I have a very deep and strong faith in the power of prayer, and I developed that testimony when I was very young. Although in my early childhood my father was not active in the Church, my mother taught my brothers and sisters and me about prayer. In Primary, I also learned about the importance of prayer. Later on, my father began to attend church. In fact, he was called to be our branch president. Prayer became an important part of our family.
I remember very clearly an experience I had when I was about twelve years old. It was a Saturday, and my father and I were at the meetinghouse, preparing the building for meetings the next day. All of a sudden, my father stopped. “I feel that we need to go home,” he said. So we locked up the building and left.
At home, Dad took a shower and put on his suit. Almost immediately the phone rang. My mother, who had left earlier in the day to attend a Primary leadership meeting, had been in a terrible car accident. She and the other sisters in the car had been taken to the hospital. The doctors didn’t expect my mother to live.
My father left immediately for the hospital. I had a paper route and left to deliver my papers. I didn’t understand exactly what had happened, but I knew that my mother was hurt very seriously. During my route, I stopped and knelt in a secluded area. I poured out my heart to Heavenly Father, asking Him to bless and help my mother. I felt a strong assurance that she would be all right.
After I finished my paper route, I stopped to visit my younger sister, who was baby-sitting. We knelt together and prayed for my mother. Afterward, we felt a deep sense of peace.
In the months that followed, we relied heavily on those feelings we had received as we prayed. My mother had sustained very serious brain damage, and she was in a coma for weeks. Even after she returned home, she was never the same. Her physical and mental health was fragile, and her memory had been affected. But she had a profound faith and a deep love for us, her children.
That experience strengthened my testimony that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. When I knelt to pray for my mother that first time, I hadn’t known just how badly she had been hurt. In fact, I prayed that her arm would not be broken. But Heavenly Father understood.
That’s the beauty of prayer and the Spirit. The Lord understands our heart, and we don’t have to worry about saying exactly the right thing. We can just relax and pray with a sincere heart, knowing that our prayers will be heard.
My wife and I have taught our children about the importance of prayer. They learned at a very young age that they could turn to Heavenly Father for help and guidance. I remember one experience when our family had just returned from Korea. I had served as a mission president there for three years. Although the experience was wonderful, our family was exhausted. A friend offered to let us use his cabin for a much-needed vacation.
We were excited! We headed up to the mountain and found the cabin. As we got out of the car, we were attacked by mosquitoes. It felt as if they were thick enough to carry us away.
We ran to the door, only to discover that the key we had been given didn’t fit in the lock! We were desperate. We ran around the cabin, trying to find another way to get in. We even considered trying to break in through a window, but we didn’t want to damage the building.
After only a few minutes, I heard my six-year-old son, Steven, yell out, “I’ve opened the door. Come on in, everybody!”
I couldn’t believe it, but as I rounded the corner of the cabin, I saw Steven standing at the door, waving everyone inside. After we’d escaped the mosquitoes, I asked, “Steven, how did you find the key? What happened?”
His answer was simple: “I closed my eyes and told Heavenly Father that we needed to find another key. I opened my eyes and saw a rock lying nearby. I had the feeling that a key was under the rock. And there was!”
I have seen such experiences happen over and over again. When a child or an adult prays in simple faith, his prayer is answered. Two years ago, my granddaughter Sarah started first grade. At first, she appeared to love it. But within only a couple of weeks, she started to cry every morning and beg her parents to let her stay home. They asked what was wrong, but she either couldn’t or wouldn’t tell them. They talked to her teacher, who had no idea what the problem might be. Sarah was well liked, she had friends, and she was doing well in her schoolwork.
One day after Sarah returned from school particularly upset, her father asked if she thought it would help if they knelt in prayer as a family the next morning and asked for Heavenly Father’s help. “Oh, yes, Dad,” Sarah replied. “I think that would help.”
The next morning, the family went through their regular routine, Sarah crying and protesting but eventually ending up in the car, ready to go to school. “Wait, Dad,” Sarah said just before they left. “We forgot to pray.”
Sarah and her father went back inside and knelt in prayer with her mother and little sister. They prayed specifically that Sarah would have a happy day and a good time at school. That afternoon, when her father picked her up, Sarah left the building with her arms raised in victory. “Prayer works, Dad!” she exclaimed. “Prayer works!”
It most certainly does! I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. I know that He understands the intent and purposes of our hearts. And I know that He will give us the guidance and help we need to live our lives righteously and return to live with Him.