Brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be here today and to feel the spirit you bring. Thank you for your preparation for this devotional and for your presence here.
I would like to start today by asking you to think with me of the prayers we read about in the scriptures. Of the many prayers in the scriptures, which come to your mind? Perhaps you think of Adam, who called upon God and offered sacrifices without knowing why—he did it simply because the Lord commanded it. Perhaps you remember Hannah’s prayer, “Give unto thine handmaid a … child.”1 Or you may recall Daniel’s brave prayers when “he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God,”2 even though he knew he would be thrown into a den of lions as a result.
Do you think of the time when the Lord prayed for you and for all His disciples? “As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”3 Perhaps to you the most memorable prayer in the scriptures is when the Savior pleaded, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”4 “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly.”5
Have you ever been in agony and prayed more earnestly?
Do you have any experiences with prayer that stand out in your memory as especially meaningful?
One experience our family had with prayer occurred years ago. On December 1, 1991, I wrote in my journal:
Gert Karnitschnig visited here for 1 1/2–2 hours (sic)…The visit was mainly social but he did agree to watch a video [with us] tomorrow, receive a [missionary] discussion on Friday, and attend Church next week. The special part was when [our eight-year- old son] Nathan said, after Gert had gone, ‘Well, at least our prayers got answered.’
We had been trying and praying for weeks to have someone ready to hear the missionary lessons by that day, December 1. During the final week leading up to that day, most of the family had lost hope because we still could not think of anyone to invite. Our three-year-old son Seth, however, kept including our plea in every prayer, even the day before. During my morning prayer and quiet time on December 1, Gert’s name came to my mind. I phoned him and he agreed to come to our home that same night.
Gert was baptized and confirmed about one month later, on January 5. Later he said that he had been an atheist, but then he heard one of our children pray to bless the food. During that prayer he received an overwhelming manifestation of light and elation and peace. He knew the Lord had touched his heart.
Prayers do get answered. Prayer does work. And my hope today is that through the music and words of this devotional, each of us will feel so deeply the miracle of daily prayer to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ that we will want to pray always.
The Lord said, “Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name.”6
This simple commandment is repeated in countless ways throughout the scriptures. We are told to pray continually 7 ; to pray without ceasing 8; to pray morning, mid-day, and evening 9; and to counsel with the Lord in all our doings 10. Simply put, Heavenly Father wants us to pray with faith every morning, every night, and often in between.
When you pray with faith every morning, every night, and often in between, your life is better in every way than if you do not. You have the influence and power of the Holy Ghost. You choose the right more often. You avoid the wrong more often. You resist and avoid temptation more consistently.
You think of others more readily. You love and serve your families, friends, and others better. You serve the Lord better.
When you pray with faith every morning, every night, and often in between, you repent more promptly and more completely. You are better prepared for the blessings of the sacrament and the blessings of the temple. You share the gospel with others more frequently and with greater urgency and with deeper conviction.
You are a better friend and you choose better friends. You do better at school and at work. You do better at sports and music and dancing and writing and speaking and any other righteous talent you pursue. Your mind works better. Your body works better. You are a better son, a better daughter, a better mother, a better father.
When you pray with faith every morning, every night, and often in between, your successes are more meaningful. Your trials are more refining. Your sadness is shorter. Comfort and relief and strength come more quickly.
When you pray with faith every morning, every night, and often in between, you feel closer to your Heavenly Father. You know Him better and have stronger faith in Him and in the Lord Jesus Christ. In pleasant times and in hard times, you know what They want you to do, and you are more apt to do it.
When you pray in faith every morning, every night, and often in between, your life is better in every way than if you do not.
If you do not pray in faith every morning, every night, and often in between, you live below your privileges. You forfeit blessings. You lose protection. You lose inspiration. You lose comfort. You lose opportunities. You lose light. You lose strength. Again, if you do not pray every morning, every night, and often in between, you live way below your privileges.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Prayer is a marvelous and miraculous resource—the most marvelous and miraculous resource we have available to us.”11
President Monson affirmed that praying will “solve more problems, alleviate more suffering, prevent more transgression, and bring about greater peace and contentment in the human soul than could be obtained in any other way.”12
I would like us, each one, to ponder this question: What importance should I place on morning prayer?
The scriptures recount clearly the example of the Savior: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”13
We also remember that “it was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day” when Joseph Smith retired to the woods to pray aloud for the first time.14
Of all the things we think we need to do in the morning, talking with our Heavenly Father is the first and most important.
The practice of “praying first” has something in common with the practice of paying tithing first. Some say they don’t have enough money to pay tithing. But when we pay our tithing first, the Lord blesses us to make better use of the remaining 90 percent than if we had not paid tithing. Similarly, some people think they don’t have enough time to pray, especially in the morning. But when the first thing we do each morning is to speak sincerely and humbly with our Father in Heaven, the rest of our day is more meaningful and inspired and productive. Because we have sought Him in prayer, early and first, we accomplish much more of what is important.
There is always time to pray. So let us pray always.
In spite of clear direction from the Lord and His servants, many seek to excuse themselves from praying every morning, every night, and often in between. But the Lord does not excuse anyone from the need to pray.
You may feel, “I am not worthy to pray.” But the Lord invites “all to come unto him.”15 So pray anyway.
You may object, “I don’t feel like praying.” But the Lord’s servants say, “Kneel down and pray until you do feel like praying.”16 So pray anyway.
You may say, “I don’t think God cares or even notices me.” But He says, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.”17 So pray anyway.
You may think, “I might pray for the wrong things.” So don’t pray for things. Pray to know Hiswill. Pray to express thanks. Pray for other people. Pray anyway.
You may rationalize, “I am angry.” But the Lord says, “Be still.”18 And pray.
You may argue, “I’m not sure I believe in God.” So explain to God how you feel and ask Him to give you a desire to believe. Pray.
You may say, “I don’t feel like I get any answers.” The Lord says He tests our patience and our faith, but He does hear and answer. 19So pray.
You may protest, “I already prayed. I shouldn’t pray too often.” But the Lord says to pray always; to pray without ceasing; to be watchful unto prayer continually. You see, although it is possible to pray with vain repetitions, it is very difficult to pray too often or too much, if we do so with faith and with real intent. So pray anyway—again.
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.”20
So pray. Pray again. Pray still. Remember to pray always.
One of the great blessings of having our hearts “full, drawn out in prayer … continually”21 is the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Prayer helps keep our eye single to the glory of God and our mind clear and our heart meek and grateful. Prayer opens a conduit through which the Holy Spirit can convey light, truth, knowledge, peace—all the gifts and fruits of the Spirit—without interruption. The Lord promised, “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith.”22 And, “Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing—yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth.”23
In the words of President Packer: “Learn to pray. Pray often. Pray in your mind, in your heart. Pray on your knees. Prayer is your personal key to heaven. The lock is on your side of the veil.”24
Pray to the Father
Remembering to pray always is easier when we remember we pray to God our Heavenly Father and to no one else. To you this may seem like a simple and obvious concept. But I invite you to consider with me what a powerful truth this is and the implications it should have for our prayers.
God is our Eternal Father. He fathered your spirit and my spirit.25 There is none other equal to Him. He directed the creation of this world and countless others. He is the Father of Jesus Christ. He is the One Jesus calls Father and the One to whom Jesus prayed. He is the One to whom Jesus commands us to pray.
All things are present with Him, including us—all of us and each one of us.26 He discerns our thoughts. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our desires and goals. He inspires us to make good choices, and He helps us recover when we make bad choices. He loves us. He is the Author of the plan of salvation, which is designed to help us not only return to Him but also become more like Him. His desire and interest and work and longing and His joy are for us to return to Him and receive eternal life with Him.
This is the Father in Heaven to whom we pray.
While we live on earth, we feel separated from Him. Though it is true that we may not see Him now, it is not true that He cannot see us. As President Eyring recently explained, “The pavilion that seems to intercept divine aid does not cover God but occasionally covers us. God is never hidden, yet sometimes we are, covered by a pavilion of motivations that draw us away from God and make Him seem distant and inaccessible.”27
The Lord assured the early Saints: “Mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me.”28
Our family lived in Guatemala for three years. The national bird of Guatemala is the quetzal, distinguished by its bright red breast and long tail feathers. Male quetzals have tail feathers that are so long that people sometimes describe these beautiful birds as flying snakes.
Once, in the middle of a very busy schedule, we managed to set aside a few hours as a family to visit a nature reserve where quetzal birds were known to nest, although sightings of the quetzal are most rare. As we hiked, a yearning welled up in me for my children to see one of these birds. After I prayed quietly for this blessing, I had the feeling to look up. When I did, on a branch immediately above me sat a beautiful, small, green bird with a bright, bright red breast. I motioned for the children to come see. We were elated. Then a startling thing occurred. The bird flew off the branch and came right past my side. It was so close I could feel the flutter of its wings as it passed me. I can still feel it when I recall the experience.
Immediately these words of Paul the Apostle came to my mind: “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.”29
Being able to see this bird was a witness to me that our Father in Heaven had heard my prayer and that He is not far from any one of us. Sometimes, He is so close that we feel Him at our side.
Think about the times when you have felt close to our Heavenly Father. Such experiences generally include prayer.
President Packer taught:
No Father would send His children off to a distant, dangerous land for a lifetime of testing where Lucifer was known to roam free without first providing them with a personal power of protection. He would also supply them with means to communicate with Him from Father to child and from child to Father…We are, none of us, left here alone without hope of guidance and redemption.30
Every time we address our Heavenly Father, let us remember who He is. Before we rush on to list our blessings and put in our order for more blessings, let us pause and reflect well on the loving, powerful, knowing Father with whom we are speaking. And let us allow this knowledge to influence everything else we say in our prayer.
Pray in the Name of Jesus Christ
Finally, we have been taught to close our prayers with the words “in the name of Jesus Christ.”
But why do we pray in His name?
We know that Jesus Christ is the firstborn spirit Son of our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. He is the Messiah, the Redeemer. He is the director and administrator of God’s plan for us. He is “the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.”31 He is our Advocate with the Father. He is our Lord, our God, our King.
Our Father commanded us to pray in the name of the Lord because He is our Redeemer, and He promises great blessings when we do.
He said to Adam and Eve that because of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice, “Thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.”32
The promised blessing for praying in the name of the Lord is, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.”33
Each of us can affirm that we have received blessings through keeping the commandment to pray to the Father in the name of the Lord.
Another, perhaps deeper question on this subject is: What does praying in the name of the Lord mean?
First, let’s be clear on what it does not mean. Praying in the name of the Lord does not mean that we pray to Him or through Him and that He conveys our prayers to the Father. That is not what it means. We pray directly to our Father in Heaven. There is no intermediary in that sense. We are commanded to pray always and only to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.
In simple terms, praying to the Father in the name of the Lord means that our prayer is offered and activated by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Anointed Redeemer. It means we have faith that the Lord’s atoning mercy and grace allows us to pray to the Father now and eventually bring us back into the presence of the Father.34 And it means we desire to be identified with Jesus Christ; to be called by His name; to accord our will to His will; and to follow, love, obey, and serve Him.35
Each time we pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, as inspired by the Holy Ghost, we prefigure our ultimate reconciliation with Them in the kingdom of heaven.
All this, and more, is what it means to pray in the name of Jesus Christ.
While yet in mortality, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”36 We often gain access to places and privileges in the world if we present ourselves with the right name. Similarly, we gain access to our Heavenly Father—both eternally as well as every morning, every night, and often in between—when we present ourselves with the right name: the name of Jesus Christ.
Can you see that praying in the name of the Lord is far more than a formalized way to close a prayer? Each of us can try harder to honor the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and pronounce it reverently. In the Old Testament He was known as Jehovah. His followers revered His name so much that they would not pronounce it aloud. Since we have been commanded to finish our prayer by pronouncing His holy name, shall we not do so in a manner that reflects our love for Him and our faith in Him?
The Miracle of Prayer
Brothers and sisters, we have talked now about praying always and about remembering that we pray to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. Before concluding, could we pause and consider the miracle of prayer? Think of the last time you received an answer to prayer. If we had the time, we could pass a microphone up and down the rows and each one of you could recount a personal experience with prayer. While we should pray every day, continually, there is nothing ordinary or automatic or formulaic or common about prayer. Every time we sincerely pray to the Father in the name of the Lord, a unique, sacred miracle occurs.
And the miracle is not simply that you found your lost car keys or that you remembered the right answer on the test or even that you received an answer to an urgent question in your life, though these might be miracles you would recall. The miracle is that you actually talked with God and that He in fact heard you and answered you.
Enoch marveled to God, “Were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there.”37
He is there. And perhaps, more than answering the urgent plea of the moment, which He seems well-pleased to do, His greatest desire is to give you reason to believe and be sure that He is there and He is your Father and that through the infinite love and Atonement of His Beloved Son, our Lord, He can be merciful and generous and mindful of each one of us, for this is what He desires. And through the light of Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost He can be present with each one of us in this life, until we can enter into His presence and become one with Him in life eternal.
President Monson witnessed, “I testify that much … joy comes as we recognize that we can communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer and that those prayers will be heard and answered.”38
Brothers and sisters, I know that God is our Father and that Jesus Christ, His Holy and Beloved Son, is our Redeemer. I know that the fullness of the gospel has been restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that the keys of God’s kingdom are held and exercised today by our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. I know that all the blessings of daily prayer are available to each one of us. And I pray that every morning, every night, and often in between, we will seek and receive the blessings of praying always unto the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.
And I offer this prayer, together with my faith and knowledge and witness that our Father in Heaven desires that we pray to Him always and blesses us beyond measure when we do, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.