"Prayer is powerful" sounded like a dumb cliche to me as a kid. I actually disliked the concept because I felt like people were trivializing God. Asking God for something in a prayer and hoping it would happen felt too much like asking Santa for Christmas presents. My parents taught me that even though we exchange gifts during holidays, it is more important to work for and earn things so that you understand their worth and value better.
This logic told me that I shouldn't be able to just ask God for things; I had to work hard enough to earn them. But I also understood that I was human and flawed and incapable of being worthy of pretty much anything God could give me...so my logic had a big hole in it. And being stumped, I continued to pray because there wasn't really any other choice. I asked God for help when I needed it, but all the while I felt guilty that I was asking someone so perfect to help someone so imperfect. I didn't think it was fair for me to ask God for help, because he needed to focus on the people who reeeally needed his help - the homeless, the hungry, the enslaved, the kids' whose parents didn't care and got into trouble, the unemployed, the friendless, etc. etc. etc.
Fortunately as I got older I learned more about the true nature of prayer, little by little. And finally in high school I began to develop a new perspective on prayer. I think it may have been what I heard during youth retreat talks or Sunday sermons or perhaps the Holy Spirit just guided my thoughts with a little more persuasion. However it happened, I am grateful because I began to understand that prayer isn't a greedy little child doing a "gimme gimme" speech, but rather a very honest and raw conversation with our Heavenly Father. And Heavenly Father doesn't have a limit to what he can do. Asking for guidance in my life doesn't take away from the love he can provide to anyone else. Rather, it actually increases his ability to do so by using me as an instrument of his word. (Now it sounds so simple and I wonder why I couldn't figure it out earlier.) So long story short, when I began to pray with the perspective that I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father and he loves me and wants to help me accomplish things that are in my best interest, I no longer felt guilty that I had to ask for help, because I understood that he understood that obviously I need
a little a lot of help and it was entirely in his power and his desire to do so.
And as I progressed in my spiritual journey, I began to notice when my prayers were answered. In 2011, I asked for guidance, and he opened my eyes to Philippians 4:13. In 2012, I asked for truth and he introduced me to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In 2013, I asked for an opportunity to grow closer to my cousin and now I'm taking care of her kitten until she moves which gives us a chance to hang out and bond. And this morning I asked for the opportunity to share Heavenly Father's love with those around me...and started my week off with this chat with my friend and coworker just ten minutes after getting into the office this morning.
I was actually most surprised that she knew were both the church and temple are! And then it made me happy that she thought of the LDS church in a positive light. And additionally that joining the church strengthened our friendship. And now it looks like I may have the opportunity to share the Gospel with her. Praise be to God!
So moral of the story is...be careful what you ask for. If you lift up your soul in prayer and share with Heavenly Father how you are feeling and the trials you are facing; if you lift up your heart and express gratitude for everything he has given you and ask that your ears and eyes might be opened; if you pray in Christ's name for strength and support; if you are ready to hear His answer...
He will answer you.
Want more information about the power of prayer? Below are several resources with great information and insights, including a printable poster, and article for kids, and several conference talks, including one from our Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.
- What Is Prayer?
- How to Pray and Seek Answers (Youth Article)
- How to Pray (Youth Poster)
- Stand in Holy Places, Thomas S. Monson (2011 General Conference)
- Sweet Power of Prayer, Russell M. Nelson (2003 General Conference)
- The Power of Prayer, Thomas S. Monson (1991 General Conference)
- The Power of Prayer Article, Thomas S. Monson