During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught us a pattern for prayer:
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
“Give us this day our daily bread.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:9–13.)
He further instructed, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1.)
“Watch and pray,” He said, “that ye enter not into temptation.” (Matt. 26:41.)
In this dispensation He admonished, “Pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place.” (D&C 93:49.)
The Savior declared to Joseph Smith, “In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (D&C 59:21.)
We have this instruction from our risen Lord as He ministered among the Nephite people on this Western Hemisphere: “Ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him. …
“Ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
“Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
“And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” (3 Ne. 18:15, 18–20.)
Here are five ways to improve our communication with our Heavenly Father:
We should pray frequently. We should be alone with our Heavenly Father at least two or three times each day—“morning, mid-day, and evening,” as the scripture indicates. (Alma 34:21.) In addition, we are told to pray always. (See 2 Ne. 32:9; D&C 88:126.) This means that our hearts should be full, drawn out in prayer unto our Heavenly Father continually. (See Alma 34:27.)
We should find an appropriate place where we can meditate and pray. We are admonished that this should be “in [our] closets, and [our] secret places, and in [our] wilderness.” (Alma 34:26.) That is, it should be free from distraction, in secret. (See 3 Ne. 13:5–6.)
We should prepare ourselves for prayer. If we do not feel like praying, then we should pray until we do feel like praying. We should be humble. (See D&C 112:10.) We should pray for forgiveness and mercy. (See Alma 34:17–18.) We must forgive anyone against whom we have bad feelings. (See Mark 11:25.) Yet the scriptures warn that our prayers will be vain if we “turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart [not] of [our] substance.” (Alma 34:28.)
Our prayers should be meaningful and pertinent. We should avoid using the same phrases in each prayer. Any of us would become offended if a friend said the same words to us each day, treated the conversation as a chore, and could hardly wait to finish in order to turn on the television set and forget us.
In all of our prayers it is well to use the sacred pronouns of the scriptures—thee, thou, thy, and thine—when addressing Deity instead of the more common pronouns of you, your, and yours. By doing so, we show greater respect to Deity.
For what should we pray? We should pray about our work, against the power of our enemies and the devil, for our welfare and the welfare of those around us. We should counsel with the Lord regarding all our decisions and activities. (See Alma 37:36–37.) We should be grateful enough to give thanks for all we have. (See D&C 59:21.) We should confess His hand in all things. Ingratitude is one of our great sins.
The Lord has declared in modern revelation: “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:19.)
We should ask for what we need, taking care that we not ask for things that would be to our detriment. (See James 4:3.) We should ask for strength to overcome our problems. (See Alma 31:31–33.) We should pray for the inspiration and well-being of the President of the Church, the General Authorities, our stake president, our bishop, our quorum president, our home teachers, family members, and our civic leaders. Other suggestions could be made, but with the help of the Holy Ghost we will know about what we should pray. (See Rom. 8:26–27.)
After making a request through prayer, we have a responsibility to assist in its being granted. We should listen. Perhaps while we are on our knees, the Lord wants to counsel us.
President David O. McKay taught: “Sincere praying implies that when we ask for any virtue or blessing, we should work for the blessing and cultivate the virtue.” (David O. McKay, Pathways to Happiness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1957, p. 226.)
All through my life the counsel to depend on prayer has been prized above almost any other advice I have ever received. It has become an integral part of me—an anchor, a constant source of strength, and the basis of my knowledge of things divine.
“Remember that whatever you do or wherever you are, you are never alone,” was my father’s familiar counsel. Our Heavenly Father is always near. We can reach out and receive His aid through prayer. I have found this counsel to be true. Thank God we can reach out and tap that unseen power, without which no man can do his best.
When I was a young missionary in northern England in 1922, opposition to the Church became very intense. It became so strong that at one time the mission president asked that we discontinue all street meetings, and in some places tracting also was discontinued.
My companion and I were invited to travel to South Shields and speak in sacrament meeting. The invitation said, “We feel sure we can fill the little chapel. Many of the people over here do not believe the falsehoods printed about us. If you’ll come, we’re sure that we’ll have a great meeting.”
We accepted this invitation and fasted and prayed sincerely about what to say. My companion had planned to talk on the first principles of the gospel. I had studied hard in preparation for a talk on the Apostasy.
When we arrived, we found a wonderful spirit in the meeting. My companion spoke first and gave an inspirational message. I then responded, talking with a freedom I had never before experienced in my life. When I sat down, I realized that I had not even mentioned the Apostasy. Instead, I had talked about the Prophet Joseph Smith and borne my witness of his divine mission and to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
After the meeting, several nonmembers came forward and said, “Tonight we received a witness that Mormonism is true. We are now ready for baptism.”
This was an answer to our fasting and prayers, for we prayed to say only that which would touch the hearts of the investigators.
In 1946 I was assigned by President George Albert Smith to go to war-torn Europe to reestablish our missions from Norway to South Africa and to set up a program for the distribution of welfare supplies—food, clothing, bedding, and so forth.
We established headquarters in London and then made preliminary arrangements with the military on the Continent. One of the first men I wished to see was the commander of the American forces in Europe. He was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany.
When we arrived in Frankfurt, my companion and I went to seek an appointment with the general. But we were told by the appointment officer, “Gentlemen, there will be no opportunity for you to see the general for at least three days. He’s very busy, and his schedule is filled up with appointments.”
I said, “It is very important that we see him, and we can’t wait that long. We are due in Berlin tomorrow.”
He said, “I’m sorry.”
We left the building, went out to our car, removed our hats, and united in prayer. Then we went back into the building and found a different officer at the appointment post. In less than fifteen minutes we were in the presence of the general.
We had prayed that we would be able to see him and to touch his heart, knowing that all relief supplies contributed from any source were required to be placed into the hands of the military for distribution. Our objective, as we explained to the general, was to distribute our own supplies to our own people, through our own channels, and also to make gifts for general feeding of children. We explained the Church welfare program and how it operated.
Finally he said, “Gentlemen, you go ahead and collect your supplies, and by the time you get them collected, the policy may be changed.”
We replied, “General, our supplies are already collected. They are always collected. Within twenty-four hours from the time I wire the First Presidency of the Church in Salt Lake City, carloads of supplies will be rolling toward Germany. We have many storehouses filled with basic commodities.”
He then admitted, “I’ve never heard of a people with such vision.” His heart was touched as we had prayed it would be. Before we left his office, we had written authorization to make our own distribution to our own people through our own channels.
It is soul-satisfying to know that God is mindful of us and ready to respond when we place our trust in Him and do that which is right. There is no place for fear among men and women who place their trust in the Almighty and who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though persecutions arise, though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life’s greatest blessing.
As a boy in the Aaronic Priesthood, I learned a poem about prayer that has remained with me to this day:
I know not by what methods rare
But this I know, God answers prayer.
I know that He has given His word,
Which tells me prayer is always heard,
And will be answered, soon or late.
And so I pray and calmly wait.
I know not if the blessing sought
Will come in just the way I thought;
But leave my prayers with Him alone,
Whose will is wiser than my own,
Assured that He will grant my quest,
Or send some answer far more blessed.
(Eliza M. Hickok, “Prayer.”)
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:
The Lord has encouraged us to pray frequently.
We should find an appropriate place where we can meditate and pray.
We should prepare ourselves for prayer.
Prayers should be meaningful and pertinent.
After praying, we have a responsibility to assist in the fulfillment of the prayer.
Relate your feelings about prayer. Ask family members to share their feelings.
Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?