The Power of Family Prayer
The Savior speaks to us in 3 Nephi Chapter 18 verses 20 and 21 saying, “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. Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.”
I love these scriptures. It teaches us so simply that when we pray in faith we can receive answers to our prayers. And that we are blessed as we pray in our families.
My oldest daughter Ashley was baptized last week. I love attending baptisms. They are so simple and the purposes of this life become so clear. It was such a powerful reminder to me that this life is all about returning Home to live with Heavenly Father. As I watched her make this important decision the Holy Ghost confirmed to me that she was making the right decision. And that she was one step closer to returning to live with her Heavenly Father. I love my family. I want them to be blessed and I want more then anything to have them all make those decisions that will allow us to be together forever.
Prayer is one of the tools we have been given to help us on this journey back Home. I am so grateful for Prayer. Prayer is the means by which we communicate with a loving Heavenly Father. We learn through the Savior that our prayers will be answered as we pray in faith. It is comforting to know that we have a way to counsel with Heavenly Father in our decisions and that we can receive personal revelation and promptings of the Holy Ghost through prayer. In a time when so many of us can feel alone and separate, prayer can offer the comfort and power of knowing that we are not alone.
I am so grateful to parents who taught me prayer. I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t know about the importance of prayer. Especially as I got older and spent more time away from my earthly home, I knew that I could feel a connection to my Heavenly Home and Earthly home through prayer. It is the responsibility of parents to teach their children prayer in the home. In thinking about what I learned about prayer in my home, I came up with the following:
First, I learned the language of prayer. I learned that we should use reverent language when we pray and use words like thee, thy, and thine. I learned from my parents that we address our Heavenly Father with respect, humility, and reverence.
Second, I learned my relationship to God through prayer. I learned that I was a child of God and that I was only temporarily away from a loving Heavenly Father. I knew that I wanted to pray to Him. I wanted to feel close to Him since I wanted to return to live with Him in Heaven. I was taught by my parents, through prayer, to long for Home.
Third, I learned that we always close our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ. I learned that it is through our relationship to Jesus Christ that we draw closer to God. I learned that Jesus Christ offered the perfect example and that by following His example I could know God. I knew that it was through prayer that I could be forgiven of my sins and feel the peace and assurance that I am on the path Home.
Fourth, I learned that prayer is a priority. I learned that when we are tired, busy, or whatever else we are feeling that prayer is still important. My parents were consistent. They may have missed a family prayer here and there. I am sure they did. But they always returned to the pattern of prayer.
A few weeks ago Hans and I were able to travel to San Francisco to visit with my parents to celebrate my mom battling breast cancer and turning 60. My brother and sisters and their spouses met us there. It was a different experience to be together again without any of our children. We have never had this chance as 12 adults to be together and feel this family unity. I am confident my dad didn’t intend to teach us more about prayer on this trip to celebrate my mom, but he did. After a late dinner and hours of sightseeing we were tired. We walked my parents back to their hotel. 12 of us crammed ourselves into their hotel room to say goodnight and again offer our gratitude to our parents for giving us this trip. Before we left, my dad called us to prayer and we knelt in that small hotel room as a family to offer gratitude for our blessings and to again seek that assurance that we were on our journey back Home. I am grateful for my Dad and his testimony of prayer.
I am so grateful that as a child I learned prayer. My parents weren’t perfect, but they taught prayer.
As my parents knew, as now I do with my own family, prayer is the key to not feeling tragedy in separation. Our Heavenly Father gave us prayer as a lifeline so we don’t feel alone in this life. As a parent, I want to give my children the same testimony of prayer that was given to me. I want them to know that they are never really alone.
I have also learned a lot about family prayer from having my own family.
First, I know that family prayer creates unity, love, and affection in the home. As we kneel together as a family and pray I feel, and I hope my kids feel, a sense of belonging. We feel connected to one another and feel the bonds that tie us to each other. I love hearing my kids pray for one another. They pray for Katelyn to get her kip, for Ashley to have fun at school, for Justin to earn back his soccer ball, and for Mia to learn to talk. They express interest in each others lives. We feel of our love for each other as we pray.
Second, I know that family prayer can help dissolve conflict and create perspective in our relationships to one another. I have seen this happen in my own marriage. This may come as a surprise, but I, on occasion, get frustrated with Hans or feel hurt or angry. I don’t feel like praying. But as we kneel together before going to bed and I hear Hans expressing his feelings to our Heavenly Father and tell of his gratitude and love for me, I feel humbled and softened. It becomes easier for me to let go of whatever is bothering me and to recognize how trivial my frustrations are when I see our marriage from an eternal perspective. It is a powerful reminder that our relationship is bigger and more far-reaching then just right now in this frustrated moment.
Third, I have learned that family prayer gives me insights into what my kids are concerned about and what they are grateful for. I realize it is a privilege to listen to their prayers and I am so grateful for this opportunity to hear their thoughts. I feel closer to them and I know they feel closer to me as we hear each other pray.
I have also learned from listening to my children pray. I learn that prayer is simple and instinctive as we know our place as a child of a loving God. I learn that their faith is pure and real. They know they are heard. They have no doubts. When Ashley was about 3 years old after finishing our family prayer she looked up at me and said, “Mom, want to know why I’m such a good prayer? Because I pray from my heart.” I testify to you that prayer is a matter of the heart.
Our family is not perfect. We have missed a night or two of family prayer. There have been many evenings where someone is praying and someone else is throwing a tantrum that they didn’t get to pray. Someone may be hitting someone else and we often hear about who wasn’t paying attention or closing their eyes. But through these imperfections I feel confident and secure that I have taught my children prayer.
The ultimate example of prayer is given to us in Matthew 26:39 as the Savior is praying for the strength to atone for the sins of the world, “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Prayer truly is the act of submitting our will to the will of the Father. President Eyring said, “Our goal when we teach our children to pray is for them to want God to write upon their hearts and be willing then to go and do what God asks of them.” I testify to you that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. I have had my prayers answered. Those answers that are most clear to me are those that came when what I wanted was overpowered by a longing to know what God’s will was for me. Listening is so key to receiving answers. It is my challenge to be better at listening and then, in turn, teach my children to listen to the promptings of the spirit as they pray.
I recently read a story related by Elder Marion G. Hanks that touched my heart. It really demonstrates the power we have as parents to teach prayer. He says, “The returned missionary was bearing his testimony. He had but a short time and he chose to use one idea. He thanked God for a great, humble mother, and gave his reason. He said that as a high school boy he had been sorely tried by the illness and then death of hiss little sister whom he had loved greatly and who had been the darling of the family, being the last of them. Their father had died. The little girl girl grew ill, and in spite of prayers and administrations and fasting and much concern, worsened and died in the night. The boy went into his room, locked the door, and sobbed out his broken heart to the walls because he was not willing to do it to the God whom he could not now honestly approach. In his rebellion and anger at a God, if there was One, who would permit such a thing to happen to them, he cried out in rebellion. He said he would never pray again, would never go to church again, and could never have any confidence again in a God who would permit this to happen. And in his immature, but sincere sorrow, he made some rather serious covenants with himself. He stayed awake the rest of the night apprehensive about an experience he anticipated. It was their custom to kneel morning and evening with the children around the mother, to thank God for the goodness of his blessings.
He waited for that moment, knowing what he had to say, but fearing it. When his mother said, ‘come children,’ he said, ‘no.’ She said, ‘kneel down son.’ He said, ‘no I will not kneel down, and I will never kneel down again.’ She said, as I remember his words and I was deeply touched here as we all were, ‘Son, you’re the oldest child in this home. You are the only man in the house, and if I ever needed a man, I need one now. You kneel down.’ He knelt down still rebellious but because his mother, the idol of his heart, needed him, and he began for the first time to think in terms of her broken heart and her sorrow he knelt down, but he said to himself, ‘I wonder what she is going to thank God for this morning.’ And his mother, knowing as she must have, the questions in his mind and in the minds of the other children, taught them the gospel on their knees that morning. She thanked God for what the family knew, for the blessing of eternal ties, for direction and purpose and guidance and convictions as to the future. She thanked God that they had been blessed with this wonderful angelic child who had brought so much to them and who was to be theirs always. Out of her heart knowing the desperate critical nature of the moment, taught her own children what there was to thank God for under conditions of such stress. As the boy stood, a successful, dedicated latter day saint who had filled an honorable, difficult mission, he thanked God for a mother.”
I know that as I share my own experiences with prayer that my own testimony is strengthened. I know also that my children are listening, but that they are also watching. You know, as I do, that children learn best by example. I urge you to pray with your children. Teach them the wonderful power of prayer and give them this tool to use on their journey back Home. I know that praying in front of other people vocally, especially people we care so much about, can be awkward and difficult at first, but I know that as you start and make prayer a consistent part of your life that the awkwardness will leave. Please...Pray with your families. See the blessings that come from your efforts.
I can’t imagine my life without the blessings of prayer. When I was first given this topic nothing immediately came to mind. I wondered if my family was even having meaningful family prayer or if I’d had experiences with it as a child. I realize now how short-sighted that was. I have felt the spirit increase in my life the past two weeks as I’ve pondered my experiences with family prayer and testify to me of its importance. President Gordon B. Hinckley, in giving his testimony of family prayer, said “I give you my testimony that if you sincerely apply family prayer, you will not go unrewarded. The changes may not be readily apparent. They may be extremely subtle. But they will be real.”
I testify that our Savior lives. I testify that He loves us. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.