(Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.)
The power of prayer cannot be overstated. A simple principle, prayer has the power to bridge the distance between earth and heaven and open a communication channel with Almighty God, the creator and upholder of the universe-our Father.
Prayer is a commandment. Adam and Eve were commanded, “Thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.” As with every law of God, the commandment to pray carries the promise of blessings: “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.“
Other blessings attendant to prayer are gaining knowledge of the mysteries of God and receiving revelation that has never before been revealed to us personally, including line-upon-line guidance and instruction from God. “Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing-unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed.”
Additionally, and of particular interest to parents of wayward children, is prayer’s inherent power to bring souls to repentance: “Yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.”
“Emily” from Georgia wrote,
My brother, “Sam,” is now forty-nine years old. After he was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood, he started going around with an undesirable crowd. Soon, he was doing most everything contrary to the way he was brought up. He was the black sheep of the family. No one wanted to deal with him. He was so obstinate that he would not listen to anyone. For years my mother would refer to him as “poor Sam.” When I would ask her what we could do for him, her reply was simply, “Pray for him.” For over thirty years, she prayed for him, and we children prayed for him, too. Every night I would ask Heavenly Father to watch over him, but inside I believed that there was no way that Sam would ever change. Then, two years ago, to our utter surprise, Sam called my brother out of the blue and told him that he wanted him to go with him through the temple. A year later, they both went through for Sam’s endowments. He gave up smoking overnight. He stopped drinking completely. He gave up drugs and bad habits. He started going to church and now holds a calling. His testimony is one that no one can hear and forget. The power of persistent prayer can work miracles!
Prayer Is the Gateway to Revelation
Prayer opens the door to divine direction, inspiration, and instruction. If we truly desire to obtain God’s perspective and His help regarding our children, we must pray. Moreover, we must prepare before we pray as Jesus prepared.
Elder L. Lionel Kendrick taught that receiving personal revelation requires our active involvement. Preparation is essential. According to President Kimball, God sends revelations to people who prepare themselves for sacred experiences. Such preparation includes faith, repentance, asking in prayer, obedience, scripture study, fasting, purity of thoughts, and a spirit of reverence.
Prayer Accesses the Power to Give Life
We are taught that “the essential character of prayer” is “faith, sincerity, obedience and seeking.” When we pray with this attitude, we receive increased power to redeem others: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life.”
Alma the Younger was given life by his sanctified father, who prayed for him. Therefore, when Alma the Younger was later faced with the daunting task of giving life to very wicked people and rescuing them from the chains of sin, he used the power of prayer to further sanctify himself so that he could obtain power from heaven to accomplish his mission. Through prayer he sought power to bear up under the weight of sorrow that he felt for the sins of his people, to gain strength to suffer with patience the afflictions that he would face as he worked with them, and to be given the Lord’s assurance that he would eventually experience success.
Parents of wayward children could easily personalize Alma’s prayer:
O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people.
O Lord, wilt thou comfort my soul, and give unto me success, and also my fellow laborers who are with me. . . .
Wilt thou grant unto them that they may have strength, that they may bear their afflictions which shall come upon them because of the iniquities of this people.
O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ.
Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious . . . therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee.
Our Hearts Must Be Right for Prayer
We cannot expect to receive answers to our prayers in behalf of our children without being right before God. Rightness brings forth prayer’s promise-to receive, to find, and to have doors opened. The following qualities make the heart right and prepare us for prayer:
And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.
And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.
Moreover, our relationships must be right for our prayers to be effective, and our works must be worthy of a saint: “I say unto you, do not suppose that this [prayer] is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need-I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.”
Praying for Our Enemies
We don’t often think of our children as our enemies, but often wayward children are the enemies of our righteousness. Concerning our praying for our enemies, the prophet Zenos said, “Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer . . . when I prayed concerning those who were mine enemies, and thou didst turn them to me.“ Jesus taught that our enemies are often “[those] of our [own] household,” and gratefully, we see in Zenos’s words, a promise that prayer can turn them to us. The criterion for such a prayer is a pure heart.
Those who seek to purify themselves, as did Alma the Elder, may likewise approach the Lord in behalf of their wayward children and receive this promise: “And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.” Clearly, we have scriptural evidence that this promise is and has been continually validated, even when we are facing the bitter opposition of those who can be defined as enemies in one sense or another.
Vicarious Sacrifice and Mighty Prayer in the Temple
Prayer does not necessarily qualify as mighty prayer only because of its length or fervency. Prayer, I believe, also becomes mighty when it is preceded by sacrifice. As we have noted, Jesus sanctified himself so that He could offer mighty prayer because of His obedience, His partaking of the sacrament, fasting, and sacrifice.
In ancient times, such mighty prayers were offered at an altar in a temple setting. Imagine the level of faith exhibited by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Nephi, and others who built altars upon which they sacrificed and then prayed. The preparation time for such prayers would have been considerable. Typically, these righteous individuals had to gather and heft sufficient unhewn stones to a consecrated high place where they created a platform of adequate height, width, and depth. Once there, they sacrificed something very valuable. After they made their sacrifice, they knelt at the altar and offered mighty prayer.
We note with interest that their effort was always rewarded with extraordinary blessings.
Perhaps today in a similar manner, the mightiest prayers that we can offer are at the altar of the holy temple after we have performed a sacrifice. There, at the altar, we place our prayers, then we add our faith to others’, that our prayers might be answered. After having completed our sacrificial service, we are invited into the holy place that is symbolically nearest to God, where we continue to offer individual mighty prayer. Now, having sacrificed and prayed, as did Adam, Noah, Abraham, Nephi, and others, can we not expect the same blessings of the Lord?
Because proxy sacrifice is Christlike sacrifice, it is perhaps one of the greatest sacrifices of all. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Taking Jesus as our example, whose proxy sacrifice exceeded all other sacrifices, we too can do for a helpless individual what he cannot do for himself. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Just as our Redeemer gave His life as a vicarious sacrifice for all men, and in so doing became our Savior, even so we, in a small measure, when we engage in proxy work in the temple, become as saviors to those on the other side who have no means of advancing unless something is done in their behalf by those on earth.” Thus, as we act as did the Savior, we become saviors on Mount Zion and thereby place ourselves in a powerful position to receive answers to our prayers.
Having made our vicarious sacrifice, it is our turn to seek God on the other side of the veil. We then enter what is the holiest place on earth, and there we offer the prayers of our heart. These are mighty prayers. Would God not hear and honor such prayers after we make such a sacrifice? Many parents point to their sacrifice of attending the temple more regularly as the agent which attracted extraordinary help from heaven to rescue their children. Truly, vicarious sacrifice makes prayer mighty, and such a prayer offered in the temple seems to carry increased redeeming weight.
Many people have felt that the deceased people for whom they performed vicarious ordinances have subsequently aided them, as a gesture of thanks, with their problem children. Might it be possible, then, to assemble a veritable army of family and friends among both the dead and the living to help you?
Furthermore, in the temple we are taught that multiple voices raised in prayer tend to summon blessings from heaven. As we place the names of our children upon the prayer rolls of the temple, they are being prayed for at the altars of sacrifice in a most powerful priesthood manner and in a most sacred setting.
One man who had just learned that he had cancer, sat in church one Sunday contemplating the many friends and family members who had placed his name on the prayer rolls of the temple and who were fasting and praying for him that day. Suddenly, he felt an overwhelming power settle upon him-something tangible, as though he were being enveloped in a strong yet loving embrace. In the midst of the experience he heard the Spirit whisper, “These are the prayers.”
Every Prayer Counts
Because prayer opens the door through which blessings can flow from God, someone, somewhere, must ask. Elder Boyd K. Packer taught that inspiration flows by asking, or by someone asking for you. According to the LDS Bible Dictionary, God has determined that asking in prayer is the means whereby we may obtain the highest of all blessings. In some way that we do not fully understand, the unity of multiple people praying multiple times carries weight that attracts the Lord’s favor.
“Evan,” now in his fifties, recalled a time when his father called together his family to pray for a wayward daughter. Evan was six years old at the time. The daughter was hardened with her sins, which were many. Later, the father brought the girl into a family gathering that amounted to an intervention. But rather than its being confrontational, the meeting was one of love. One by one, each family member expressed his or her love for the daughter and the desire that the girl would forsake her ways and return to the family. When it came to six-year-old Evan’s turn, he wept uncontrollably as he told his sister how, over the last weeks, he had prayed for her night and day.
Ten years later, when the girl finally started to show signs of softening, she pointed to that night and her little brother’s declaration of love. She said, “I felt the walls of my rebellion begin to crumble when I realized how fervently little Evan was praying for me. Something began to work on me, and I could no longer maintain my sinful ways without putting forth an enormous effort.”
If the scriptures teach us anything, it is that the most sinful person can be prayed for and reached, after all. Otherwise, why would we have the stories of Paul, Alma, the sons of Mosiah, the Ammonites, and many others? Why would Mormon make such a point concerning Alma’s grandsons, Nephi and Lehi (whom we could liken to two parents), who prayed and sanctified themselves and then gained the power to convert a gross and sinful nation? Wasn’t Mormon trying to teach us something? Mighty prayer increases our level of sanctification, which increases our ability to redeem others. May we take advantage of the incomparable power of prayer.
Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.
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 Moses 5:8.
 Matthew 21:22, emphasis added.
 Alma 26:22.
 Alma 26:22.
 See L. Lionel Kendrick, “Personal Revelation,” Ensign, September 1999.
 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Prayer,” 1117-1118.
 1 John 5:14-16, emphasis added.
 Alma 31:31-35, emphasis added.
 See Matthew 7:7.
 Alma 7:23-24.
 See Matthew 6:14-15.
 Alma 34:28, emphasis added.
 Alma 33:4, emphasis added.
 Matthew 10:36.
 D&C 50:29.
 John 15:13.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “Closing Remarks,” Ensign, November 2004, 105.
 See B. H. Roberts, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Volume 4, 359-360.
 See LDS Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” 752-753.
 See Boyd K. Packer, “Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test and the Promise,” Ensign, November 1994.
 See LDS Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” 752-753.
 See Helaman chapters 4-11.