Help family members develop a sincere desire to pray, and help them know that they will always receive an answer because Heavenly Father loves them.
One of the greatest things that you can teach your children is to talk to their Heavenly Father, to help them know that they can always turn to him in prayer and that he will listen to them and answer their prayers.
Consider if the members of your family feel comfortable in going to their Heavenly Father in prayer with their thoughts, their problems, and their needs. If your children have learned to pray, you need not fear for them as they grow older and you are not always there to guide and help them. You will have the assurance that no matter how difficult the decision or how many the trials they may have to face, they can always have the help and comfort of a loving and wise Heavenly Father (see 2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 7:7–8).
Prepare for this lesson by reading in the scriptures as much about prayer as you can (for example, Alma 13:28, 3 Nephi 14:7–8). Reflect on your own experiences with prayer. Also read chapter 8, “Praying to Our Heavenly Father,” in Gospel Principles, pages 40–45.
Ask each family member to be ready to share an experience when his prayers were answered.
“Sweet Hour of Prayer” (Hymns, no. 142).
“I Thank Thee, Dear Father” (Children’s Songbook, p. 7).
Begin by reading the following statement by Bishop H. Burke Peterson:
“I want you to know that I know that whenever one of Heavenly Father’s children kneels and talks to him, he listens. I know this as well as I know anything in this world—that Heavenly Father listens to every prayer from his children. I know our prayers ascend to heaven. No matter what we may have done wrong, he listens to us.
“I also believe he answers us. I don’t believe he ignores his children when they talk to him.” (“Prayer—Try Again,” Ensign, June 1981, p. 73.)
Do you think Heavenly Father listens to everyone’s prayers?
Why would he listen even to someone who has made mistakes? (Because he loves everyone. We are all his children, and he wants to help us.)
Do you think that Heavenly Father listens to your prayers?
Tell the following story to your family, and ask them to listen and think how the story can be compared to prayer:
It was Saturday morning, and father was home. He had brought some work from the office to complete and went into the study to be alone.
Soon his little daughter came into the room crying. Someone had broken her new doll. Her father told her not to worry: he would fix her doll. She thanked her father and ran happily back to play.
Did the father listen to his daughter when she needed his help?
Next his son came in. He asked his father for money to buy a new model boat to take sailing with his friends. His father took time to explain that the boy had already received his weekly allowance two days ago with the understanding that it was to take care of such things.
Did the father stop to listen to his son when he needed his help?
Was his answer yes or no this time? Why?
His teenage daughter came in next. She wanted a new dress for the coming dance. Her father told her that she would have to wait. He told her that if she saved as much as she could herself, he would help her buy the new dress.
Did the father listen to his teenage daughter?
How did the father answer this time? (Wait, or yes, but not at this time.)
His teenage son interrupted the father next. The son was doing his homework and needed help with a problem. His father gave him some suggestions, but did not work the problem for him. A few minutes later, his son returned to say, “Thank you for the idea you gave me. It worked!”
Did the father help his teenage son? How?
Finally, the youngest child came in. His father looked down at the boy and asked kindly, “What do you want, son?”
“I don’t want anything,” the little boy answered as he reached his arms around his father’s neck and kissed him. “I just wanted to be with you.”
Why do you think the children went to their father for assistance?
What evidence is there that shows us that the father loved his children?
How can this story be compared with prayer?
Point out that all fathers are not always available as the father in the story was, but our Heavenly Father always listens. Explain to your family that they can always pray to Heavenly Father, no matter when or for what reason. He will answer them.
Have someone in your family read aloud Matthew 7:11.
What do you think this scripture means?
Now have the members of your family share their examples of when their prayers were answered.
Explain to your family that because Heavenly Father loves them he will always answer their prayers in the way that is best for them. Sometimes the answer will be yes; sometimes, no; sometimes, wait; and sometimes he will let us work it out ourselves. Explain that Heavenly Father knows what is best for us, and he will give us “good things” or the things that will help us the most, because he loves us.
Have you ever felt that your prayers were not answered?
Explain to your family that sometimes we do not realize that Heavenly Father has answered our prayers, but later we see that he has given us an answer. Tell the following story to illustrate:
Brother Robinson had just moved his small family into their new cabin home near the forest where he worked. He was grateful for his daughter and his beautiful wife, who would soon have their second child.
The family knelt in prayer together one night around the dinner table. They thanked Heavenly Father for their blessings and asked for his protection.
As the family sat at the table together, they could hear the frightening sounds of the wind as it whistled through the trees in the nearby forest. Suddenly the wind uprooted a giant tree. Five different trees fell, one knocking down the other. One tree crashed through the roof of their small cabin, breaking the boards over their heads. One of the boards fell on Brother Robinson and cut his head.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, but Brother Robinson’s family had to leave their home and return to live with relatives in the city for the winter. Brother Robinson had to leave them and return to the logging camp to continue working.
Do you think the family’s prayer was answered?
Brother Robinson recalled his feelings at the time, “My home was in shambles, and I was separated from my family. I felt as if the Lord had not heard our prayers, and I wondered how he could have allowed this to happen to us.”
Brother Robinson continued, “Later I realized how wrong I was in thinking that the Lord had not heard our prayers, for the snowstorms were so terrible that year that many families were snowed in all winter. We would have been left to ourselves with no help or supplies and no doctor to deliver the baby. I could have lost my wife or our new baby girl—or both! I realized then that the Lord had heard and answered our prayer for our protection.”
Explain that sometimes, like Brother Robinson, we do not recognize answers to our prayers because we do not see everything as clearly as our Heavenly Father does.
Have you ever prayed for something and not recognized the answer to your prayer until later?
Let the family members give examples.
Remind your family that Heavenly Father answers all their prayers and they can always trust him to know what is best for them (see D&C 88:64, 112:10). As an example, tell the story of Daniel in Daniel 6:1–23.
What difference does it make to you if you know that Heavenly Father really listens to you when you pray?
Tell your family that if they know that Heavenly Father is listening to them and cares about them, then it should make a difference in how they pray, in what they ask for, and how they feel about the answers they receive (see 2 Nephi 32:9, Alma 34:26, D&C 46:30).
Express to your family the assurance you feel knowing that they can feel close to Heavenly Father and turn to him in sincere prayer whenever they need his help.
Challenge your family members to pray with more sincerity, trusting that Heavenly Father will answer their prayers.
Explain that when we pray we are talking to Heavenly Father. He loves us and knows what is best for us. We can trust him and the answers we get from him. Tell the following stories:
A four-year-old boy had moved with his family to a new city. They had brought along his dog. The little boy was glad to have him to play with. One day the boy could not find the dog.
The whole family looked everywhere for him, from the area around their house to the dog pound. They wondered if the dog was trying to go back to their old home.
Three days later, the family rode in their car together to see some of the new city they lived in. As they drove down a highway, they saw a little dog running along the road. It was their own dog.
After they got the dog into the car, the little boy said, “I knew we would find him. When he didn’t come back, I went into my bedroom and asked Heavenly Father to bring him back, and he did.” (See “An Answer to Prayer,” Church News, 2 Aug. 1980, p. 16.)
How was the boy’s prayer answered?
Be sure your children understand that Heavenly Father does not always bring back lost animals or toys but that many times he helps us in situations such as this.
Amy’s new baby brother was coming home from the hospital today. She was very excited. When he was born he had been very sick and had to stay in the hospital. Her father said they should pray to Heavenly Father and ask him to help baby Joshua to get better.
Amy did pray. She knew that her father and mother were praying, as well as her grandparents. But Joshua didn’t get better.
Amy asked her father why Heavenly Father didn’t listen to their prayers. Her father had told her that Heavenly Father does listen every time we pray, but he knows what is best for us and we have to trust him. Sometimes he answers yes and sometimes no. Heavenly Father heard their prayers, and soon Joshua was better and was able to come home.
How did Heavenly Father answer Amy’s prayer?
Was Amy’s prayer answered right away?
Explain to your children that Heavenly Father answers all of our prayers. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes we ask our parents for things that we shouldn’t have, and they tell us no. They know what is best for us. Sometimes what we ask our Heavenly Father is not good for us, and he tells us no. We have to trust him.
Tell the story about Brother Robinson. Share an experience from your own family when your prayers were not answered in the way you expected them to be.
Explain that we must have faith when we pray and want Heavenly Father to answer our prayers in the way that he knows is best for us.
Ask your family how they feel about Bishop Peterson’s statement in the section “Heavenly Father Listens to Our Prayers.” Ask the questions noted there.
Use the sections “Our Prayers Are Always Answered” and “We Do Not Always Recognize Answers to Prayers.” The story of Brother Robinson could be read and discussed. The following story could also be used for teenagers:
Roberto joined the Church while he was still in high school. Though several years had passed since he had joined the Church, his parents still were not members.
Each day Roberto prayed that his parents would join the Church. He was grateful for the gospel. It had made a difference in his life. Surely, he thought, his parents could see the difference in the way he acted now. Surely they would want to know why the Church had changed him so. But Roberto’s parents refused to listen to him. They even became angry with him when he tried to talk to them about the Church.
Roberto continued praying for his family. He asked that the Lord would soften their hearts and that one day they would want to join the Church.
Members of Roberto’s branch started visiting his family. Some of the sisters made friends with Roberto’s mother and sister and invited them to Relief Society. Soon Roberto’s mother and sister attended some of the Relief Society homemaking meetings and enjoyed doing the things they learned there. Once his whole family attended a branch activity.
Later the missionaries came to visit Roberto’s family, but Roberto’s family sent them away.
Roberto felt as if his heart would break. He loved his family; he knew they were good people. He continued setting an example himself, and praying for them. But Roberto’s family still refused to join the Church.
Did Heavenly Father listen to Roberto’s prayers?
How were Roberto’s prayers answered?
Explain that sometimes the answer is no or wait. We also need to realize that others have their agency. Though we can pray for them, they may not choose to do the things we are praying for them to do.
Explain that we need to remember to do our part in getting an answer to our prayers, too. Point out that Roberto tried to do his best to help his family by setting a good example.
How did Roberto’s prayers help his family? (Others were touched to help his family learn about the gospel too.)
Have you ever received no in answer to your prayers and later understood why?
Why does Heavenly Father sometimes answer no?
Conclude your lesson by discussing the section “What Difference Does It Make?”
In Matthew 6:5–15, the Savior gave some directions and a model for prayer. Ask family members to suggest different ways people pray. Discuss how these ways fit with what the Savior taught. Discuss what language to use while praying, saying silent prayers, using memorized prayers or repetitious wordings, what we should and should not ask for in our prayers, and relying on the Spirit as we pray.
Have family members find scriptures that explain when to pray (see “Prayer, Pray,” in the Topical Guide of the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible).
They may also wish to relate stories from Church history or from their own experience about times when prayer was needed and helped someone.
Develop the idea that personal prayer ought to be a part of daily life, not just a bedtime routine.
Ask family members who they have the right to go to for help if they need something for school, need new clothes, want permission to use the car, want to invite friends into the home, or want something to eat.
Why do you have this right?
Explain that in addition to their earthly parents, family members also have a Heavenly Father who loves them. They have a right to go to him for help as well.
Have some of them play the role of a parent responding to a child’s request.
What should you do before and after you pray?
You may wish to read James 2:14–20 or the following statement by President David O. McKay: “Sincere praying implies that when we ask for any virtue or blessing we should work for the blessing and cultivate the virtue” (“Essential Virtues in Effective Prayer,” Instructor, Nov. 1953, p. 321).
You may also wish to suggest some common things family members might ask for in their prayers. Then have them reply by suggesting what they might do to help bring about the blessing asked for.
Read aloud Alma 5:46. Explain that Alma is speaking to the people of Zarahemla and explaining how he gained a testimony.
Why did Alma fast with his prayers?
Ask family members to tell about any other occasions in the scriptures when prayer was accompanied by fasting. Discuss what fasting adds to prayer and why it is sometimes necessary. (See Mark 9:29, D&C 59:13; see also chapter 25, “Fasting,” Gospel Principles, pp. 164–69.)