Prayer: The Missionary Tool in Everyone’s Hands


Prayer:

The doors are locked; the borders are sealed. Though thousands of our dedicated missionaries labor to save souls in the lands that allow them to enter, there are many nations—over half the world’s population!—where the message of the restored Church cannot yet be taken.

And yet we are commanded to take that message to “all the nations of the earth.” How can we do it? As President Spencer W. Kimball has counseled us, finding a way to open those locked doors will require diplomacy and the faith of the Church’s leaders and members. “Somehow, brethren, I feel that when we have done all in our power that the Lord will find a way to open doors. That is my faith.” (Ensign, Oct. 1974, p. 7.)

The Church is not trying to break down those doors with great hammerblows. Rather, the Lord’s representatives are moving slowly, carefully, in order to convince wary and prudent national leaders that the Church will be a real benefit to their people; that the gospel of Jesus Christ does not provoke dissent, but rather a spirit of cooperation; that Mormon missionaries will not undermine local culture, but will strengthen it by strengthening the home and the family.

Most of us, though, are not directly involved in this delicate work. Can we do anything to help? Yes!

President Kimball led the way by launching a “prayer campaign” with the other General Authorities, asking all the Saints to join them “in a serious continuous petition to the Lord to open the gates of the nations and soften the hearts of the kings and the rulers to the end that missionaries may enter all the lands and teach the gospel in the approved way.” (Ensign, Oct. 1975, p. 70.)

Prayer as a means of changing the hearts of national leaders? Of course! We cannot underestimate the power that is opened to us when all of us—in family prayers, in private prayers, in our meetings—combine our faith to plead with the Lord to help bring about righteous purposes here on earth. In fact, the Book of Mormon contains eloquent testimony of the power of prayer to open wide the doors that seem irrevocably locked.

From the first division among the children of Lehi, the righteous Nephites labored to convert their rebellious brethren, the Lamanites. As Jacob recorded, “Many means were devised to reclaim and restore the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth; but it all was vain.” (Jacob 7:24.)

Enos added, “And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain.” (Enos 1:20.) A long history of such experiences—not to mention many savage wars between the two groups—made the Nephites skeptical of attempts to preach to the Lamanites, and when the sons of Mosiah planned their mission “our brethren … laughed us to scorn.” (Alma 26:23.)

But Ammon and his brethren did not base their faith on past experience: their faith was rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They knew their task was not easy; they prepared themselves carefully, including “much prayer, and fasting” (Alma 17:3), and then they went forth with perfect faith that they would succeed. They could have said, with President Kimball, “This is my faith!”

Many years later, as Moroni looked back on the remarkable achievements of those missionaries, he accurately pinpointed the cause of their success: “Behold, it was the faith of Ammon and his brethren which wrought so great a miracle among the Lamanites.” (Ether 12:15; italics added.) Mormon made almost the same observation about the missionary labors of Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, who followed the sons of Mosiah on the same missionary trail and succeeded in converting virtually the entire Lamanite nation. (See Hel. 5:50–52.) He said, “Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites.” (Ether 12:14.)

It seems, then, that the Lord uses the faith of his righteous children as a vehicle by which he accomplishes much of his work. This principle cannot be reduced to a simple equation; nevertheless, it is interesting to observe how the Lord responds to faith and how miraculous powers are brought to bear as the Lord’s people exercise their faith in righteousness.

Again, a good example is found in the Book of Mormon, where the prophet Enos approached the Lord, at first because of his concern for his own spiritual welfare. In response to his beseeching, Enos received a manifestation from the Lord assuring him that his sins were forgiven. With that assurance, Enos renewed his petitions, but his concern was now for those whom he felt most sorely needed the Lord’s blessing—“my brethren, the Lamanites.”

The Lord answered him: “I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith. …

“And the Lord said unto me: Thy fathers have also required of me this thing; and it shall be done unto them according to their faith; for their faith was like unto thine.” (Enos 1:11–12, 18; italics added.)

The Doctrine and Covenants provides a sequel to Enos’s revelation. After the loss of the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, the gold plates were taken away for a time; when they were restored, the Lord said:

“And, behold, all the remainder of this work does contain all those parts of my gospel which my holy prophets, yea, and also my disciples, desired in their prayers should come forth unto this people.

“And I said unto them, that it should be granted unto them according to their faith in their prayers;

“Yea, and this was their faith—that my gospel, which I gave unto them that they might preach in their days, might come unto their brethren the Lamanites, and also all that had become Lamanites because of their dissensions.

“Now, this is not all—their faith in their prayers was that this gospel should be made known also, if it were possible that other nations should possess this land;

“And thus they did leave a blessing upon this land in their prayers, that whosoever should believe in this gospel in this land might have eternal life.” (D&C 10:46–50; italics added.)

Enos and other mighty prophets in the Book of Mormon were “door openers.” Their faith swung upon the doors of blessings, not only to their brethren but to all the later inheritors of the land of promise.

Is there not a great lesson taught to us in this brief reflection on scriptural history? Do we not have the same opportunities today which were available to Enos, the sons of Mosiah, and the sons of Helaman? Cannot our prayers of faith open the doors that President Kimball identifies?

There are many different ways in which Latter-day Saints can assist in the intensified missionary effort. But there is one way in which we can all take part, all the time: All of us can offer up to the Lord our sincere prayers that the doors will not remain shut. Our hearts can reach out to the millions of our Father’s children who are now cut off from the message of the gospel.

When we can look outside ourselves with the same intensity of concern and desire that Enos did and offer up prayers of faith on behalf of brothers and sisters in nations now closed to us, then perhaps the doors will be opened—even by miraculous means, if necessary.

[photo] Photography by Eldon Linschoten