I had a bit of a struggle at the beginning, however. I shouldn’t have. I know I shouldn’t have. But I did. I know I’m not perfect, and Sunday night was just one more example of that.
It was Brother Beck’s opening prayer cum talk.
I’m old enough to remember Elder McConkie’s counsel on the length of prayers. Here are two quotations from Mormon Doctrine (I know it’s out of fashion, but these guidelines still stick in my head). The first is from Elder McConkie:
Certain proprieties attend the offering of all prayers. Public prayers, in particular, should be short and ordinarily should contain no expressions except those which pertain to the needs and circumstances surrounding the particular meeting then involved. They are not sermons or occasions to disclose the oratorical or linguistic abilities of the one acting as mouth. (2nd ed., p. 582).
In the second, Elder McConkie quotes Francis M. Lyman who was president of the Quorum of the Twleve:
It is not necessary to offer very long and tedious prayers, either at opening or closing. It is not only not pleasing to the Lord for us to use excess of words, but also it is not pleasing to the Latter-day Saints. Two minutes will open any kind of meeting, and a half minute will close it (Improvement Era, 50:214, 245; quoted in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p. 583).
I don’t know where or when I first encountered these guidelines, but I confess that it’s now sometimes hard to listen to a prayer without measuring it against these. And I did it on Sunday night.
I had to consciously tell myself to knock it off. And it was hard to do. And so the opening prayer wasn’t as meaningful to me as it could have been.
And, by the way, that’s my fault, not Brother Beck’s.
A friend, jmb275, posted a great item over at Wheat & Tares yesterday on reigning in the analyst. And that’s something I need to work on. There are times – and I think during a prayer is one of them – when it’s a time for devotion, worship, and feeling the spirit, not analysis of the speaker’s motivation, education or erudition.