble upon an outline of a talk on personal prayer I gave four years ago. I have only the barest memory of giving this talk. Anyway, I thought I would throw it up here in case it is useful for anyone else who is asked to speak in church along these lines. (don’t ask me what the joke was or the MHA story; I don’t remember.)

6/12/2005 Schaumburg First Ward Talk Outline

Personal Prayer


1. Joke

2. KFC/Taco Bell at MHA

Why do we have prayer?

3. Communication in Preexistence

4. Plateau in our progression

5. Creation of earth

6. Adam and Eve walked and talked with God as a man speaks with a friend

7. Fall, Spiritual Death—no more direct communication

8. “thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.” (Moses 5:8.)

9. Prayer is of necessity imperfect; need to walk by faith

Language and Mechanics of Personal Prayer in Contradistinction to Public Prayer

10. Different types (liturgical, written, public, personal)

11. Vain repetitions (missionary joke: No. 121)

A. Oral formulae—couldn’t pray without them (missionary flip chart, new converts. Take away your top 20 phrases and see how easily you can compose a prayer extemporaneously)

B. Great is Diana of the Ephesians (2 hours)

C. I never struggled with repetitive phrases in personal prayer. More informal, conversational. .

12. Jacobean English. SWK, DOaks. Virtue of personal prayer is it’s personal. I think my practice is a hodgepodge. But it’s up to you.

13. Can do it anywhere. Prayer in schools, cars. Ideal is solitude; kneeling is nice, but not necessary.

14. I often pray over work related matters.

Theology of Prayer: Should it work?

15. Most Xians, like us, believe in the power of petitionary prayer.

16. But a disconnect: most Christian theologians do not.

17. Classical Xian understanding of God steeped in GR philosophy: immutable, impassible (fancy ways of saying God cannot be influenced by pond scum like us). OK for the common people to do it because good for them psychologically.

18. Our understanding of God is grounded in scriptures and religious experience. We reject the idea that God is immutable and impasible. He has the capacity to listen to us and to be influenced by us. Our theology matches our practice.

Theology of Prayer: Unanswered Prayers

19. Thought twice about this. Hard. Celeste’s testimony.

20. We don’t like to talk about it or acknowledge it

21. Scriptures don’t clearly answer it. But they preserve examples.

– Moses’ petition to enter Canaan (Dt. 3:23-27)

– Saul twice failed to receive an answer (1 Sm. 14:37 and 28:5-7)

– David failed in his prayer for his child (2 Sm. 12:22)

– Jeremiah received a question rather than an answer (Jer. 12:5)

– Job’s prayers repeatedly failed

22. Again, our understanding of the nature of God gives us the resources to begin to understand.

23. Natural law (creation not ex nihilo)

24. Free agency (even when it adversely affects others)

25. Preventing a greater good.

26. In general, taking the eternal perspective.

27. Often that which we perceive as an evil, in an eternal perspective is just a neutral or even a good.. I could die tomorrow or 30 years from now. I prefer the latter, but from the perspective of all eternity, it is mere blip, six of one, half a dozen of the other.

28. Cannot try to impart this perspective to someone who is grieving. Human nature.


29. Atonement

30. First Vision

31. My favorite type. Like Abraham or Moses: walk and talk with God


  1. Thanks Kevin. I really like this.

  2. This is a great outline! And a hella long talk….

  3. Nice outline. 10-15 minutes though? ;)

  4. I wish I had been there to hear you elaborate on some of these. I can’t picture asking if prayer should work in my current Ward. I think the hook would come out and pull me off.

    Re: personal vs public prayer – we need to spend more time teaching our people how to be Voice in a public prayer. So many people just say “I” ask or “I” thank and then go through their own personal litany rather than trying to feel the Spirit and speak for all present.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    BHodges, I’m sure this one was a 20 minuter.