First Presidency Message

The Blessings of Family Prayer


Gordon B. Hinckley

The Blessings of Family Prayer

The Apostle Paul declared to Timothy:

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

“Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:1–4).

There needs to be a new emphasis on honesty, character, and integrity in our time. Only as we build again into the fiber of our lives the virtues that are the essence of true civilization will the pattern of our times change. The question that confronts us is, Where shall we begin?

I am satisfied that it must begin with recognizing God as our Eternal Father and ourselves as His children; with communicating with Him, recognizing His sovereign position; and with daily supplicating His guidance in our affairs.

I submit that a return to family prayer is one of the basic medicines that would stop the dread disease that is eroding the character of our society. We could not expect a miracle in a day, but in a generation we would have a miracle.

A generation or two ago, family prayer in the homes of Christian people throughout the world was as much a part of the day’s activity as was eating. As that practice has diminished, the moral decay discussed by the Apostle Paul has ensued.

I feel satisfied that there is no adequate substitute for the morning and evening practice of kneeling together—father, mother, and children. This, more than heavy carpets, more than lovely draperies, more than cleverly balanced color schemes, is the thing that will make for better and more beautiful homes.

There is something in the very posture of kneeling that contradicts the attitudes described by Paul: “proud, … heady, highminded.”

There is something in the very practice of father and mother and children kneeling together that eliminates others of those qualities he described: “disobedient to parents, … without natural affection.”

There is something in the act of addressing Deity that offsets a tendency toward blasphemy and toward becoming “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”

The inclinations to be unholy and unthankful are erased as together family members thank the Lord for life and peace and all they have. And as they thank the Lord for one another, the family develops a new appreciation, a new respect, a new affection one for another.

The scripture declares: “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7). And again: “In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things” (D&C 59:21).

As families kneel together before the Lord and remember the poor, the needy, and the oppressed, they develop a love for others above self, a respect for others, a desire to serve the needs of others. One cannot ask God to help a neighbor in distress without feeling motivated to do something oneself toward helping that neighbor. What miracles would happen in the lives of the people of the world if they would lay aside their own selfishness and lose themselves in the service of others. These miracles can begin in the daily supplications of the family.

I know of no better way to instill love for country than for parents to pray before their children for the land in which they live, invoking the blessings of the Almighty upon it that it may be preserved in liberty and in peace. I know of no better way to build within the hearts of our children a much-needed respect for authority than remembering in the daily supplications of the family those who carry the burdens of government.

I remember seeing on billboards in some cities a statement that read, “A nation at prayer is a nation at peace.” I believe this.

Praying together can ease family tensions. It can bring about the respect for parents that leads to obedience. It can bring the spirit of repentance, which in turn will largely erase the blight of broken homes. In praying together, we confess weaknesses together before the Lord and invoke the blessings of the Lord upon the home and those who dwell there.

I have long been impressed by a statement made by a man long since dead. James H. Moyle wrote to his grandchildren concerning the family prayer of his own home. He said: “We have not gone to bed before kneeling in prayer to supplicate divine guidance and approval. Differences may arise in the best governed families, but they will be dissipated by the … spirit of prayer. … Its very psychology tends to promote the more righteous life among men. It tends to unity, love, forgiveness, to service.”

In 1872 Colonel Thomas L. Kane, the great friend of our people in the days of their distress in Iowa and at the time of the coming of the army to the Salt Lake Valley, came west again with his wife and two sons. They traveled to St. George with Brigham Young, stopping each night in the homes of Church members along the way. Mrs. Kane wrote a series of letters to her father back in Philadelphia. In one of these she said:

“At every one of the places we stayed on this journey we had prayers immediately after the dinner-supper, and prayers again before breakfast. No one was excused. … The Mormons … kneel at once, while the head of the household, or an honored guest prays aloud. … They spend very little time in ascriptions, but ask for what they need, and thank Him for what he has given. … [They] take it for granted that God knows our familiar names and titles, and will ask a blessing on [a particular individual by name]. … I liked this when I became used to it.”

Oh, that we as a people might fully cultivate this practice, which was of such importance to our pioneer forebears. Family prayer was as much a part of their worship as were the meetings convened in the Tabernacle. With the faith that came of those daily invocations, they grubbed the sagebrush, led the waters to the parched soil, made the desert blossom, governed their families in love, lived in peace one with another, and made their names immortal as they lost themselves in the service of God.

The family is the basic unit of society. The praying family is the hope of a better society. “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found” (Isa. 55:6).

I was touched by the heartbreaking statement of a young missionary in Japan. He said, “I have been here for months. I can’t learn the language. I dislike the people. I am depressed by day and weep at night. I wanted to die. I wrote my mother and pleaded for an excuse to return home. I have her reply. She says: ‘We’re praying for you. There is not a day passes that all of us do not kneel together in the morning before we eat and in the evening before we retire and plead with the Lord for his blessing upon you. We have added fasting to our prayer, and when your younger brothers and sisters pray they say, “Heavenly Father, bless Johnny in Japan and help him to learn the language and do the work he was called to do.”’”

This young man then went on to say through his tears, “I will try again. I will add my prayers to theirs and my fasting to their fasting.”

Four months after hearing that he would try again, I received a letter from him in which he said, “a miracle has happened. The language has come to me as a gift from the Lord. I have learned to love the people in this beautiful land. God be thanked for the prayers of my family.”

Can we make our homes more beautiful? Yes, through addressing ourselves as families to the source of all true beauty. Can we strengthen society and make it a better place in which to live? Yes, by strengthening the virtue of our family life through kneeling together and supplicating the Almighty in the name of his Beloved Son.

A return to family worship, spreading over the earth, would in a generation largely lift the blight that is destroying us. It would restore integrity, mutual respect, and a spirit of thankfulness in the hearts of people.

The Master declared, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7).

I give you testimony that if you sincerely apply family prayer, you will not go away unrewarded. The changes may not be readily apparent. They may be extremely subtle. But they will be real, for God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

May we be faithful in setting an example before the world in this practice and in encouraging others to do likewise.

Discussion Helps

  1. 1.

    The Apostle Paul well described our time: “In the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1).

  2. 2.

    Only as we build into the fiber of our lives true virtues will the pattern of our times change.

  3. 3.

    Family prayer is one of the basic medicines that would stop the dread disease eroding the character of society.

  4. 4.

    The very practice of kneeling together, addressing Deity, remembering the needy, and praying for family members eases tensions, teaches truths, and instills love and respect.

[photos] Photography by Craig Dimond