Most of the children in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enjoy the privilege of meeting once each week with others of similar age and interests in the meetings of Primary. There are, however, other children, equally as sweet and precious, who are not so fortunate.
Some years ago while visiting in Australia, I accompanied the mission president on a flight to Darwin to break ground for that city’s first Latter-day Saint chapel. We stopped for refueling at the small mining community of Mt. Isa. There we were met at the terminal by a mother and her two children of Primary age. She introduced herself as Judith Louden and mentioned that she and her two children were the only members of the Church in the town. Her husband, Richard, was not a member. After four years as Church members, they had never lived where there was an organized branch of the Church. We held a brief meeting, where I discussed the importance of holding a home Primary session each week. I promised to send from Church headquarters the home Primary materials to assist them. There was a commitment to pray, to meet, to persevere in faith.
Upon returning to Salt Lake City, I not only sent the promised materials, but also a subscription to the Friend.
Years later, while attending the stake conference of the Brisbane Australia Stake, I mentioned in a priesthood session the plight of this faithful woman and her children. I said, “Someday I hope to learn how that home Primary succeeded and to meet the nonmember husband and father of that choice family.” One of the brethren in the meeting stood and said, “Brother Monson, I know Richard Louden, the husband of that good woman and father of those precious children. Prayer and Primary brought him into the Church.”
The power of prayer again came to mind recently. I was on assignment in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The sun was bright and cheerful. Its warmth was a welcome reprieve from the winter’s cold I had left at home.
I paused by the historic Palermo Park, which graces the downtown area, and realized that this was sacred ground, for here on Christmas Day in 1925 Elder Melvin J. Ballard, an Apostle of the Lord, dedicated all of South America for the preaching of the gospel. What a fulfillment to an inspired prayer is evident today as the growth of the Church in that land exceeds all expectations!
In that same park is a large statue of George Washington, the father of the United States and its first president. As I gazed at the statue, my thoughts returned to the cold of Pennsylvania in the United States, to another historic place where prayer played a vital role—even Valley Forge. It was there that this same Washington led his badly battered, ill-fed, and scantily clad troops to winter quarters.
Today, in a quiet grove at Valley Forge, there is a heroic-sized monument to Washington. He is depicted not astride a charging horse nor overlooking a battlefield of glory, but kneeling in humble prayer, calling upon the God of heaven for divine help. To gaze upon the statue prompts the mind to remember the oft-heard expression, “A man stands tallest when upon his knees.”
Men and women of integrity, character, and purpose have ever recognized a power higher than themselves and have sought through prayer to be guided by such power. Such has it ever been. So shall it ever be.
From the very beginning, Father Adam was commanded to “call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore” (Moses 5:8). Adam prayed. Abraham prayed. Moses prayed, and so did every prophet pray to that God whence came his strength. Like the sands slipping through an hourglass, generations of mankind were born, lived, and then died. At long last came that glorious event for which prophets prayed, psalmists sang, martyrs died, and mankind hoped.
The birth of that babe in Bethlehem was transcendent in its beauty and singular in its significance. Jesus of Nazareth brought prophecy to fulfillment. He cleansed lepers, he restored sight, he opened ears, he penetrated hearts, he renewed life, he taught truth, he saved all. In so doing, he honored his Father and provided you and me with an example worthy of emulation. More than any prophet or leader, he showed us how to pray. Who can fail to remember his agony in Gethsemane and that fervent prayer: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). And his injunction: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). It is then that we remember:
“When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. …
“But thou, when thou prayest, … pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. …
“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” (Matt. 6:5–6, 9–13).
This guiding instruction has helped troubled souls discover the peace for which they fervently yearn and earnestly hope.
Unfortunately, prosperity, abundance, honor, and praise lead some men to the false security of haughty self-assurance and the abandonment of the inclination to pray. Conversely, turmoil, tribulation, sickness, and death crumble the castles of men’s pride and bring them to their knees to plead for power from on High.
I know not by what method rare,
But this I know, God answers prayer.
I know that he has given his word
That 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 just in the way I thought,
But leave my prayers with him alone,
Whose ways are wiser than my own—
Assured that he will grant my quest,
Or send some answer far more blessed.
(Eliza M. Hickock)
Well might the younger generation ask, “But what about today? Does he still hear? Does he continue to answer?” To which I promptly reply: “There is no expiration date on the Lord’s injunction to pray. As we remember him, he will remember us.”
Most of the time there are no flags waving or bands playing when prayer is answered. His miracles are frequently performed in a quiet and natural manner.
Some years ago I received the appointment to attend stake conference in Grand Junction, Colorado. As the plane circled the airport amidst heavy snow, the pilot’s voice announced that it appeared our landing would not be possible, and Grand Junction would of necessity be overflown. I knew that I had been assigned to this conference by a prophet, and prayed that the weather would permit a landing. Suddenly the pilot said, “There is an opening in the cover. We’ll attempt a landing.” That phrase is always a bit frightening to any air traveler.
Our landing was accomplished safely, and the entire conference went without incident. I wondered why I in particular had been assigned there. Before I left Grand Junction, the stake president asked if I would meet with a distraught mother and father who were grieving over a son’s decision to leave his mission field after having just arrived there. When the conference throng had left, we knelt quietly in a private place—mother, father, stake president, and I. As I prayed in behalf of all, I could hear the muffled sobs of a sorrowing mother and disappointed father.
When we arose, the father said, “Brother Monson, do you really think our Heavenly Father can alter our son’s announced decision to return home before completing his mission? Why is it that now, when I am trying so hard to do what is right, my prayers are not heard?”
I responded, “Where is your son serving?” He replied,
“In Dusseldorf, Germany.”
I placed my arm around the mother and father and said to them, “Your prayers have been heard and will be answered. With more than 38 stake conferences being held this day attended by General Authorities, I was assigned to your stake. Of all the Brethren, I am the only one who has the assignment to meet with the missionaries in the Germany Dusseldorf Mission this very Thursday.”
Their petition had been honored by the Lord. I was able to meet with their son. He responded to their pleadings. He remained and completed a highly successful mission.
Some years later I again visited the Grand Junction Stake. Again I met the same parents. Still the father had not qualified to have his large and beautiful family join mother and father in a sacred sealing ceremony, that this family might be a forever family. I suggested that if the family would earnestly pray, they could qualify. I indicated that I would be pleased to be with them on that sacred occasion in the temple of God. Mother pleaded, Father strived, children urged, all prayed. The result? Let me share with you a treasured letter that their young son placed under Daddy’s pillow on Father’s Day morning.
I love you for what you are and not for what you aren’t. Why don’t you stop smoking? Millions of people have … why can’t you? It’s harmful to your health, your lungs, your heart. If you can’t keep the Word of Wisdom you can’t go to heaven with me, Skip, Brad, Marc, Jeff, Jeannie, Pam, and their families. Us kids keep the Word of Wisdom. Why can’t you? You are stronger, and you are a man. Dad, I want to see you in heaven. We all do. We want to be a whole family in heaven … not half of one.
Dad, you and Mom ought to get two old bikes and start riding around the park every night. You are probably laughing right now, but I wouldn’t be. You laugh at those old people jogging around the park and riding bikes and walking, but they are going to outlive you. Because they are exercising their lungs, their hearts, their muscles. They are going to have the last laughs.
Come on, Dad, be a good guy—don’t smoke, drink, or anything else against our religion. We want you at our graduation. If you do quit smoking and do good stuff like us, you and Mom can go with Brother Monson and get married and sealed to us in the temple.
Come on, Dad—Mom and us kids are just waiting for you. We want to live with you forever. We love you. You’re the greatest, Dad.
P.S. And if the rest of us wrote one of these, they’d say the same thing.
P.P.S. Mr. Newton has quit smoking. So can you. You are closer to God than Mr. Newton!
That plea, that prayer of faith, was heard and answered. A night I shall ever treasure and long remember was when this entire family assembled in a sacred room in the beautiful temple that graces Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Father was there. Mother was there. Every child was there. Ordinances, eternal in their significance, were performed.
A united prayer of gratitude brought to a close this long-awaited evening.
May we ever remember:
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast. …
O thou by whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer thyself hast trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray.
(Hymns, 1985, number 145)
He has taught us how to pray. That each of us will learn and live this lesson is my earnest plea and sincere prayer.
More than any other person, Jesus taught us why and how to pray.
Self-assurance sometimes leads people to turn away from prayer in their lives; conversely, tribulation often brings them back to their knees.
Thankfully, God is merciful: as we remember him, he will remember us.
Our prayers of faith are heard, frequently bringing God’s answers in a quiet and natural manner.