Throughout his earthly ministry, the Savior taught the importance of prayer by word and by example. He prayed for guidance and strength for himself and for others. He prayed for little children (see Matt. 19:13–15), for Peter that his faith would not fail (see Luke 22:31–32), for his disciples (see John 17:9), for all who would believe on him (see John 17:20), and even for those who would crucify him (see Luke 23:34). He prayed at great length before his chief Apostles received the keys of the priesthood (see Luke 9:28–36). In Gethsemane, “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44).
Prayer is not a casual ritual, but direct communication with our Heavenly Father that occurs when we humbly approach him with “a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ.” So important is this communication that the messages our Father would have us receive are usually delivered by the third member of the Godhead—the Holy Ghost (see Moro. 10:4–5).
Our most earnest prayers often arise from life’s most difficult moments. But all our prayers should be specific and purposeful. We are counseled to cry unto the Lord for mercy, to cry over all our households, and to cry against the power of our enemies. We are told to pray continually for our own welfare and for the welfare of those around us (see Alma 34:18–27). In all our prayers, we should also express gratitude and appreciation for the blessings Heavenly Father has given us.
Even the simplest prayer can be specific. We can thank our Father in Heaven for specific ways we have been blessed each day. We can seek help regarding each of our children. We can pray for help in our Church callings and for strength to overcome weaknesses and sin. In the Kitchener Stake in Ontario, Canada, for example, some visiting teachers remember by name each of the sisters they teach in their daily personal prayers. One sister reports: “I have seen some wonderful changes in my feelings for those I visit. Through prayer, my heart and thoughts are open to the Spirit and to inspiration about the needs of the sisters I teach.”
Prayer is an act of faith through which we petition our Father in Heaven regarding our needs. It is not a means to change God, but rather a way to change ourselves as we submit our minds and hearts to his will.
When a Bountiful, Utah, sister was stricken with a severe disability, she reasoned that she could serve the Lord better if he would remove the handicap. After praying for months for healing, she found the faith to accept her limitations and to trust the Lord’s will. Years later, she realizes that she has grown through enduring and that she has been a source of inspiration to many.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “The conviction that the Lord knows more than we do and that he will answer our prayers in the way that is best for us and for all of his other children is a vital ingredient of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ensign, May 1994, page 99).
• What are some specific blessings for which you can express gratitude?
• How can we make our prayers more meaningful?