Prayer Lessons from Italy
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)
As missionaries we would often invite those we met to pray about our message and ask God whether it was true. We knew that if individuals would ask God with an open heart, with sincerity, and with real intent to act on the response that God would invariably give to these seekers of truth, that answers would come through the power of the Holy Ghost. We were so sure in our convictions that answers would come because we ourselves had prayed about such things as the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the gospel by the prophet Joseph Smith, etc. We had felt and seen the fruits of the Spirit in our lives and knew that others could taste and experience the joy associated with communicating with our Father in Heaven and receiving answers to our prayers.
If God has promised us answers to our prayers, then why is it so hard to recognize answers when they come? And why is it that people don’t readily pray to our Father in Heaven? God has given us everything we have. He loves us more than we can imagine and wants desperately to hear our deepest desires, our fears, and our thoughts. Yet we don’t pray to God because we’re “too busy” or just don’t see it as a high priority. I myself am guilty of this. I find myself at the end of the day thinking to myself “oh, I should pray, but…” and I rationalize away the need to pray. And even if I do pray, it is often difficult to not fall into a somewhat scripted and repetitious prayer of “thank you for this day…for all my many blessings…” etc. Sincerity and thought are required for meaningful communication with God. If we want to have a spiritual experience and receive guidance when praying we have to prepare ourselves.
I suppose this is why many people that we talked with either didn’t pray when we invited them to do so or didn’t receive definitive answers when they did pray. Many people in the world today have a very vague definition of prayer. Prayer takes effort and practice. And if we are not praying regularly we can easily lose touch with the spirit and find it hard to recognize answers when they come.
As we learn the true relationship with which we stand before God, namely that God is our Father, and we are his children, then prayer becomes natural and instinctive. We will long for the opportunity to go to our Father in Heaven and pour out our souls to Him. Many of the so-called difficulties associated with prayer will disappear as we better understand our relationship with God, the Father. It is through prayer that we become more united with God and learn what He has in store for us, his precious children. It is the means by which we can obtain the highest and most choice blessings that God would give us. It is the means by which we “may come off conqueror; yea, that [we] may conquer Satan, and that [we] may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.” (D&C 10:5)
I extend the following invite to myself and to whoever may read this post: that we strive to communicate with our Father in Heaven on a daily basis through prayer that we may become closer to God and receive all the guidance and blessings that He would give unto us.
Prayer Lessons from Switzerland
One thing that missionaries do a lot is pray. I remember counting and we would pray somewhere around 15-20 times a day, depending on the number of lessons that were taught that day. Prayer is an important part of drawing nearer to our Heavenly Father and it is one of the first principles that we taught as missionaries. We wanted those that we taught to start to build that relationship with God as soon as possible. Some of my favorite moments were listening to someone’s first prayer because it was a huge step for some people. A lot of people that we taught had never really prayed before.
Not only does prayer bring us closer to our loving Father in Heaven, but it is also the main way that we gain revelation, or answers to our questions. Our faithful readers might realize that a lot of the stories that we have shared have a prayer tied to the story. Whether it was a prayer from people wanting to know if they should be baptized, or a whole mission fasting and praying for a father’s heart to be softened so his son could be baptized- prayer happens often! There were numerous times on the mission when we needed guidance as missionaries. We needed to know what to teach those whom we were teaching. We also needed to know where to go or what to do to find people to teach. Prayer was always the answer to start moving us in the right direction.
Prayer also is a great source of strength. When we would help those who were overcoming addictions such as smoking or alcohol, they would often go to pray as a source for strength. It brings a comfort to one’s heart to help them get through the rough times in life (we all have those).
Prayer truly is the way that I have gained a testimony of this Gospel. It is the way that I have gained a relationship with our Father in Heaven. Prayers are always answered; maybe not at the time you expect, or in the way that you would anticipate but the Lord always answers a sincere prayer. Always. If you haven’t had an experience with prayer recently, HAVE ONE! Get on your knees and start talking to God. He’ll listen.