The following is excerpted from the book, The Power of Prayer by Joni Hilton (Covenant Communications).

Prayer is an ingenious gift from a Father who misses His children. He gave us this amazing tool in hopes that we would “call home” frequently and not lose touch. But it is more than just a way to stay in contact—it is a way to unlock the very powers of heaven, the key to a treasure box. Prayer can actually precipitate miracles.

The real purpose of prayer is to refine your desires to match God’s and to be of ultimate service to Him. It is to help you see things from an eternal perspective, so that you will ask for help in developing the strengths you need to meet your tasks. It is finding out what God wants for you, not telling God what you want for yourself.

Many of us learn to pray by following a basic list of four main parts of prayer: The opening: “Dear Heavenly Father,” thanking, asking, then closing: “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”  But this is just a rudimentary outline—truly a rough sketch of a prayer; it hardly begins to describe what praying can be like.

It is simply a guideline for learning how to pray and staying on track. It also reminds us that we are to pray to God in the Son’s name. Christ is our intermediary, our advocate with the Father. It is through Him that we pray to God the Father.

But prayer can be so much more than ticking off the list of blessings we’re grateful for and additional ones we’d like. Prayer can teach us about God, our place in this world, the joys we’ve been overlooking, the exciting plans God has for us, and even what Heaven will be like. It can cleanse our souls and change us into people of astounding strength to overcome weaknesses. It can save us from selfishness and sin, improve our health, and reach the hearts of others miles away. It can help us through the grieving process when we’ve suffered a loss. It can chase away loneliness. It can teach us things beyond our wildest dreams. It can, and has, changed the course of history.

Earnest prayer is never far from your thoughts. Real desire to know God’s will doesn’t just end when you say amen. Prayerful desires play upon your waking thoughts all day and continually pull you to a higher plane. Prayer is not the punctuation in an otherwise run-on sentence of a day. Prayer is the subject, the main focus—and daily life is the phrasing around it.

God has commanded us to pray, and He has done so since the beginning. When Adam offered sacrifices, an angel appeared and asked him why. Adam confessed that he didn’t know why; he was simply obeying God’s command. The angel then explained to him that this was in similitude of Christ. “Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore” (Moses 5:8).

Centuries later, Christ taught “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1), and then on the American continent He instructed the Nephites to “pray always” as a protection from Satan, to pray in their families, and to pray in His name (see 3 Ne. 18:15-21). Alma advised Helaman to pray often and in all things, and to rise in the morning with a heart full of thanks to God, “and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 37:36-37).

What excellent advice, and it comes with the most glorious blessing possible—to be lifted up at the last day! How foolish we are if we disobey any commandment of God, but particularly one that can bring such improvement and joy into our lives. Being commanded to pray is like being commanded to breathe or to eat—it sustains our very souls, and if we forget to do it, we will wither spiritually just as forgetting to eat will make us wither physically.

Prayer is a necessity. In modern times, Joseph Smith was told by the Lord to “continue calling upon God in my name” (D&C 24:5). We cannot hope to accomplish even our noblest goals without enlisting God’s help. Just as the ancient armies of Israel found that their reliance upon God determined their victory or their defeat, so will our success depend upon how truly we ask for God’s hand in our lives. It is the only way to move forward with real faith and confidence. Our Founding Fathers pleaded for the Lord’s help and inspiration in every meeting they held and every document they wrote. They would not even have considered doing otherwise and expect to triumph.

Remember when you pray that you are speaking to someone who knows all about you. He knows exactly what you need, already. But He wants you to know it. You are not teaching Him anything; you are teaching yourself.

He loves you and wants you to see that love in your life. Can you see the evidence of His love? Like any parent, He wants to hear you say you love Him too. Have you ever tried praying a prayer that simply expresses your love to Him, over and over? Try it, and see if tears do not fill your eyes once you realize you are speaking to the Author of love. Perhaps you will feel in your heart that no matter how much love you feel for your Father in Heaven, his love for you will always be greater. This is a humbling prayer that sweetens your life in a way nothing else can.

Prayer coaxes us to grow, yet keeps us childlike. It reminds us that the Master is the best one to steer our ship, not a mortal who can’t see the whole picture yet, let alone the waterfall around the bend. Prayer helps us forgive others and find release from the bondage of grudge holding. Prayer teaches us to focus upon others, not just ourselves. Prayer reminds us that we have a loving Father in Heaven who is aware of us at every moment. Prayer teaches us that He wants to make miracles out of us. That may seem like a pretty tall order, but if it is to happen, prayer is our very best shot.

Hilton is an award-winning playwright and the author of many best-selling Latter-day Saint books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.