Prayers and Faith

By Lisa H. Fernelius

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Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).

Angela stormed into the house, slamming her books onto the kitchen table. Her fifth-grade math book fell to the floor at her mother’s feet. Seven-year-old Caleb, who had run home from the bus stop, sat in shocked silence.

“I’m never going back to school again!” Angela yelled. Her anger turned into tears as she dropped into a chair. Between sobs, Angela wailed, “Sheela is making life miserable for me. I tried to be nice to her when she called me names. I ignored her when she teased me about my clothes. Then today she told everyone that I told her secrets about Ammon Young. Now Ammon’s afraid to talk to me.”

Mom sat down and put her arm around her daughter. Angela raised her tear-streamed face. “Mom, Ammon’s my best friend. He’s the only other Church member in my grade. We always help each other choose the right.” She laid her head against Mom’s shoulder and cried for a long while.

Caleb, uncomfortable with the silence, said, “My Primary teacher said that Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies. Maybe you should pray that Sheela gets really sick and misses lots of school.”

“I don’t think that is what Jesus meant,” Mom gently corrected.

“Then, maybe you could pray that Sheela moves to another country,” Caleb suggested.

Mom shook her head. “No, Caleb—but you’re right that we should pray for our enemies. In fact, this Sunday is fast Sunday. Let’s use this opportunity to fast for Sheela. When we combine faith, prayers, and fasting, miracles can happen.”

Angela, who had calmed down a bit, sniffled and added, “Like the time we all fasted and prayed for cousin David when he was born two months too soon?”

“That’s right, Angela,” Mom said. “Heavenly Father blessed us for our faith. He always does.”

Angela prayed many times throughout the weekend that Sheela would stop being mean to her. As she fasted, she hardly noticed when her stomach growled.

Before leaving for school on Monday morning, Angela knelt by her bed once again. “Heavenly Father, please help Sheela to stop being mean. I’ve fasted and prayed. I have faith that Thou canst change her. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Angela bounced happily down the stairs. “Good-bye, Mom.”

“Have a great day,” Mom said, kissing her and Caleb good-bye.

“Oh, I will—I just know it!”

She was sure she would when she arrived at her class and found that her teacher had rearranged the desks. Angela was no longer sitting next to Sheela. She was on the opposite side of the room. Angela silently offered a prayer of thanks. Ammon even smiled at her as he walked past her desk. This really is going to be a great day! she thought.

After lunch, she stopped by the rest room to make sure that no food was stuck in her braces. Her heart raced when Sheela walked out of one of the stalls. Summoning her courage, Angela smiled and said, “Hi, Sheela—do you have fun plans for the weekend?”

Sheela just smiled—not exactly a friendly smile, but a smile. The two girls left the bathroom at the same time.

“Hello, Sheela. Hello, Angela,” Mrs. Keiter, the music teacher, said as she passed by.

“Hello,” the girls answered. Angela was glad Sheela had not said or done anything mean in the bathroom. She was happy, too, when Sheela went to the office instead of out to the playground. Again, Angela offered a quiet prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father for His help.

A few minutes before school was over for the day, the secretary spoke over the intercom. “Mrs. Winn, will you please send Angela Valencia to the office. The principal would like to see her.”

Angela stood and walked across the room, wondering what the principal wanted. As she passed Sheela’s desk, Sheela smirked and cooed, “Good luck.” It made Angela feel cold all over.

The principal, Mr. Cooper, was waiting for Angela when she arrived. He shut the door behind her. “Angela, I’ve received a report that you have been defacing school property. Someone scratched ‘Angela Valencia loves Ammon Young’ on one of the stalls in the girls rest room. The student who reported this said that Mrs. Keiter saw you leaving there during lunch recess. I’ve checked with her, and she said that you were there at that time.”

Angela was stunned. How could this be? Hadn’t she fasted and prayed and used all her faith that Heavenly Father would make Sheela be nice? Sheela had been in the rest room at the same time. She must have scratched the names on the stall.

“Mr. Cooper,” Angela said softly, “I did go into the rest room after lunch, but I didn’t scratch anything on the stalls.”

“I’m sorry, Angela, but I have your word against another student’s and a teacher’s. You will help the janitor, Mr. Hamblin, during recess for a week. Maybe that will help you respect school property more.”

Caleb knew by the look on Angela’s face when she got on the bus that things had not gone well. He walked silently beside her on the way home from the bus stop. Entering the kitchen just ahead of her, he blurted, “Angela’s faith didn’t work.”

“Caleb! That’s not nice,” Mom scolded.

“No, Mom, Caleb’s right,” Angela sighed sadly. “I must not have enough faith for Heavenly Father to make Sheela be nice.” She told Mom about her day.

Taking Angela by the hand, Mom led her into the living room. “Angela, we can’t pray away another person’s agency, no matter how much faith we have.” Mom explained, “When we pray for our enemies, it changes how we feel about them and brings us peace. We change for the better, and sometimes our goodness helps our enemies to change. Sadly, some never change. But we should never let our enemies choose how we will act.”

“So what does Angela do about Sheela?” Caleb interrupted. “How does all this faith, prayer, and fasting help her if Sheela is still mean?”

Angela nodded, tears starting to spill over her eyelashes. “I thought faith could produce miracles.”

“It does. I promise you that it does,” Mom assured her. “Do you remember from family scripture study last week the story of Alma and his people in the land of Helam?” Mom reached for her scriptures sitting on the end table.

“A little,” Angela said. “Alma’s people were being good, but they still were captured by the Lamanites. Things got even worse when the Lamanites put Amulon, one of the wicked priests of King Noah, in charge over Alma’s people.”

“And Amulon was Alma’s enemy,” Caleb added. “He knew that Alma had believed the prophet Abinadi and had tried to save him from being burned.”

“That’s right,” Mom said. “Amulon made slaves of Alma and his people and gave them hard work. He even put guards over them to kill anyone caught praying.”

“But they still prayed in their hearts, didn’t they?” Caleb asked.

“Yes, and the Lord answered their prayers,” Mom replied. “He didn’t help them escape right away, but He helped them with their trials. Let’s read what happened in Mosiah 24:15:

“‘And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.’

“So, what do you think you should pray for now?” Mom asked gently.

Angela sat quietly, then, breathing deeply, she answered, “To endure my trials cheerfully.”

The next day, after sanding and painting over the writing in the bathroom, Angela was emptying trash cans from the classrooms when Sheela walked by. Loudly she said to the girls with her, “It looks like we have a new janitor at our school.” The group left, giggling.

“Please help me to be cheerful and patient,” Angela prayed in her heart.

Just then Mr. Hamblin walked up. “Angela, you’re a good worker. I appreciate your help.” Then he smiled a big smile. “You didn’t scratch those words on the bathroom stall, did you?”

Angela shook her head.

“That’s what I told Mr. Cooper. And while we were talking, Ammon Young came to report that he’d overheard Sheela Kelly bragging about doing it herself and getting you in trouble. Ammon even volunteered to take your punishment himself if the principal didn’t believe him.” Mr. Hamblin smiled again. “So, Mr. Cooper wants to see you again in his office. He’s a fair man, young lady, I think you’ll be happy to talk with him again.”

Patience and cheerfulness, prayers and faith, Angela thought. They really do produce miracles. I don’t think my troubles with Sheela are over, but I’ll keep trying to do what’s right. Maybe I’ll try to talk with her again. And as she hurried toward the principal’s office, she silently prayed, Thank Thee, Heavenly Father, for helping me with my trials.

Illustrated by Jerry Harston

Christ at Emmaus by Carl Bloch

Illustration courtesy of Visual Resource Library