Chapter 6: How Mighty a Thing Is Prayer
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016
From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley
“None of us can really make it alone,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley. “We need help, the kind of help that can come in answer to prayer.”1 President Hinckley practiced this principle in the decisions he faced as President of the Church. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said of him: “He is a bright man with extraordinary judgment, but when he comes up against an insoluble problem, he goes to his knees.”2
President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, also practiced this principle in their home. Their son Richard said: “I can’t remember a day when we didn’t have family prayer. When it was his turn, Dad prayed very sincerely but never with a theatrical or emotional air. We learned much about the depth of his faith by listening to him pray. He addressed God with great reverence, as he would perhaps a wise and revered teacher or mentor, and he referred to the Savior with deep feeling. As a child I knew they were real persons to him—that he loved and revered them.”3 Marjorie observed: “I think family prayer had a great deal to do with the way our children responded to us. Even though Gordon didn’t preach to them, they heard everything we wanted them to hear in family prayer.”4
Throughout his service as a General Authority, President Hinckley encouraged members of the Church to “believe in prayer and the power of prayer.”5 He testified that “prayer unlocks the powers of heaven in our behalf.”6 He promised, “Be prayerful and the God of heaven will smile upon you and bless you, and give happiness in your hearts and a sense of peace in your lives.”7
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley
God is our Father, and He invites us to pray to Him individually.
Of all the great and wonderful and inspiring promises I have read, the most reassuring to me are the words of the Savior: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7.)8
Never forget who you are. … You are in very deed a child of God. … He is your Eternal Father. He loves you. You can go to Him in prayer. He has invited you to do so. … What a wonderful thing this is. He is the Greatest of All. He is the Creator and Governor of the universe. And yet He will listen to your prayer!9
We can draw nearer to the Lord in our prayers. These can become conversations of thanksgiving. I can never fully understand how the Great God of the Universe, the Almighty, invites us as His children to speak with Him individually. How precious an opportunity is this. How wonderful that it actually happens. I testify that our prayers, offered in humility and sincerity, are heard and answered. It is a miraculous thing, but it is real.10
Brethren and sisters, I know that you are a praying people. That is a wonderful thing in this day and time when the practice of prayer has slipped from many lives. To call upon the Lord for wisdom beyond our own, for strength to do what we ought to do, for comfort and consolation, and for the expression of gratitude is a significant and wonderful thing.11
I offer a plea that each of us will seek to live closer to the Lord and to commune with Him more frequently and with increased faith.
Fathers and mothers, pray over your children. Pray that they may be shielded from the evils of the world. Pray that they may grow in faith and knowledge. Pray that they may be directed toward lives that will be profitable and good. Husbands, pray for your wives. Express unto the Lord your gratitude for them and plead with Him in their behalf. Wives, pray for your husbands. Many of them walk a very difficult road with countless problems and great perplexities. Plead with the Almighty that they may be guided, blessed, protected, inspired in their righteous endeavors.
Pray for peace in the earth, that the Almighty who governs the universe will stretch forth His hand and let His Spirit brood upon the people, that the nations may not rage one against another. … Pray for wisdom and understanding as you walk the difficult paths of your lives.12
The marvelous thing about prayer is that it is personal, it’s individual, it’s something that no one else gets into, in terms of your speaking with your Father in Heaven in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be prayerful. Ask the Lord to forgive your sins. Ask the Lord for help. Ask the Lord to bless you. Ask the Lord to help you realize your righteous ambitions. … Ask the Lord for all of the important things that mean so much to you in your lives. He stands ready to help. Don’t ever forget it.13
Family prayer leads to miracles for individuals, families, and society.
There needs to be a new emphasis on honesty, character, and integrity in our time. Only as we build again into the fiber of our lives the virtues that are the essence of true civilization will the pattern of our times change. The question that confronts us is, Where shall we begin?
I am satisfied that it must begin with recognition of God as our Eternal Father, of our relationship to Him as His children, with communication with Him in recognition of His sovereign position, and with daily supplication for His guidance in our affairs.
I submit that a return to the old pattern of prayer, family prayer in the homes of the people, is one of the basic medications that would check the dread disease that is eroding the character of our society. We could not expect a miracle in a day, but in a generation we would have a miracle. …
There is something in the very posture of kneeling that contradicts the attitudes described by Paul: “proud … heady, highminded.”
There is something in the very practice of father and mother and children kneeling together that evaporates others of those qualities he described: “disobedient to parents, … without natural affection.”
There is something in the act of addressing Deity that offsets a tendency toward blasphemy and toward becoming lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. [See 2 Timothy 3:1–4.]
The inclination to be unholy, as Paul described it, to be unthankful, is erased as together family members thank the Lord for life and peace and all they have. And as they thank the Lord for one another, there is developed within the family a new appreciation, a new respect, a new affection one for another. …
In remembering together before the Lord the poor, the needy, and the oppressed, there is developed, unconsciously but realistically, a love for others above self, a respect for others, a desire to serve the needs of others. One cannot ask God to help a neighbor in distress without feeling motivated to do something oneself toward helping that neighbor. What miracles would happen in the lives of the children of the world if they would lay aside their own selfishness and lose themselves in the service of others. The seed from which this sheltering and fruitful tree may grow is best planted and nurtured in the daily supplications of the family. …
I know of nothing that will so much help to ease family tensions, that in a subtle way will bring about the respect for parents which leads to obedience, that will affect the spirit of repentance which will largely erase the blight of broken homes, than will praying together, confessing weaknesses together before the Lord, and invoking the blessings of the Lord upon the home and those who dwell there. …
I was touched … by the heartbreaking statement of a young [missionary]. He said, “I have been here for months. I can’t learn the language. I dislike the people. I am depressed by day and weep at night. I wanted to die. I wrote my mother and pleaded for an excuse to return home. I have her reply. She says: ‘We’re praying for you. There is not a day passes that all of us do not kneel together in the morning before we eat and in the evening before we retire and plead with the Lord for his blessing upon you. We have added fasting to our prayer, and when your younger brothers and sisters pray they say, “Heavenly Father, bless Johnny … and help him to learn the language and do the work he was called to do.”’”
This young man then went on to say through his tears, “I will try again. I will add my prayers to theirs and my fasting to their fasting.”
Now, four months later, I have a letter from him in which he says, “A miracle has happened. The language has come to me as a gift from the Lord. I have learned to love the people in this beautiful land. God be thanked for the prayers of my family.”15
Can we make our homes more beautiful? Yes, through addressing ourselves as families to the Source of all true beauty. Can we strengthen society and make it a better place in which to live? Yes, by strengthening the virtue of our family life through kneeling together and supplicating the Almighty in the name of his Beloved Son.
This practice, a return to family worship, spreading across the land and over the earth, would in a generation largely lift the blight that is destroying us. It would restore integrity, mutual respect, and a spirit of thankfulness in the hearts of people.16
Is prayer such a difficult thing? Would it be so hard to encourage fathers and mothers to get on their knees with their little children and address the throne of Deity to express gratitude for blessings, to pray for those in distress as well as for themselves, and then to ask it in the name of the Savior and Redeemer of the world? How mighty a thing is prayer. Of that I can testify and to that you can testify. How tragic the loss for any family that fails to take advantage of this precious and simple practice.17
If there be any among you who are not having family prayer, let that practice start now, to get on your knees together, if you can possibly do it, every morning and every evening, and speak to the Lord and express your thanks, invoke His blessings upon the needy of the earth, and speak to Him concerning your own well-being.18
I give you my testimony that if you sincerely apply family prayer, you will not go away unrewarded. The changes may not be readily apparent. They may be extremely subtle. But they will be real, for God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6.)
May we be faithful in setting an example before the world in this practice and in encouraging others to do likewise.19
We need to be prayerful and listen, for our prayers will be answered.
Never assume that you can make it alone. You need the help of the Lord. Never hesitate to get on your knees in some private place and speak with Him. What a marvelous and wonderful thing is prayer. Think of it. We can actually speak with our Father in Heaven. He will hear and respond, but we need to listen to that response. Nothing is too serious and nothing too unimportant to share with Him.20
Pray to the Lord with the expectation of answers. … The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the telephone and ordering groceries—we place our order and hang up. We need to meditate, contemplate, think of what we are praying about and for and then speak to the Lord as one man speaketh to another. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Isa. 1:18).21
Nothing helps so much as putting a matter in the hands of the Lord. … I don’t hesitate to say that I have had prayers answered. I know that. I could not deny it. We need to pray for guidance in this difficult age. … The marvelous thing is you don’t have to be a genius to pray. He will listen to the voice of the most humble. … Call upon the Lord. He has extended the invitation, and He will answer.22
Believe in the power and majesty of prayer. The Lord answers our prayers. I know that. I have seen it happen again and again and again. Prayer brings us into partnership with God. It offers us an opportunity to speak with Him, to thank Him for His magnificent blessings, and to ask Him for guidance and protection as we walk the paths of life. This great work, which is spreading over the earth, found its roots in the prayer of a boy. He had read in the family Bible, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:5–6). That is the promise. Is there any greater promise anywhere in the world than that promise?23
Be prayerful, my friends, and listen. You may never hear a voice. You likely will not. But in a manner that you cannot explain, you will be prompted and blessed. For the Lord has promised, “I will tell you in your … heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you. …” (D&C 8:2.)
Be prayerful, and you will know that God hears and answers. Not always as we might wish him to answer, but with the passing of the years, there will come a realization as certain as the sunrise that he heard and responded.24
Keep that humility which will cause you to get on your knees in prayer, in acknowledgment of His power and goodness. He will not fail you. He will hear your prayers. He will answer your prayers. In the stillness of the night, you will hear the whisperings of His Spirit to direct you in your times of distress and need. Those times will come to you as they do to all. Keep faith with God, and He will never let you down. He will never turn His back upon you.25
Always let your Father in Heaven be your friend, to whom you may go in prayer.26
Suggestions for Study and Teaching
How has prayer helped you grow closer to your Heavenly Father? Review President Hinckley’s counsel about what to include in prayers (see section 1). When has prayer helped you find “wisdom beyond [your] own”? When has prayer brought you “comfort and consolation”? Why should some prayers be “conversations of thanksgiving”?
Ponder each of the blessings that President Hinckley said can come through family prayer (see section 2). What are some ways that your family has been blessed by praying together? What are some obstacles to consistent family prayer? How can family members work together to overcome these obstacles?
How can applying President Hinckley’s teachings in section 3 help us make our prayers more meaningful? What have you learned about the ways Heavenly Father answers prayers? Why does prayer have the power to bring us “into partnership with God”?
“Get an overview, either by reading the book, chapter, or passage quickly or by reviewing headings. Seek to understand the context and background” (Preach My Gospel , 23). Consider reading a chapter or passage more than once so you can understand it more deeply. As you do so, you may discover profound insights.
“Stand True and Faithful,” Ensign, May 1996, 94.
Robert D. Hales, in Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley(1996), 444.
Richard G. Hinckley, in Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 171.
Marjorie Pay Hinckley, in Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 171.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 469.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 470.
“Dedication of Gordon B. Hinckley Building” (Brigham Young University–Idaho, Oct. 22, 2002),byui.edu/Presentations/transcripts/devotionals/2002_10_22_hinckley.htm; accessed Sept. 21, 2015.
“Pillars of Truth,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 2.
“Stand True and Faithful,” 93.
“An Humble and a Contrite Heart,” Ensign,Nov. 2000, 89.
“The Fabric of Faith and Testimony,” Ensign,Nov. 1995, 89.
“Benediction,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 99–100.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 468.
“The Blessings of Family Prayer,” Ensign, Feb. 1991, 2, 4–5.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1963, 128.
“The Blessings of Family Prayer,” 5.
“Four Simple Things to Help Our Families and Our Nations,” Ensign, Sept. 1996, 8.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 217.
“The Blessings of Family Prayer,” 5.
“Stay on the High Road,” Ensign or Liahona,May 2004, 114.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 469.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 469.
“Fear Not; Only Believe,” New Era, Jan. 2000, 6; bold and italics removed.
“Watch the Switches in Your Life,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 93.
Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Volume 2: 2000–2004 (2005), 346.
“Daughters of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 100.