I used to kind of cringe when I’d hear someone say to another, struggling, person, “We’ll pray for you.” I secretly thought, This person is in distress and struggling and all you’re going to do is pray for them? Isn’t that kind of a cop out? It just seemed like a knee-jerk thing to say when you really didn’t know what to do to, actually help a person…
Then I learned something.
A few years ago I was preparing to speak to a large number of youth who were staying the week, away from home, at an LDS Youth Conference. I knew most of those youth. I was sitting there looking out at the crowd of kids and noticed that there were a pretty large number of them who weren’t, historically, interested in spiritual things. Someone (probably a parent) must have convinced them to attend this conference…maybe threatened them…maybe bribed them…maybe used a guilt trip… And there they sat, waiting for the speaker.
But as I looked at them, I thought of the parent who had convinced them to come. I could picture that same parent kneeling down by the side of a bed at night saying, “Heavenly Father, there is a chance that at some point during this conference You’ll have my son’s attention, even if just for a few minutes. Please, please whisper something–anything–to him. We’re losing him, and I’m just not sure what else to do to help him…” As I pictured that prayer, I felt faith. I knew prayers are heard by the heavens. I felt like there was a chance that at least one of these struggling youth would experience a moment of feeling the love of God, in answer to his mother or father’s prayer from the night before.
I told these youth about that thought and feeling. I told them that there were probably a number of people praying for them while they were at conference. I talked about their parents, their grandparents, their siblings, their bishops. We talked about youth leaders, seminary teachers, friends. Their names had been spoken, specifically, by someone, sometime, to Heavenly Father in hope that they would be influenced by the Savior. I know. I’ve been a bishop. I’ve been a youth leader. I am a parent. So I asked them to make themselves ready to receive that influence. I don’t know what happened to any of the youth at that conference. But I would imagine that something happened, because that is how things work.
I now really believe that praying for someone can cause things to happen.
Can you imagine how Peter’s faith would have been strengthened by hearing the Savior say that He had prayed for Peter? Peter was about to experience one of the most trying, confusing weeks of his life and Jesus shares with him the following:
“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” (Luke 22:32)
Can you imagine how it felt for Peter to picture Jesus kneeling, praying, pleading for Peter, by name?
Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah are struggling with their choices. They’re being rebellious. An angel appears to them, to correct them, but also brings the following explanation:
“…the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayer of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee…for this purpose have I come to convince thee…that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.” (Mosiah 27:14, italics added)
I don’t know always know what God’s will is in situations like this. But I know that Jesus was praying for Peter, and purposefully let him know that. I know that Alma the Younger’s father was praying for his son and things happened, according to his faith.
I realize that we show our faith by our works. I get that. I know that we need to go about trying to be the answer to prayer. We do need to find ways to serve, to help, to encourage, to lift. That is part of acting in faith. But there are times when you really don’t know what else to do, or don’t have what another person needs. There is, and always will be, prayer.
If you don’t know what else to do to help a person, ask God, and be specific. He can guide you and/or influence them. He can intervene. And if you feel like you are struggling, know that there are probably people praying for you, by name. And God will, in His time and way, intervene…
These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...