Chapter 19: Earnest, Honest, Sincere Prayer

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, (2011), 172–79


We reap many blessings when we diligently attend to personal and family prayers.

From the Life of Heber J. Grant

As a young boy, Heber J. Grant frequented President Brigham Young’s home. If Heber happened to be there at prayer time, he was invited to kneel with the family and participate in family prayer. Those prayers had a lasting effect on Heber. He later recalled, “Upon more than one occasion, because of the inspiration of the Lord to Brigham Young while he was supplicating God for guidance, I have lifted my head, turned and looked at the place where Brigham Young was praying, to see if the Lord was not there. It seemed to me that he talked to the Lord as one man would talk to another.”1

Many incidents in President Heber J. Grant’s life exemplify his dependence on his Heavenly Father and his faith in the power of prayer. For example, when his first wife was near death, his oldest daughter was distraught. He prayed fervently that she would be able to accept the death of her mother (see pages 47–48 in this book). On other occasions, President Grant prayed to help his half brother who had strayed from the Church (see pages 11 and 13) and to plead with the Lord to heal a young girl stricken with diphtheria (see page 101).

In his addresses to the Saints, President Grant often shared the prayers of his heart. He spoke of his hope that the Lord would guide government leaders in their responsibilities.2 He expressed his “deep and sincere” prayer that the Lord would bless soldiers and their families during wartime.3 He said that he prayed constantly “for all of the officers of this Church, whether in the Priesthood or in the auxiliary associations.”4 He pleaded with God to help the Saints live the gospel and to guide others to a knowledge of the truth.5 And he shared his supplication for his own welfare: “My constant and earnest prayer … is that my mind may never become darkened, that I may never depart from the path of rectitude and right, but that as I grow in years I may increase in understanding, that the light and inspiration of the Spirit of God may burn in my heart and enlighten my understanding and keep me firm and faithful in serving my Heavenly Father.”6

Teachings of Heber J. Grant

We should pray in all we do.

Get down on your knees and pray to God to guide you in all you do.7

The minute a man stops supplicating God for his spirit and directions just so soon he starts out to become a stranger to him and his works. When men stop praying for God’s spirit, they place confidence in their own unaided reason, and they gradually lose the spirit of God, just the same as near and dear friends, by never writing to or visiting with each other, will become strangers. We should all pray that God may never leave us alone for a moment without his spirit to aid and assist us in withstanding sin and temptation.8

Let the young people attend to their secret prayers and supplicate God, night and morning, for the direction of His Holy Spirit.9

In the quiet hours, in the heat of battle, and through the hazards of the day; in times of temptation, of sorrow, of peace and of blessing, let us pray always, both alone, and with our families gathered around us, with gratitude for the blessings of life, for understanding of its problems, and for strength to endure to the end.

Woman in prayer

“Get down on your knees and pray to God to guide you in all you do.”

“Pray always, that you may come off conquerer; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan.” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:5.)

“Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:126.)10

Again may I plead with the people to get down on their knees and ask God to direct them in every act of life, and then if they get the Spirit of God they will feel happy and content in what they do. Do not do something that you can not ask God to help you to do. Grow in the light and knowledge of the Gospel, and as a servant of God I promise you peace and joy and happiness, in the name of our Redeemer.11

Prayer is essential for spiritual growth.

We testify that God is a living God, … that He lives and loves His children; that He hears and answers prayers; that He will not let His children wander in darkness and sin without a light; that every man is entitled to that light by which to guide his feet through life; that in a changing world His children may still come to Him and He will speak to them in the noon-day sun or in the quiet watches of the night, in a language they will understand, if they will but live attuned to His spirit.12

Wherever the gospel of Christ has gone, men and women by the hundreds and thousands have embraced it and have been able to bear individual testimony that they received a witness of the divinity of the work in which we as Latter-day Saints are engaged after supplicating God for a testimony. This testimony has not come through their own study, nor through the natural intelligence with which God has endowed them, but in answer to earnest and sincere prayer, uttered in the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, for light and knowledge regarding the divinity of this work.13

The natural disposition of man is to become lifted up in the pride of his own heart, to be [self-centered], to forget God; but the Gospel requires that we shall pray every day of our lives, not only with our families, but in secret. This requirement prevents us from becoming [self-centered]; for it makes us like little children, bowing down and praying to God for the light and inspiration of His Holy Spirit.14

I firmly believe that no man who honestly bows down every day of his life and supplicates God in sincerity for the light of His Holy Spirit to guide him will ever become proud and haughty. On the contrary, his heart will become filled with meekness, humility, and childlike simplicity.15

I have little or no fear for the boy or the girl, the young man or the young woman, who honestly and conscientiously supplicate God twice a day for the guidance of His Spirit. I am sure that when temptation comes they will have the strength to overcome it by the inspiration that shall be given to them. Supplicating the Lord for the guidance of His Spirit places around us a safeguard, and if we earnestly and honestly seek the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord, I can assure you that we will receive it.16

Now, the one thing above all others, that I want impressed on the heart and soul of the young people, is to pray to the Lord. Get faith. If you haven’t knowledge, have faith. Cultivate that faith and sooner or later knowledge will come.17

One of the requirements made of the Latter-day Saints is that they shall be faithful in attending to their prayers, both their secret and family prayers. The object that our Heavenly Father has in requiring this is that we may be in communication with Him, and that we may have a channel between us and the heavens whereby we can bring down upon ourselves blessings from above. No individual that is humble and prayerful before God, and supplicates Him every day for the light and inspiration of His Holy Spirit, will ever become lifted up in the pride of his heart, or feel that the intelligence and the wisdom that he possesses are all-sufficient for him. The prayerful and humble man will always realize and feel that he is dependent upon God for every blessing that he enjoys, and in praying to God he will not only pray for the light and the inspiration of His Holy Spirit to guide him, but he will feel to thank God for the blessings he receives, realizing that life, that health, that strength, and that all the intelligence which he possesses comes from God, who is the Author of his existence.

If we do not keep this channel of communication open between us and our Heavenly Father, then we are robbed of the light and the inspiration of His Spirit, and of that feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving that fills our heart and that desire to praise God for His goodness and mercy to us.

There is no feeling that is more Godlike than that feeling of intense gratitude and thanksgiving to God that comes when we realize and feel that God has blessed us. It has been the testimony of all that have been abroad preaching the Gospel, and who have been able to bring conviction to the hearts of their fellows as to the divinity of the mission in which they are engaged, that the joy and gratitude which fill their hearts in thus being the instruments in the hands of God of bringing people to a knowledge of the plan of life and salvation was greater than they had power to express. We should cultivate that spirit and that disposition to so order our lives that we will ever have a feeling of gratitude and of thanksgiving in our hearts, and a desire to praise God for His goodness to us. We will not be able to have this feeling if we are negligent and thoughtless in attending to the duty of praying to our heavenly Father.18

Live clean, keep the commandments of the Lord, pray to Him constantly to preserve you in truth and righteousness, live as you pray, and then whatever betides you the Lord will be with you and nothing will happen to you that will not be to the honor and glory of God and to your salvation and exaltation. There will come into your hearts from the living of the pure life you pray for, a joy that will pass your powers of expression or understanding. The Lord will be always near you; He will comfort you; you will feel His presence in the hour of your greatest tribulation; He will guard and protect you to the full extent that accords with His all-wise purpose.19

I bear witness to you that I do know that God lives, that he hears and answers prayer.20

Earnest, honest, and sincere prayer to God is worth more to you than all I can say or write.21

Family prayer helps parents and children be in harmony with the Spirit of the Lord.

I am convinced that one of the greatest and one of the best things in all the world to keep a man true and faithful in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to supplicate God secretly in the name of Jesus Christ, for the guidance of His Holy Spirit. I am convinced that one of the greatest things that can come into any home to cause the boys and girls in that home to grow up in a love of God, and in a love of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is to have family prayer. It is not for the father of the family alone to pray, but for the mother and for the children to do so also, that they may partake of the spirit of prayer, and be in harmony, be in tune, to have the radio, so to speak, in communication with the Spirit of the Lord. I believe that there are very few who go astray, that very few lose their faith, who have once had a knowledge of the gospel, and who never neglect their prayers in their families, and their secret supplications to God.22

The Lord has called upon us to pray with our families and in secret, that we may not forget God. If we neglect this, we lose the inspiration and power from heaven; we become indifferent, lose our testimony, and go down into darkness.23

Children notice the example of their parents, their friends, and their teachers. Upon one occasion, … when [home teachers] were stopping at a brother’s home and they had prayers, a little child said: “Papa, we never pray, do we, unless we have company?”24

The way to teach our children to pray is to pray ourselves in secret and in our families. There is too much neglect in having communion with God on the part of many of the Latter-day Saints. I feel a joy and a happiness every day of my life in communicating with my Maker, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer. And those who do not have a radio communication, so to speak, with our Heavenly Father and our Redeemer, are losing the inspiration that comes from the Lord.25

Suggestions for Study and Discussion

  • How can we make our personal prayers more meaningful? How can gratitude for God’s blessings add greater meaning to our prayers?

  • What can we do to help make family prayer a spiritual experience for all members of the family? What blessings has your family received as a result of praying together?

  • What challenges has your family faced in making time for family prayer? How have you overcome these challenges?

  • How does daily prayer help us be “true and faithful in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ”? How can prayer help us be “filled with meekness, humility, and childlike simplicity”?

  • What does it mean to “supplicate God”?

  • Why is it important that we supplicate God every day for the direction of the Holy Spirit?

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 224.

  2.   2.

    See Gospel Standards, 216.

  3.   3.

    See Conference Report, Oct. 1944, 10.

  4.   4.

    Gospel Standards, 199.

  5.   5.

    See Conference Report, Apr. 1945, 10.

  6.   6.

    Gospel Standards, 371.

  7.   7.

    Gospel Standards, 144.

  8.   8.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1944, 9.

  9.   9.

    Gospel Standards, 179–80.

  10.   10.

    “Personal and Family Prayer,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1942, 779.

  11.   11.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1938, 142.

  12.   12.

    In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 6:34.

  13.   13.

    Gospel Standards, 26.

  14.   14.

    In Brian H. Stuy, comp., Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 5 vols. (1987–92), 4:356.

  15.   15.

    Gospel Standards, 31.

  16.   16.

    Gospel Standards, 26.

  17.   17.

    Gospel Standards, 26.

  18.   18.

    In Collected Discourses, 3:192–93; paragraphing altered.

  19.   19.

    Message from the First Presidency, in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, 96; read by President J. Reuben Clark Jr.

  20.   20.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1945, 10.

  21.   21.

    Gospel Standards, 254.

  22.   22.

    Gospel Standards, 25.

  23.   23.

    Gospel Standards, 156.

  24.   24.

    Gospel Standards, 156.

  25.   25.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1924, 9.