Lesson 18: Prayer

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3, (1995), 66–70


Objective

Each young man will realize that through constant, sincere prayer we can find solutions to problems, receive guidance and strength, and live serenely in a troubled world.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study 2 Nephi 32:8; Enos; Alma 34:17–27; 37:35–37; Ether 3:1–15; and Doctrine and Covenants 8:2; 9:8–9.

  2. 2.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Copies of the scriptures (each young man should bring his own).

    2. b.

      Picture 7, A Spaceship.

    3. c.

      A pencil for each young man.

    4. d.

      Pencils for marking scriptures.

  3. 3.

    Prepare a copy for each young man of the handout “Personal Evaluation Checklist,” found at the end of the lesson.

  4. 4.

    Assign two young men to read and report on the events in Ether 3:1–15 and Enos 1:1–27. Encourage them to discuss these passages with parents, home teachers, or other Church leaders as they prepare to report to the quorum.

Suggested Lesson Development

Introduction

Picture and discussion

Display picture 7, A Spaceship. Explain that one of the miracles of modern science is that we can now send men speeding through space at thousands of miles per hour and transmit instructions and directions to them when they are thousands of miles away.

  • How does man’s ability to communicate like this increase your belief that God can send us messages by the power of the Spirit as we pray to him?

Explain that we are sent by Heavenly Father to earth to fulfill our life’s mission. He stands ready, regardless of time or distance, to help us succeed. We can receive guidance and direction to return to him if we will approach him in prayer.

A Sincere Heart and Real Intent

Discussion

  • How long ago was the last conversation you had with a close friend? How long did you talk? What did you talk about?

Ask the following set of questions, but do not require the young men to answer them aloud.

  • How long ago was your last prayer? How long did you pray? What did you pray about?

Quotation

Read the following statement:

“Each of us would become disturbed if a friend said the same few words to us each day, treated the conversation as a chore, and could hardly wait to finish in order to turn on the TV and forget us” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Improving Communication with Our Heavenly Father,” in Prayer [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], p. 111).

Scriptures and discussion

Have the young men read Alma 37:35–37 silently to themselves.

  • How would a person act who did what verse 36 says? Why?

  • What is meant by “counsel with the Lord”?

Point out that the word counsel implies a two-way exchange or mutual consultation. Therefore, in our prayers we should both listen and talk as we discuss our intentions, goals, and concerns with our Heavenly Father.

Explain that the way we usually receive answers when we listen to Heavenly Father is by receiving ideas in our minds or feelings in our hearts.

  • What is meant by “in all thy doings”?

Have a young man read Alma 34:17–27. Explain that the Lord wants us to share everything with him and to seek his guidance in all things, as close companions do.

  • According to these scriptures, how important should prayer be in our lives?

Explain that if the Lord wants us to counsel with him in all our doings, then nothing is unimportant to him.

Quotation

Read the following quotation:

“It is not such a difficult thing to learn how to pray. … Prayer does not consist of words, altogether. True, faithful, earnest prayer consists more in the feeling that rises from the heart and from the inward desire of our spirits to supplicate the Lord in humility and in faith” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 219).

Adviser presentation

Explain that true prayer is a heart-to-heart talk with Heavenly Father. The key to proper behavior is always remembering and seeking the Lord so that we stay on the straight and narrow path. By communicating frequently with the Lord, we can make all the corrections or adjustments needed to keep on course toward our final destination. We should remain in constant communication with Heavenly Father. He will guide us back to him if we will follow his promptings.

Reports and discussion

Call upon the two previously assigned young men to give their reports about Ether 3:1–15 and Enos 1:1–27.

  • How are the events in these two accounts similar? (The events in each case followed sincere, devout prayer and genuine communication with the Lord.)

Discuss how honestly, openly, and sincerely Enos and the brother of Jared prayed.

Activity and chalkboard discussion

Ask the young men to think back on their recent personal prayers. Give each young man a copy of the “Personal Evaluation Checklist,” and ask him to silently assess the nature of his prayers. He should not mark any answers but rather use the questions as a means for reviewing how effective his prayers are.

  • How do your usual prayers differ from the prayers offered by Enos and the brother of Jared?

As you ask this question, draw the figure entitled “Me” on the chalkboard, and write Prayer above it. (See the illustration.)

Encourage the young men to discuss frankly and specifically the ways in which their prayers differ from the prayers of Enos and the brother of Jared.

  • What can interfere with our ability to pray effectively?

List their answers on the chalkboard under Problems:

line figure

The Key to the Blessings of Heaven

Chalkboard presentation

Explain that after a few prayers, if we cannot recognize an answer, we may become discouraged and stop praying about our specific problem. We may even stop praying altogether. Explain that at these times we need to pray the most.

Write Keep praying under Solutions on the chalkboard.

Scripture and discussion

Have a quorum member read 2 Nephi 32:8 and also the first part of verse 9.

  • Why does Satan continually try to discourage us from praying? (His goal is to destroy our happiness and make us miserable like himself.)

Encourage the young men not to allow Satan, other people, or circumstances to discourage them from praying.

Quotation

Explain that President David O. McKay commented about the necessity to persevere in prayer when he said:

“I hope that some day you will … meet a wall that seems insurmountable, impregnable; but if duty lies beyond that wall, do not stand back and say, ‘I cannot do it.’ You may aspire to do it, but that is not sufficient. Do what James … says: Ask God for power, but add to that faith, an acknowledgment of your own ability to do what you are able to do.

“You can walk from where you stand, up to the wall. When you get there, and you have gone as far as you can, you will find in answer to your prayer that there is a hidden ladder by which you can scale it, or there is a door which you could not see from where you were first standing. God’s hand is shown” (Treasures of Life, comp. Clare Middlemiss [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1962], pp. 303–4).

Story

Read or relate the following story:

John was nineteen. As he made his way slowly to the podium amid the applause to accept the school’s indoor sports award for table tennis, he thought back on the many years of ridicule and humiliation he had received from his classmates. He had suffered from cerebral palsy from birth, which left him blind in one eye, unable to hear without the help of two awkward-looking hearing aids, and unable to use his left hand. Despite all this, John overcame his handicaps.

After graduation, John went on to serve a full-time mission. Today he serves as ward organist, a feat that requires years of practice even with two good hands.

John overcame his challenges because he had decided as a youth that if others would not love and accept him, maybe God would. This belief and yearning sent him to his knees in earnest prayer. In answer to his prayers, John found the matchless love, understanding, and peace that only God can give to the soul. This gave him the strength and courage to overcome his disability and to become the kind of person he wanted to be.

Chalkboard discussion

Explain that most of us are not faced with such physical disabilities, but we are faced with various challenges that require faith and trust in the Lord. By turning to the Lord and doing our part, we can meet all challenges.

Write Pray about specific needs under Solutions on the chalkboard.

  • What might have happened to John if he hadn’t turned to the Lord for comfort and guidance? (He could have ended up feeling depressed and filled with self-pity rather than developing his talents and finding the happiness and peace that come from seeking and trusting in the Lord.)

  • What problems cause stress in the lives of young people?

Using one of the problems mentioned by the young men, discuss how a young man could receive help in overcoming the problem through prayer. Summarize the young men’s responses on the chalkboard. These might include—

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully meditating about the problem.

  2. 2.

    Fasting and prayer.

  3. 3.

    Repenting, asking for forgiveness whenever we do something wrong.

  4. 4.

    Praying for guidance in receiving counsel from parents, bishop, and other leaders.

  5. 5.

    Prayerfully searching the scriptures.

  6. 6.

    Asking for help in overcoming weaknesses.

Guide the discussion to help the young men become more specific in their prayers. For example, if the problem regarded a particular class or course in school, the young man might ask himself: “How important is school to me? How important is this class in which I am having such a difficult time? What are my habits and weaknesses that are preventing me from achieving? What is my relationship with the teacher?” After thinking over these questions, he can be better prepared to ask for the Lord’s help in specific ways.

  • What, then, would be a more specific way to ask for the Lord’s help for this particular problem? (To ask for the strength to get up an hour earlier tomorrow and write the paper or read the book that is due, to ask for patience to rewrite the paper if necessary, or to ask for help in remembering important information while studying.)

Point out that prayer should combine the usual expression of need with carefully meditated steps to solve the problem and, finally, a firm commitment to the Lord that the young man will do his part.

Recognizing Answers to Prayers

Scripture and discussion

  • How can we recognize an answer to a prayer?

Encourage the young men to relate any personal examples they can. Then have a young man read Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 and another read Doctrine and Covenants 9:8–9. Have the young men mark these scriptures and review the situations surrounding these revelations. If necessary, remind them that the Lord is speaking to Oliver Cowdery. In the first scripture, Oliver is told that he may help translate the plates; in the second, he is told why he was unable to do so.

Summarize by explaining that the Lord will help us to know if a principle is right through a warm sensation or a confident, peaceful feeling. If a principle is wrong, we will experience a stupor of thought or a confused, uneasy feeling.

Conclusion

Quotation and adviser presentation

Read the following statement:

“Answers from the Lord come quietly—ever so quietly. In fact, few hear his answers audibly with their ears. We must be listening so carefully or we will never recognize them. Most answers from the Lord are felt in our heart as a warm comfortable expression, or they may come as thoughts to our mind. They come to those who are prepared and who are patient” (H. Burke Peterson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, p. 13; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 19).

Give personal examples of experiencing the promptings of the Spirit, and ask the young men for other examples.

Emphasize that we must often persevere if an answer does not come at once. In some cases we may need to reassess our lives. Explain the difference between accepting as inspiration that which we most desire and praying until we receive a confirmation of its rightness.

Emphasize that such witnesses are personal and not to be treated lightly nor told to unbelievers. Point out that a young man must consistently adhere to the principles of the gospel in order to be worthy of inspiration through prayer.

Testimony and challenge

Bear testimony of the power of prayer. Challenge the young men to keep open the lines of communication with Heavenly Father through regular, constant prayer.