Once, as I sat by my father’s bedside through the night, he talked about his childhood. He spoke of the love of his parents in difficult times and of the love of his Heavenly Father and the Savior. I knew he was dying of cancer, so it did not surprise me that at times he mixed up his feelings for his Heavenly Father with the love and kindness of his earthly father. My father had often said that when he prayed, he thought he could see in his mind the smile of Heavenly Father.
His parents had taught him by example to pray as if he spoke to God and that God would answer him in love. He needed that example to the end. When the pain became intense, we found him in the morning on his knees by the bed. He had been too weak to get back into bed. He told us he had been praying to ask his Heavenly Father why he had to suffer so much when he had always tried to be good. He said a kindly answer came: “God needs brave sons.”
And so he soldiered on to the end, trusting that God loved him, listened to him, and would lift him up. He was blessed to have known early and to never forget that a loving God is as close as a prayer.
That is why the Lord taught parents, “And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:28).
The gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored—with the Book of Mormon and all the priesthood keys that can bind families—because Joseph Smith as a boy prayed in faith. He gained that faith in a loving and faithful family.
Twenty years ago the Lord gave families this counsel in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”1
We owe an overwhelming debt of gratitude to the family of Joseph Smith the Prophet for his upbringing. His family exemplified not only faith and prayer but also repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.
The generations that come after you may call you blessed for your example of prayer in your family. You may not raise a great servant of God, but you can by your prayers and your example of faithfulness help the Lord Jesus Christ raise up good and beloved disciples.
Of all that you might choose to do to help the Lord, prayer will be at the heart of it. There are apparently ordinary people who, when they pray, inspire others to open their eyes to see who is there. You can become such a person.
Think of what that can mean to those who kneel with you in family prayer. When they feel that you speak to God in faith, their faith will increase to also speak with God. When you pray to thank God for blessings they know have come, their faith will grow that God loves them and that He answers your prayers and will answer theirs. That can happen in family prayer only when you have had that experience in private prayer, time after time.
I am still being blessed by a father and a mother who spoke with God. Their example of the power of prayer in families is still blessing the generations who came after them.
My children and grandchildren are blessed every day by the example of my parents. The faith that a loving God hears and answers prayers has been passed to them. You can create such a legacy in your family. I pray that you will.