Military basic training was tough, especially spiritually. I was surrounded by foul language and bad influences. Prayer and priesthood blessings gave me power to endure, but I longed to have more than personal prayers. Having served a mission, I knew the power and unity that can come from praying with a companion. Unity was one thing our group of about 56 airmen definitely lacked.
Three weeks into basic training, we were still struggling to get along and work as a team. Approaching the junior officers, I requested permission to hold a nightly prayer meeting for anyone who desired to come. Surprisingly, they not only agreed but also supported the idea.
Six airmen came to the first meeting. After taps and lights out, we used a flashlight to read a few verses from the New Testament that related to the challenges we were facing. We then said a prayer, asking that we could have the Spirit of God with us and that we could be grateful for the things we had.
Gradually, more airmen began attending our meeting. Soon our numbers had increased to 15. Sometimes we read Bible verses; other times we read from the Book of Mormon. Each evening anyone who wanted to pray was given the opportunity.
One airman who ventured to our prayer meeting just listened at first. When it came time for him to pray, he asked to be passed over. But a few weeks later, he joined in, praying one evening that his family would be helped with problems at home and that he would be strengthened during the final weeks of training. He told us he was going to miss our meetings when the training ended and that he planned to say a personal prayer each night before going to bed.
While praying with our group soon thereafter, he expressed gratitude that his prayers for his family had been answered. In addition, he said he had been strengthened, which gave him confidence to continue with basic training.
The night before we departed to our assigned technical schools, this same airman explained that before coming to basic training, he had been taught little about God and did not believe in Him. But after reading scriptures with us and seeing the example set by the other airmen who prayed, he had started to develop faith. He confided that the first prayer he had said with the group was the first prayer he had ever said.
As I had hoped, our prayer meetings had brought unity to our group. But they did more than that: they strengthened us as individuals and helped us turn to our Heavenly Father.