Editor’s note: This column first appeared in February, 2014
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Can you explain what a “temple prayer roll” is and how it is different from ordinary prayer? My impression is that it is for gravely ill people so I’m also wondering how is different from the “laying on of hands.”
“Can I write questions on the prayer roll?”
The “temple prayer roll” is a confidential running list of the names of people who are “sick or otherwise afflicted.” This can be an incredibly broad category, not limited to the gravely ill, though it certainly includes them. Anyone can submit names for the temple prayer roll by calling the temple or by writing them on slips of paper while at the temple, though we’re encouraged to only submit the names of people with whom we have a personal connection. Maybe your brother has been out of work for a year, maybe your niece is having surgery, maybe your friend is struggling with depression and a difficult family situation, maybe your neighbor just got the news that her mom has cancer. Any or all of them could go on the temple prayer roll. Names stay on the list for two weeks.
During one part of the temple ceremony, those in attendance are invited to join their faith and prayers together in behalf of those whose names are on the temple prayer roll. I see it as similar to prayer warriors in some Christian circles or somewhat akin to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
Latter-day Saints also believe in the laying on of hands for healing blessings, as well as for blessings of comfort or guidance. For healing blessings, generally two men who hold the priesthood place their hands on the individual’s head and one of them pronounces the blessing, being guided by the Spirit as to what he should say. These blessings can be performed anywhere, not only in temples.
For Mormons, prayer and priesthood blessings are ways to ask for and access God’s guidance and power in our lives.