The scriptures speak so earnestly about prayer because
for each of us it is our most constant source of real help
President Ezra Taft Benson
My beloved brethren and sisters, I am grateful for this priviledge to stand before you
and I invoke the Spirit of the Lord to sustain us as I speak about the power of personal
prayer and how we may improve our communications with our Heavenly Father.
All through my life the counsel to depend on prayer has been prized above almost any
other advice I have received. It has become an integral part of me, an anchor, a constant
source of strength, and the basis for my knowledge of things divine.
Scriptural Admonitions on Prayer
"Remember that whatever you do or wherever you are, you are never
alone" was my father's similar counsel to me as a boy. "Our Heavenly Father is
always near. You can reach out and receive His aid through prayer." I have found this
counsel to be true. Thank God we can reach out and tap that unseen power, without which no
man can do his best.
The holy scriptures are replete with convincing admonitions regarding the importance of
prayer, impressive examples of prayer, and counsels on how to pray effectively.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus said, "Men ought always to pray, and not to
faint."(Luke 18:1) "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into
temptation."(Matt. 26:41) In this dispensation, He said, "Pray always lest that
wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place." (D&C 93:49)
Through Joseph Smith the warning came: "And in nothing doth man offend God, or
against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and
obey not his commandments." (D&C 59:21)
Then we have this instruction from our risen Lord as He ministered among the Nephite
people on the Western Hemisphere, "Ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted
by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him...
"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. 18:15)
Ways to Improve Our Personal Communication with Our Heavenly Father
May I suggest some ways to improve our communication with our Heavenly Father.
In all of our prayers it is well to use the sacred pronouns of the scriptures-Thee,
Thou, Thy, and Thine-when addressing Deity in prayer, instead of the mmore common pronouns
of you, your, and yours. In this arrangement we show greater respect to Deity.
For what should we pray?
We should pray about our work, against the power of our enemies and the devil, for our
welfare and the welfare of those around us. (Alma 34:20, 22-25, 27.) We should counsel
with the Lord pertaining to all our decisions and activities. (Alma 37-36-37.) We should
be grateful enough to give thanks for all we have.(D&C 59:21) We should confess His
hand in all things. Ingratitude is one of our great sins.
The Lord has declared in modern revelation: "And he who receiveth all things with
thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him,
even an hundred fold, yea, more." (D&C 78:19)
We should ask for what we need, taking care that we not ask for things that would be to
our detriment. (James 4:3) We should ask for strength to overcome our problems. (Alma
31:31-33) We should pray for the inspiration and well-being of the president of the
Church, General Authorities, our stake president, our bishop, our quorum president, our
home teachers, family members, and our civic leaders. Many other suggestions could be
made; but with the help of the Holy Ghost, we will know about what we should pray. (Romans
We should listen. Perhaps while we are on our knees, the Lord wants to counsel us.
"Sincere praying implies that when we ask for any virtue or blessing we should work
for the blessing and cultivate the virtue." (Pres. David O. McKay, True to the
Faith, Bookcraft, 1966. p. 208)
The Power and Efficacy of Prayer
Out of personal experience. I know the efficacy and power of prayer. When I was a young
missionary in Northern England in 1922, the opposition to the Church became very intense.
The opposition became so strong that the mission president asked that we discontinue all
street meetings, and in some cases tracting was discontinued.
My companion and I had been invited to travel over the South Shields to speak in the
sacrament meeting. In the invitation they said, "We feel sure we can fill the little
chapel. Many of the people over here do not believe the falsehoods printed about us. If
you'll come, we're sure that we'll have a great meeting." We accepted.
We fasted and prayed sincerely and went to the meeting. My companion had planned to
talk on the first principles. I had studied much in preparation for a talk on the
apostasy. There was a wonderful spirit in the meeting. My companion spoke first and gave
an inspirational message. I responded and talked with a freedom I had never experienced
before in my life. When I sat down, I then realized that I had not mentioned one word
about the apostasy. I had talked on the Prophet Joseph Smith and borned my witness of his
divine mission and to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. After the meeting had ended,
several people came forward, some of them being nonmembers, and said, "Tonight we
recieved a witness that the gospel is true as you elders teach it. We are now ready for
This was an answer to our fasting and prayers, for we prayed to say only those things
which would touch the hearts of the friends and investigators.
In 1946 I was assigned by President George Albert Smith to go to war-torn Europe and
reestablish our missions from Norway to South Africa and to set up a program for the
distribution of welfare supplies.
We established headquarters in London. We then made preliminary arrangements with the
military on the continent. One of the first men I wished to see was the commander of the
American forces in Europe. He was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany.
When we arrived in Frankfurt, my companion and I went in to seek an appointment with
the general. The appointment officer said, "Gentlemen, there will be no opportunity
for you to see the general for at least three days. He's very busy and his calendar is
filled up with appointments." I said, "It is very important that we see him, and
we can't wait that long. We're due in Berlin tomorrow." He said, "I'm
We left the building, went out to our car, removed our hats, and united in prayer. We
then went back into the building and found a different officer at the appointment post. In
less than fifteen minutes we were in the presence of the General. We had prayed that we
would be able to see him and to touch his heart, knowing that all relief supplies
contributed from any source were then required to be placed in the hands of the military
for distribution. Our objective, as we explained it to the General, was to distribute our
own supplies to our own people through our own channels, and also to make gifts for
general child feeding.
We explained the welfare program and how it operated. Finally, he said, "Well,
gentlemen, you go ahead and collect your supplies; and by the time you get them collected,
the policy may be changed." We said "General, our supplies are already
collected; they're always collected. Within twenty-four hours from the time we wire the
First Presidency of the Church in Salt Lake City, carloads of supplies will be rolling
toward Germany. We have many storehouses filled with basic commodities."
He then said, "I've never heard of a people with such vision." His heart was
touched as we had prayed it would be. Before we left his office, we had written
authorization to make our own distribution to our own people through our own channels.
It is soul-satisfying to know that God is mindful of us and ready to respond when we
place our trust in Him, and do what is right. There is no place for fear among men and
women who place their trust in the Almighty, who do not hesitate to humble themselves in
seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though persecutions arise, though reverses come,
in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that
spirit of serenity, is life's greatest blessing.
As a boy in the Aaronic Priesthood, I learned this little poem about prayer. It has
remained with me:
I know not by what methods rare,
But this I know, God answers prayers.
I know that He has given His Word,
Which tells me prayer is always hear,
And will be answered, soon or late,
And so I pray and calmly wait.
I know not if the blessing sought
Will come in just the way I thought;
But leave my prayers with Him alone,
Whose will is wiser than my own,
Assured that He will grant my quest,
Or send some answer far more blest.
(Eliza M Hickok, "Prayer," Best Loved Religious Poems,
ed. James Gilchrist Lawson, New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1933, p. 160)
Testimony of Prayer
I bear witness to you, my beloved brethren and sisters, that God lives. He is not dead.
I bear testimony the God our Father and His Beloved Son, our Savior and Redeemer, did in
very deed appear to Joseph Smith. I know this as I know that I live. I testify there is a
God in heaven who hears and answers prayer. I know this to be true. I would humbly urge
all within the sound of my voice-member and nonmember alike-to keep in close touch with
our Father in Heaven through prayer. Never before in this gospel dispensation has there
been a greater need for prayer. That we will constantly depend upon our Heavenly Father
and conscientiously strive to improve our communication with Him is my earnest plea, in
the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
© Copyrighted "The Ensign", May 1977
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