In my home ward, I have the great privilege of being a Young Women’s Laurel Advisor. This means that I get to teach 16 and 17 year old girls every week in church and I get to have fun with them every Wednesday, teaching them about the Gospel, life skills, and how to be themselves as well as a true and loving disciple of Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how amazing each of them are. They answer questions quite profoundly, in ways I’m definitely not expecting. It’s inspiring to me, the one who’s supposed to be their teacher, mentor and guide through these challenging teenage years. And because of their sweet spirits, I am filled with an immense love, which I know to be the love of God, for each of these beautiful young women.
Because I am fairly new to this calling (just a few weeks), I was unaware that I am teaching every week. I found out that nice little piece of information today… a few minutes before class started. Thankfully, though, I knew the topic (the Atonement) and I also have a bit of training on teaching on the fly (AKA following the Spirit) – 18 months of it, all day, every day. So todays lesson was… well, it was actually really good. The girls participated, and I felt the Spirit guiding us the whole time. We read from Matthew 26 about Christ’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, and as we read, I felt impressed to talk about prayer.
Prayer is something very dear to me. It is something I have a great testimony of, which I gained while serving in New Hampshire. I briefly served with a companion who taught me how important prayer is through her simple and quiet example. She was only in our trio for about five days before transfers happened, but in those few days, she changed me. At night, she would ask if either I or my other companion needed to use the restroom before bed, then she would go in, turn on the fan, and say her prayers out loud. It was the only privacy she could get, but I could tell how much it meant to her and how much greater and stronger her relationship with Heavenly Father was because she took that time and made it sacred and personal. When transfers came, just a few months before I returned home, I told my new companion, fresh from the MTC, that I wanted to improve my prayers by saying them out loud at night. We would switch off who went in the bathroom and who stayed in the bedroom. There would be the bathroom fan on and the regular fan in the bedroom to be sure we couldn’t hear each other in order for our prayers to truly be sincere and open.
To everyone who is reading this, I can’t express to you how powerful those sacred experiences were to me. Though I didn’t pray aloud every night, my nightly prayers turned from being about 30 seconds to being 20 minutes long. I learned on a deeper level that my Father in Heaven wants to know EVERYTHING that’s on my mind and in my heart. He loves me unconditionally, no matter what I do, say or feel. I opened up to Him more than I ever had before. I poured out my heart and soul during that time each night. Previously, I had simply said what I was grateful for, asked Him for things I needed and got into bed. Now, I do those things, too, but I also tell Him things that I’m afraid to admit, even to myself. I share with Him my worries, doubts, fears, joys, and every thought I’ve had throughout the day that is important to me. The time I spend on my knees is so precious and personal. But I don’t have to be on my knees to communicate with my Heavenly Father. I pray whenever I feel the need, which is generally at least ten times a day. Those prayers or mostly short, simple ones for strength, guidance, or gratitude. Because I take time every morning, day and night to get on my knees and have a real conversation with God, I know Him better, and I know and love myself better.
Before sharing some of these thoughts with my wonderful Young Women today, I asked if any of them had prayed for 20 minutes before. Only one said yes. I asked her why and she replied “Because it was a really hard time and I needed it.” My heart swelled with love for this sweet girl. I thanked her for sharing and added my testimony to the power of prayer during hard times, but I also had a question that I want each of you to think about. If our response during hard times is to pray for 20 minutes because we need it, what would happen if we prayed during the good times for 20 minutes? The reason would still be because we need it, but not because we’re struggling. It would, for me at least, be because I love my Father in Heaven and I want and need His input, His love and approval and guidance on everything that I do. And all that, because I want to do it for Him. I want to do what will make Him happy, what will make me happy and most of all, what will bring me closer to Him and teach me more to be like Him.
One day, we will stand before God and be judged according to what kind of faith (which leads to action) we have had throughout our lives here on Earth. And on that day, I am determined to stand before my Father and tell Him that I did everything I could to do His work and will. Brothers and sisters, I am convinced that our ability to say those words when the day comes is directly influenced by how often, how sincerely, and how intently we pray. I say that because that is what directly influences our relationship with God. Without prayer, we don’t know Him. With prayer, we know Him and once we know Him and what He is all about, we will have the desire, faith, love, strength and determination to become like Him and do His will.
Prayer has the power to heal, to strengthen, to carry and to comfort. Prayer has the power to help you reach your divine potential, to become your Father’s son or daughter. The power of prayer is a piece of God’s power. He has given it to us to do with it what we will because He knows we need it. If we use it in the way He intended, miracles will happen. I testify to you of that because I have seen it in my life. Prayer is the reason I am who I am, and it is the reason I have the strong testimony and conversion that I have. Prayer has changed my life and made me a better person. And I will never be able to express how grateful I am to be able to talk with my Father in Heaven whenever I want and need to. He loves me, and each of us, and so has given us this beautiful gift of communication.
How will you use the gift?