From the foundation of the earth, men have prayed. In earlier times, prayer was not a commandment. It was not part of the law. God didn't have to tell people to pray. But we know that they did (1 Samuel 2:1, all of the Psalms, 1 Kings 8, Daniel 6:10, Ezra 9:5, 1 Nephi 18:3, Jacob 7:22, Alma 5:46). Throughout the scriptures, ancient and modern, people prayed in the Sanctuary, on their housetops, in an upper room, at street corners, on the tops of mountains, in solitary places, in a secluded forest in Palmyra, New York.
At some point, people didn't pray. We know that because prophets began teaching about prayer (Matt 7:7, Luke 18:1, Eph 6:18, Ether 2:14, 3 Nephi 18:15, D&C 10:5). Why did people stop praying? Well, they forgot how God saw them.
The Bible Dictionary states: "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 (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship." When we know that we are children of God and that He is our loving Father, we want to speak to Him. When we forget this, prayer becomes strained. When we get wrapped up in guilt, we sometimes feel that we are unworthy, or think that God does not want to hear from us. But I know that those feelings come from the devil. The antidote to those feelings of inadequacy? Prayer. As we kneel in humble prayer before our Father in Heaven, we will feel the love He has for us. He just loves it when we go to Him.
When we love someone, we want to help them succeed and be happy. We want to comfort them in struggles and give them support to overcome. Our Heavenly Father loves us. He wants to comfort us in our struggles and give us support to overcome. "The object of prayer is . . . to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them" (Bible Dictionary).
God does not ask us to "call upon His holy name . . . cry unto Him . . . let [our] hearts be full, drawn out in prayer to Him continually" (Alma 34:17-27) because He needs an ego booster. God commands us to pray for the same reason He gives us every commandment: because He knows that it will help us. Prayer does not change God. Prayer changes us. When we cry out with all energy of heart, we are filled with the Spirit and the love of God (Moroni 7:48). We can overcome. Prayer strengthens us.
The beauty of prayer is that God listens. The beauty of the Atonement is that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). The relief and joy in prayer is that when we go to Him, He will not judge us. He will not turn us away. He will listen with open arms. He's not waiting for us to perfect ourselves before we seek Him. He knows we're imperfect. And He still loves us. We don't have to try to hide the messy, human parts of us, because He knows they're there. He knows about our messy parts, and He loves us, all of us. He wants us to bring those messy, broken parts of ourselves to Him so that He can paint them with the blood of Christ and heal them. We go to Him, and He says, "Child, be of good cheer, thy faith has made thee whole" (Matthew 9:22). He makes us whole. When we have faith in Him and we remember that we are His children and we go to Him with our messy broken insides, He will hold them and love them and make us whole.
"He is jealous for me. He loves like a hurricane, and I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory. And I realize just how beautiful you are, and how great your affections are for me. Oh, how He loves us . . . And we are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking. And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, and my heart beats violently inside of my chest. And I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us."
I pray that you will pray. I pray that you will remember that God is not angry with you, but He is your biggest cheerleader. Heavenly Father wants you to succeed. When you fall, He does not want you to beat yourself further down into the ground. He wants you to take His hand and let Him help you. I pray that you will remember how He loves you.