Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. There is real power in communicating our wants and needs to God. The story of Daniel in the lions' den bears testimony that regular and sincere personal prayer brings blessings from God.
Daniel was a young man of
who depended on the Lord to guide him. When his country was invaded, he was among those taken captive by the Babylonian conquerors. The kings of Jerusalem Babylon gained confidence in Daniel because of his great wisdom, and he continued to be in favor among the Persians when they conquered . Darius, the Persian king who ruled over Babylon , gave Daniel a prominent position in the kingdom's government. Babylon
The Persian princes resented having Daniel, a Hebrew captive, rule over them; therefore, they worked out a plan to remove Daniel. Knowing that Daniel prayed faithfully, they wrote a rule that for 30 days anyone making a request to anyone but the king should be cast into a den of lions. They took it to King Darius and tricked him into signing the decree and making it an unchangeable law.
Daniel knew about the new law, but he trusted the Lord and continued to pray as he had done before. The princes then ran to the king, saying, "Daniel … regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition [to his God] three times a day" (Daniel 6:13).
When Darius saw that he had been tricked, he tried to save Daniel. But the law was unchangeable, so Daniel was thrown into a den of lions. The king spent the night fasting. Early the next morning the king went to the den of lions and called out, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" (Daniel 6:20).
Daniel replied, "My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me" (Daniel 6:22).
Daniel was released immediately. Then King Darius made a law that all the people should respect the God of Daniel. Darius declared: "He is the living God. … He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth" (Daniel 6:26-27).
Prayer was so important to Daniel that he continued to pray, even though he could have been killed, and he was blessed for doing so. Daniel's experience is one of many in the scriptures. These stories show us that God will deliver us from our bondages if we keep His commandments - one of which is to pray often.
The Savior gave us a true pattern of prayer as well as clear instructions of how to pray when He taught the Lord's Prayer.
Matthew 6:9: "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name." (The Savior showed us that we should address all our prayers to Heavenly Father. He also taught us to show reverence for Heavenly Father when He said "hallowed [holy] be thy name.")
Matthew 6:10: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." (The Savior demonstrated His willingness to accept Heavenly Father's will.)
Matthew 6:11: "Give us this day our daily bread." (The Savior taught us that we should pray daily for blessings we need, not for luxuries. Our Heavenly Father, who knows our needs, will bless us according.)
Matthew 6:12: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." (We should always pray with a repentant attitude. We must forgive others to be able to receive forgiveness ourselves.)
Matthew 6:13: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." (In the Joseph Smith Translation of this verse, the Savior says, "Suffer [allow] us not to be led into temptation." Heavenly Father does not tempt us to sin, but He does help us avoid falling into sin.)
When Jesus Christ visited the Nephites on the American continent, He told them to always ask for guidance and help to avoid falling into sin: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.
"And as I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in my church, among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name. Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you.
"And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them:
"Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." (See Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 18:15-18.)
We should also express gratitude when we pray and show our gratitude through the way we live.
Our attitude determines our gratitude. Do we consider the opportunity to pray as a burden or as a privilege? Do we express gratitude for things that we are truly grateful for or do we simply repeat the same things that others have said?
A Book of Mormon prophet named Moroni taught, "And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such" (Moroni 7:9). When we pray "with real intent of heart," we are sincere in thanking Heavenly Father for our blessings as well as asking him to bless ourselves and others. We would be wise to evaluate our personal prayers by silently asking ourselves, "Do I pray with real intent?"
People often feel that they are so sinful that they are unworthy to pray or that Heavenly Father doesn't want to hear from them. I am comforted by the words of Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: "[God] is your Father; pray to him. If your life is in disarray and you feel uncomfortable and unworthy to pray because you are not clean, don't worry. He already knows about all of that. He is waiting for you to kneel in humility and take the first few steps. Pray for strength. Pray for others to be led to support you and guide you and lift you. Pray that the love of the Savior will pour into your heart. Pray that the miracle of the Atonement will bring forgiveness because you are willing to change. I know that those prayers will be answered, for God loves you. His Son gave his life for you. I know they will help you." (See Ensign, Nov. 1988, 77.)
Another Book of Mormon prophet named Nephi gave the following counsel: "And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that you ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
"But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any
thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul." (See 2 Nephi 32:8-9.)
Nephi said that it is Satan that makes us feel unworthy to pray to Heavenly Father. Satan is miserable, and he wants all of us to be miserable with him. He understands that prayer will move us further from him and closer to Heavenly Father.
Amulek, a missionary in the Book of Mormon, taught that it was important to pray over temporal matters as well as spiritual matters: "Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
"Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
"Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
"Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
"Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
"Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
"But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
"Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you." (See
The words "cry unto the Lord" refer to our prayers to Heavenly Father. Amulek taught that we should pray about all the areas of our lives. After we ask Heavenly Father to bless us, we should then do all in our power to bring those blessings into our lives.
I know that Heavenly Father always hears our prayers - even about small things and even if we feel unworthy.
Heavenly Father answers our prayers as shown in the following story about a girl named Stacey who accepted a request to baby-sit for a family she did not know. She was comfortable with the situation while she was caring for the children, but she grew uneasy when the children had gone to sleep and she was basically alone in the house. The creaks of an unfamiliar house and the sound of fighting neighbors made her too frightened to sleep. When she remembered her experience later, she said:
"The thought came to my mind that my father, who was a fireman, might still be awake and that I could call him on his private line at the station. Within seconds my father was on the phone speaking to me with a comforting voice. He suggested that I lie down on the couch and try to rest. I fought his counsel, telling him over and over again that I was too afraid to ever rest in that environment.
"My father calmed my fears with a promise that he would stay on the line and not hang up. I did lie down and rest. However, I awoke with a bolt of fear several times during the following two hours, each time calling, `Dad, are you there?' And every time my father was there, still holding on the line, never leaving me alone."
"I continue to find that life can be scary and uncertain. … The lesson in faith and trust [my father] taught me on that night years ago still comforts me. Now, when I need comfort and reassurance, I pray to my Heavenly Father, `Father, are you there?' And I am comforted, knowing that he loves me and is still on the line, aware of my situation and `a very present help in trouble' (Ps. 46:1)." (See Stacey Child Weeks, "Dad, Are You There?" Ensign, June 1996, 53.)
Stacey's communication with her earthly father is very much like that which we can have with our Heavenly Father. He is always there and ready to help. When we are all alone with no one to call, we can always pray and be assured that God hears our pleas!
Elder Richard G. Scott taught, "Talk to your Father in Heaven. He hears every prayer and answers it in His way. When we explain a problem and a proposed solution, sometimes He answers yes, sometimes no. Often He withholds an answer, not for lack of concern, but because He loves us - perfectly. He wants us to apply truths He has given us. For us to grow, we need to trust our ability to make correct decisions. We need to do what we feel is right. In time, He will answer. He will not fail us." (See Ensign, Nov. 1989, 31.)
Heavenly Father has answered many of my prayers. Sometimes the answer is "yes," sometimes the answer is "no," and sometimes the answer is "not yet." Sometimes I am not sure what the answer is except the sure knowledge that my Heavenly Father loves me. The language of prayer is individual because God answers our prayers in a way personal to each of us.
My husband and I recently made a trip to
to help his sister who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I wanted to include a visit with two daughters in another part of the country, but I never received a "yes" answer. I was disappointed that I could not visit all of my children that live out of Utah in one trip, but I knew that the Lord knew the situation much better than I did. I put my trust in Him and bought the tickets. As it turned out, my sister-in-law needed us to be in Alaska Utah for the entire length of time as the business we were doing was completed one day previous to our return to . Because I was able to tap into the knowledge of God, my husband and I were able to successfully serve his sister in the ways that she needed. Alaska
President Spencer W. Kimball said, "God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs." (See "Small Acts of Service," Ensign, Dec. 1974, 5.)
We must be willing to do more than ask Heavenly Father to bless others because He often answers prayers in behalf of others by inspiring us to serve. When we feel a prompting to help someone, we should be willing to follow it. I felt strongly that my husband and I needed to go to
to help his sister even though I didn't have any idea what she needed us to do. I know that we were a blessing in her life whether or not she was asking for one. I am very grateful that I have established a regular pattern of personal prayer, and I encourage you to do the same. There is great power in personal prayer! Utah