I can remember as a young boy hearing my mother and father in our daily family prayers asking for the kind and protecting care of our Heavenly Father to be with us during that day, or on a particular trip, or during any special activity in which we might be engaged. I was so impressed by those pleadings with the Lord by my dear parents that I incorporated them into my personal prayers as well, and later into our own family prayers.
There are so many challenges in this life, so many dangers confronting us on every side, and so many temptations of the adversary that we all need the protecting care of our Heavenly Father in all that we do. How do we become sensitive to the whisperings of the Spirit sent to guide us?
One of the ways is through prayer. The Savior in speaking to the Nephites taught: “Ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
“Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
“And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you” (3 Ne. 18:18–20).
My first experience with the Lord’s protecting care came when I was only three years old. My aunt and uncle had a farm north of Idaho Falls, and my grandfather and our family usually visited them there every summer. Their mailbox was located on the main highway about a half mile from the farm home. On a beautiful summer morning, Grandpa, Mother, and I went for a walk to get the mail. Along the side of the highway was an irrigation ditch full of water. I wanted to throw rocks into the water to see it splash, but as I bent over to pick one up, I lost my balance and fell into the water. My mother screamed, and, just as I was about to disappear into the culvert going under the road, my grandfather was able to grab me by the suspenders of my coveralls and pull me to safety. Once into the culvert, I surely would have drowned before coming out the other side. Yes, mother had prayed that morning for the Lord’s kind and protecting care to be with us, and her prayers were answered.
Many experiences have helped strengthen my testimony of the power of prayer. Perhaps the one that had the most long-term effect on my life was my decision to accept a call to serve a mission.
I had always planned to fill a mission. From the time I was old enough to understand, my parents had taught me how important a mission was and that it was the right thing to do. After graduating from high school, I was fortunate to receive an academic and athletic scholarship to the University of Chicago. It was 1937 and the United States was struggling to emerge from the Great Depression. My parents were simply unable to help me financially with my college education, so the scholarship was my great opportunity. My mother was reluctant to let me go from our home in Salt Lake City to this great university so far away for a number of reasons, but primarily because she felt I might not choose to accept a mission call after my sophomore year, when I would be old enough. Cautiously she agreed to my going if I would still plan on going on my mission when the time came. I agreed.
When I returned home that summer, after my sophomore year, one of the first things she said was, “Lynn, now you can prepare to leave on your mission in the fall.” However, after being exposed to the philosophies of men, expounded by the world-renowned professors of that great university, I had changed my mind.
In essence I said, “Mother, I have changed my mind. I feel that many of the teachings of the Church are old-fashioned and out-of-date, and that it is more important for me to complete my junior and senior years, and then possibly fill a mission.”
I will never forget the terrible hurt look on her face. She didn’t shout or scold or chastise me in any way. She just wept, and later I learned that she and Dad prayed with all the fervor of their souls that I would change my mind. I also prayed for confirmation that I had made the right decision.
Fortunately for me, our prayers were answered, and I listened to the whisperings of the Spirit. The answer came on that last day when I had to decide whether or not to return to the university, and I decided to serve a mission.
My young friends, as I look back over the 50 years of my life since that important decision was made with the help of the Lord, I can testify to you that it was one of the best and most important decisions of my life. Reflecting on my attitude at the time and the direction I was going, I shudder to contemplate what would have happened to me if I had chosen unwisely. I could have easily become inactive in the Church and missed out on the most important experiences of this life and the eternities.
As the Savior said to Thomas B. Marsh, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Pray always, lest you enter into temptation and lose your reward” (D&C 31:12). My, how that counsel applies to all of us today.
While I was serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, my missionary experience in Brazil was instrumental in my not entering into direct combat. After completing my advanced navigational training, all of our flight group entered directly into combat except one other lieutenant and myself, who were assigned to be instructors at the school. Later a group of Brazilian cadets were assigned to our base, and because of my knowledge of Portuguese gained during my mission, I was assigned to their class. A few months later, I received my orders to report for overseas combat training. When the Brazilian cadets’ commanding officer learned of this, he went to my commanding officer, explained that I was the only instructor that could speak Portuguese and told him how much they needed me to stay. My orders were cancelled.
Finally orders went out from the commanding general that all base personnel that had not had overseas combat experience were to be assigned to go. I was sent to Chatham Field, Georgia, where I was assigned as the navigator on a B–29, the newest and largest bomber in the Air Force at that time. We entered our training with a departure date for Saipan in the South Pacific set for September 15. What happened? The end of the war came late in August, and I missed getting into combat by two weeks. A series of coincidences? I think not. Once again prayers were answered.
Yes, the Lord hears and answers our prayers, but we have to do our part! At one time in my professional career, things were not going well and I was praying fervently every day for an improvement in my situation. At the time, I was a member of the Mutual Improvement Association General Board, and I went to board meeting one night with a heavy heart. At the start of the meeting, we recited the MIA theme for that year, which was taken from Doctrine and Covenants 90:24: “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly.” [D&C 90:24]
I had recited that scripture many times, but that night I was more sensitive to the whisperings of the Spirit, and the realization came to me: That’s it! That’s the answer to my prayers. Pray always and be believing. Do my part and the Lord will open the way.
Just a few weeks later a new opportunity came that changed my life for the better.
Of course, not all our prayers are answered just as we would like, and the Lord’s will and purposes must be fulfilled, sometimes in ways that we do not comprehend. But I testify to you that God does hear and answer our prayers. I have had so many confirming experiences of this in my life. I know that prayer can be a great power and strength in your life as well, if you will make it so.