I was assigned to speak to another ward today on behalf of our stake Sunday School presidency. The topic was “the power of prayer.” I think it went well, but this was actually the first time I’ve addressed another ward’s sacrament meeting, and I think I may have gone a little too quickly–my talk only took ten minutes. Still, I’m pleased with it.
In salesmanship, there’s a classic example of how to show people how amazing something very simple is. You advertise to someone that you’re selling a product that can perfectly record every event in life and thought they ever have; it’ll also keep track of every single piece of information you ever need to remember. It’s extremely low maintenance, and even has a built-in correction accessory, in case you use it wrong. It’s lightweight, portable, durable, lasts for years, uses no electricity or fuel, and on top of all that, costs less than a dollar. What could this incredible new invention be? It’s a pencil. Keep that in mind for now.
My subject today is prayer, specifically the power of prayer. Now, I’m sure I don’t need to sell anyone here on the importance of prayer, but even though we all believe in prayer, and try to pray often, I know that sometimes we find that we don’t always love it, sometimes we don’t look forward to it, sometimes we don’t make it a priority or even find joy in it. So, I’d like to take a few minutes and share with you what I found as I sought, in preparation for this talk, how we can develop a greater passion for prayer.
How do we come to love anyone or anything? By getting to know it better, by investing time in it, by sacrificing for it.
Consider our Savior, Jesus Christ, our example in all things. Why did He pray? In the scriptures, we see Him praying for personal strength to handle adversity well, both at the beginning and at the end of His mortal ministry, before being tempted of Satan after His baptism, and when he suffered for humanity in Gethsemane; He prayed for others to be blessed; He prayed to thank and worship his Father in Heaven.
But we should also notice how He prayed. Luke 6:46 tells us that a reverent atmosphere was important for His frequent private prayers: “And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.” We get the idea that He planned to be there for a while in prayer (you don’t go to a mountain to pray for thirty seconds and then come back down), and that preparation was important (climbing a mountain isn’t easy). And in Gethsemane, we read that “being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44).
Jesus Christ is hardly the only example we have that effective prayer is never informal or lazy. Those who love prayer, and who are filled with Spirit, don’t race through their prayers, or do just enough to check it off their to-do list. It’s always done with the utmost respect, and effort is vital. For example, Mosiah 2:20 says, in part, to “render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another.” And Enos 1:9 reads, “Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.”
The key words there are clear. Nothing great will ever happen, even feeling the joy of prayer, until we give it as much of ourselves as we can. That means time, and effort, and desire. How can we build that desire? I know of no magic formula, other than what we do to build love for anything: making consistent choices and practicing good habits. The scriptures, and the Church, and hopefully much of our own experience show us that prayer can be a deep, wonderful thing. As Alma put it in Alma 5:26: “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” Can we feel the thrilling blessing of prayer?
I looked up a few of the songs in our hymn book about prayer, and I was impressed that they mostly focus on the same thing. From #140, “Did You Think To Pray?”: “Oh how praying rests the weary! / Prayer will change the night to day. / So when life gets dark and dreary, / Don’t forget to pray.” From #123, “Oh, May My Soul Commune With Thee”: “Enfold me in thy quiet hour / And gently guide my mind / To seek thy will, to know thy ways, / And thy sweet Spirit find.” #144, “Secret Prayer”: “There is an hour of peace and rest, / Unmarred by earthly care; / ‘Tis when before the Lord I go, / And kneel in secret prayer.” And from #142, “Sweet Hour of Prayer”: “In season of distress and grief, / My soul has often found relief / And oft escaped the tempter’s snare / By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.”
Truly, prayer is the path to peace, the way to a fuller, more enriching, satisfying spiritual life. The Savior said, “Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost,” (3 Nephi 12:6) and what else would we do, if we truly hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and wanted to be filled with the Holy Ghost, than to pray? In D&C 19:38, the Lord counsels us: “Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing—yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth and corruptibleness to the extent thereof.”
Brethren and sisters, I hope something here has touched you to reach beyond the routines of outward activity in the Church and to hunger and thirst for the infinite blessings that our Father wants to pour out upon us as we seek Him, personally, deeply, and with a desire for spiritual closeness to Him. Service and consecration of all kinds are wonderful, but like that awesome invention I described before, that could do all those great things but was really just a simple little pencil, I can’t think of anything else in the world that offers such amazing blessings for such a simple thing as prayer. A loving habit of prayer is the engine of joyfully living the rest of the gospel.
Finally, as I’ve prepared this talk, I’ve approached our Father in prayer to plead for the gift of loving prayer more, myself. I know He wants us to know Him, and I testify that the His Spirit is answering that prayer for me, and is here with us now, and can be with all of us, all the time, as we are worthy and seek it. The Church is true, the scriptures are true, we are led by a prophet, and the Savior Jesus Christ lives and loves us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.