The story is told of the new owner of an old house who hired a carpenter to completely refurbish his new purchase. In the attic, the carpenter found strange material around all the rafters and on the underside of the roof. Upon closer inspection he determined the stuff was all the prayers the previous owner had offered. Their prayers had never gotten through the roof.
Meaningful and worthwhile personal prayer is something I consistently struggle with. I suspect the same challenge could be experienced by many of you. I offer the following observations about prayer that I am working on and hope that it will help us get our prayers through the roof and before God in Heaven. To set the record straight, even though I struggle, I have also experienced, like most of you, direct answers to my prayers. Here are some of the many examples.
A few years ago we were bringing cows off the top of the mountains east of Fillmore which is our summer range. This is usually a 2 or 3 week effort of riding every day during the last weeks of September and first week of October. Each year we eventually come to the point where we have only a few left to find. That particular year, we were still out 4 cows by the second week of December. The odd thing is we had seen the cows and tried to get them. They were in the foothills and they had become wild and had escaped each time we tried to get around them. I had made it a matter of prayer for assistance from on high to bring them home. One morning in my office at Sunrise, I received the distinct impression to go check one of my pastures near the Fillmore KOA. I drove out there and looked everywhere with binoculars. Nothing. While driving back to the office, another prompting clearly came to me, to check behind the old Chester Baker home. I began to discount the thought but made the turn and went to look. There in a large pasture behind the house were the 4 cows and calves. I watched them while my son-in-law brought the horses. We opened various gates, mounted our horses and the rodeo was on. They ran and we kept them headed toward our pasture and a waiting corral about 2 miles away. After shutting the corral gate, I loaded the cows in the trailer and drove them directly to the Salina Auction. I do not keep wild cows on the place.
A number of years ago when my dad was still alive, we were out about 5 head. It was early December and the cows had not been found by other cattlemen and had not been seen by hunters in the foothills or anywhere. We did not know where to look, so we were praying and waiting for a sighting of the cows or tracks. One morning my dad told me he had had a dream the night before and in the dream he saw the cows on Chris’s Ridge. That is a nice area on the east rim of Cow Hollow where cattle like to run late in the season. I agreed immediately to ride with him to check Chris’s Ridge. It had snowed the night before so it was easy to see cow tracks or cow sign. I remember riding alongside my dad up the canyon named Cow Hollow. After picking our way through the timber and trails for a few hours, we made it to Chris’s Ridge and rode out the ridge to the salt ground. We had seen absolutely no cow sign in the fresh snow. The clouds, some below us in the canyons, were threatening to snow again. We talked about what to do and decided to ride the ridge to its rocky end of sheer cliffs. Cows always hang at the salt ground so we knew our chances of finding cows at the rocky point were slim to none but we felt since we were there we might as well see it. At the end of the ridge, I began to say that we should head back, but suddenly saw fresh sign on a log. Shortly thereafter we saw fresh tracks, a lot of tracks, and then all 5 cows together. We got around them and carefully herded them back and down the trail. Three hours later we put them in the Pole Corral on the Sand Rock Ridge road near Fillmore. There is no feeling quite like bringing in the herd, and knowing that God lives, He is close to us and more involved in our lives than we think.
Communication with God is real through prayer. I understand to the unbeliever, prayer is just meaningless words. But we do exist and we were placed here by a loving Heavenly Father for a reason. We are here to act not to be acted upon (2 Nephi 2:26), so to honor your agency, God does not force you to receive his direction, comfort or support. However, God is close by and promised to hear and answer when you take the initiative to approach him in prayer; knock and it shall be opened unto you (3 Nephi 27:29). So, prayer is a life line between man and God. Each of us has problems and weaknesses that we cannot solve without help from a higher strength than our own. He has promised to listen and to answer all the time.
10 Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers. (DC 112: 10)
“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” (BD-Prayer)
Prayer is obedience to a commandment. From the very beginning, man was commanded to pray. Adam was commanded to call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. (Moses 5:8) Amulek taught you to be full drawn out in prayer continually for everything going on in your life. (Alma 34: 17-27) Alma taught you to counsel with the Lord in all thy doings. (Alma 37:37) and Nephi went to a mountain often to pray and was shown great things. (1Nephi 18:3)
5 Pray always that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work. DC 10:5)
I get the idea that prayers do not actually have to get through the roof because God is next to us ready and willing to hear and answer our prayers. It is a serious commandment that brings a huge spiritual shift in your life. We should follow Amulek’s admonition; at all times during each day to look for answers, take time to feel for the spirit, be grateful to God.
Sincerity is the key. I find my mind easily wanders during prayer. Sometimes my words and feeling are not one of having a valued conversation with someone standing next to me; someone who I not only respect but worship. I often pray for what I want, never allowing the possibility that my creator may know a higher good that is not what I want.
“Christians are taught to pray in Christ’s name (John 14:13–14). We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ—when His words abide in us (John 15:7). We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart.” (BD-Prayer)
I hope you can maintain effective prayers on your mission. As you improve, you will develop habits that will bring you blessings your whole life.
My dear young friends, never lose faith in yourselves or in your capacity to do worthwhile things. And call upon the Lord for help that your minds may be enlightened and your understanding quickened. Then go to work with that assurance inside of you that somehow you can do it. (BYU Speeches, President Gordon B. Hinckley, “God shall give you knowledge by his spirit” Sept 25, 1973)