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Prayer has been real and powerful in my life. Since early childhood, it became the foundation for holding on during difficult times, for trusting when strength was needed. I watched and learned from my good mom and dad. We never had a meal without first offering thanks and asking for a blessing on the food we were about to eat. I was taught to turn to God and trust in Jesus Christ as we prayed together over my frail body. When doctors gave up and told my parents to take me home from the hospital for my last couple of days on this earth, they prayed. The extended family prayed. I prayed. And I learned that sometimes prayer is answered, astonishingly, in a way we hope for. My kidneys were miraculously healed and on I went! I can look back and see that all the family also offered up tearful prayers of gratitude when my body began its recovery. An important add-on!
Earlier, at the age of 4, my dad built a catamaran while we were living in Hawaii. He and I went out on the first little voyage off the beach. It overturned, and I couldn’t seem to find my way to the top of the water. After what seemed a very long time, I saw my father’s hand. I grabbed hold and he pulled me up to the surface. Only later – after the lifesaving measures had been offered and the water was out of my lungs – did I learn that my dad looked desperately for my small body under that boat, but could not see me. I know I take a chance here in sharing my story, but I bear witness that on that day I learned that the hand reaching out to me was not my dad’s. It was a heavenly one, sent to rescue me in a difficult situation where otherwise I would have drowned. My parents wept and then offered prayers of thanks to replace those frantic prayers of immediate desire. Prayer is real. Prayer is powerful. Prayer is needful!
Today, prayer remains a beautiful and tender gift.
As time goes on, I rely on it more and feel my time in loving communication with Heaven becomes more and more of a blessing. For small things and large – in my mind, at least – I turn to prayer. How our Father in Heaven sees things is not within my purview. His thoughts are higher than mine and His ways better than mine.
I used to think I shouldn’t ‘bother Him’ with some little thing; that I should save a certain prayer for another time. I’ve learned at least enough to realize ALL of our prayers are important to Him. There is no ‘little’ issue or ‘small’ prayer. Communication with Diety is always a beautiful and sweet thing. It’s a way of growing closer to Him and to feeing the Spirit more clearly.
I also trust that God has a perfectly intact sense of humor. There have been a few times when family prayer or prayer before meals has been – less than the most reverent. Giggles and snickers take over for a bit. Then we settle down and, hoping He’s okay with us (and trusting He is) we properly get the words offered with real intent!
J. Reuben Clark, Jr once said, “Prayer is the royal road between each of us and our Heavenly Father. Whether it remains open or closed is for our determination.” (CR 10/58) This is clear, concise and understandable!
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that “our glimpse of Gethsemane should teach us that all prayers are petitions.” (CR 4/76:40) Petitions to a loving Father who wants to help. Though not always in the way we want – He answers in the way that is needful.
When are you most inclined to pray?
When things are going great and you wish to thank Him? When crisis arises and help is needed? When fear is building and you need calm reassurance? When you feel alone and want comfort? Do you pray for those in your circle of friends and acquaintances who are in need? Do you include yourself when praying during a time of ‘things going well’? Do you kneel simply to thank Him and leave it at that?
I remember learning that He loves hearing from us. Always. And just as we enjoy hearing from someone we love, who calls or writes simply to thank us; so He would enjoy the same.
I ask these questions because prayer is one of those divinely given tools that we need to make more and more personal as the years go by. Relegating Father to the role of “repairman” (as Pres Spencer W. Kimball once said) if we call on Him only at time of immediate need, we may miss all the sweetness of prayer. Having ongoing conversation with Him lifts us up, gives good perspective, and feeds hope.
Here are a few scriptures that have helped me develop a deeper, more tender connection through prayer, and taught me a few important basics. They are “think about this” sentences that may allow our personal communication with God to be more full as they help relieve us from our ‘world of cares’:
1. Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.
2. James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…
3. Psalms 143:1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.
4. Psalms 143:10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
5. Matthew 6: 7-8 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
There are many other scriptures that I love and use with regard to prayer. I’m sure you have your favorites, as well. Today, I felt to focus on prayer because it is needed more and more as our world deteriorates into oblique mists of darkness in strange and difficult ways. When hearts become more hardened, our own heart needs to be more tenderized so that we stay above the rising tide of ugliness. The power of prayer is so much more than words. It is the heart and mind with which we approach that holy communication. It transports us, so to speak, to a holier place where we can find a measure of peace and comfort.
James E. Talmage once wisely and beautifully taught, “Prayer is the Lord’s great sterilizer against the germs of spiritual disease.” Dis-ease is a state in which many live today. Without ease. With doubt and without dignity. Unhealthy in a spiritual sense. Prayer offers the safe harbor and the place of love. Little wonder that so many Christians- so many followers of Christ – have found solace in the hymn Sweet Hour of Prayer. This second verse may offer each one of us the very help, hope, and healing that we desire:
Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since he bids me seek his face,
Believe his word, and trust his grace,
I’ll cast on him my ev’ry care
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
(Text: Attr. to William W. Walford, Music: William B. Bradbury)
May the God of Heaven bless us, every one, with an extra dose of heavenly peace, assurance, strength and hope as we turn to Him and cast on Him our every care.