"One of my own personal difficulties, in relating to prayer, esp. evening prayers, is that it's so hard for me to get into the frame of mind to pray in a way that I really feel close to Heavenly Father in closing out my day. I think it has to do mostly with 'well...I set out this morning with all these great ambitions and look how I didn't achieve it, again.' Is there anything you do to 'prep' yourself for prayer? I've tried reading my scriptures and singing hymns before I pray but for some reason those nightly prayers -- reporting back when I always have something that I've messed up on (even though there's good stuff in there too) -- are always harder to feel the closeness for me.
Just wondering what you think. How can I let go and prepare myself better to pray when every night I just feel disappointed in all the things I've done wrong?
M, it sounds like you're judging your performance each evening. But you're in luck: these are things I've struggled with, as well! ;o) Two thoughts:
1) Christ is the only judge. And He has told us, over and over and over in scripture, that He isn't going to condemn us. Our God isn't one to shake His finger in our faces, or alienate us from His presence. Judgement, consignment to a certain distance from God, doesn't happen until Judgement Day. So you can let go of that judgemental spirit. (Or cast it out, if you prefer.) Self-condemnation (which includes disappointment in ourselves!) is one of the adversary's biggest, beefiest, most steel-studded bludgeons . . . and we take it from him and use it on ourselves with a will, thinking we're being good Saints as we do so. But I have GREAT news! Anything (and I mean ANYTHING) that keeps you from drawing closer to God is NOT of Him. And if something isn't of God, then it's either of men or of the devil. And we all know how effective those latter two are at bringing about salvation. ;o)
2) Performance. This is a tough one, because it's so insidious, especially if you're a Latter-day Saint, or a member of another works-focused church. The Law of Moses was a law of performances and ordinances. And that law was fulfilled, down to the tiniest detail, by the sacrifice Jesus made: His perfect life, His atonement, His death, and His resurrection. He has broken the bands of death and SIN . . . and freed us from them. Period. End. It is done!!! And whenever I think of that, I want to jump and shout and sing, because I don't have to EARN my salvation. I don't have to perform to a certain standard in order to have the help of my Savior and Friend in this life. I have to have a willing heart, and then He will walk me through whatever comes next. It takes NO level of righteousness to "earn" access to the Lord Jesus Christ. Who did He hang out with, and often, during His life? Hated tax collectors for the oppressive government. Women who were sold to whoever wanted them. Sinners. He let all who wanted to come unto Him to come. He BID them come. "Come unto Me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" And He still calls us today. Constantly. Every one of us. All the time.
The grace of Jesus Christ means that He will be close to us AS we mess up, fall down, bloody our knees and noses, and blunder around through this life. He will heal our hurts, the injuries of those who we've hurt through our own actions, and help us give it another go.
The next time you feel distant from God, for whatever reason, just stop. Stop and quiet your mind. Even if you're in the middle of a crowd, or there's a lot of distraction going on, you can quiet the inside of your own head, making stillness there. And listen. Listen with your spiritual ears for the sound of your name. Because Jesus is calling you. He's calling me. Every one of us, every second of every day, He's calling us back to Him. All we have to do is answer with a willing heart, and suddenly, He will be there. You can talk to Him, and share with Him, and He'll feel closer and closer as you continue to praise and thank Him for all you have. Then you can talk over what you need to work on, and He will take your hand, or gather you up into His amazing arms, and love you through whatever it is that you're going through.
Don't give up. Just listen . . . He's there, waiting for you to turn your mind to Him!!!