One of the most important lessons that Jesus taught the Nephites—and us—is how to begin a prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (3 Nephi 13:9-10; see also Matthew 6:9-10). These two sentences teach us that each individual is a beloved son or daughter of Heavenly Father (see “Youth Themes,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org), and God wants us to learn how to live righteously and lovingly together. In order to move forward toward such aspirations of perfecting ourselves, Jesus taught and exemplified the critical importance of daily prayers.
Likewise, one of the sacred responsibilities that earthly fathers need to do is to encourage and teach the importance of prayer. My uncle taught me this principle when he would sometimes jokingly begin a meal amongst his four energetic and active children with this proviso, “The only thing I am the boss of in this family is who says the blessing on the food.” Because my father died when I was four years old, my uncle’s example helped teach me that earthly fathers should preside over and encourage the importance of family prayers.
Importance of Individual Prayer
The prophet Enos in the Book of Mormon demonstrates the power of personal prayer. He described how he gained his own testimony of Christ’s gospel with these words: “I went to hunt beasts in forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens” (Enos 1:3-4).
I read those words for the first time four months after graduating from high school, and a friend and I even decided to drive to a forest to pray for guidance and forgiveness. We lacked the stamina of Enos to pray all day and night, but my prayers prompted me to repent and take steps to become a “returning member” to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“How Do I Work with Stake and Ward Leaders,” Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service , 213-223).
Pray with Reverence and Naturalness
Six months later I was called to serve a full-time mission where I learned that prayers did not always have to be tearful or somber. At a mission devotional, I heard Truman G. Madsen (a professor of religion and philosophy at Brigham Young University) share the following experience from the life history of Heber C. Kimball (First Counselor in the First Presidency): “He is praying with his family and in the midst of the prayer says, ‘Father, bless Brother So-and-so.’ And then begins a loud laugh. I can imagine the heads of his children popping up and their eyes opening. After a slight pause he said, ‘Lord, it makes me laugh to pray about some people,’ and went on with his prayer. I leave it to you, was that light-mindedness or profound intimacy with the Lord who knows we have a funny bone? He gave it to us” (“Souls Aflame: The Prayer Heritage of Latter-day Saints,” [Brigham Young University devotional, Nov. 8, 1983], 4, speeches.byu.edu).
Heber C. Kimball’s example taught me that it is possible to pray “with cheerful hearts and countenances” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:15).
A Grandfather’s Ongoing Prayers
Now that my children have grown up and have families of their own, one of the ways that I can continue to show my love for each one of them and our grandchildren is through prayer. As we offer our daily prayers, my wife and I try to make sure that we name them one by one following Christ’s ministering to Nephite children (see 3 Nephi 17:21). If they are experiencing times of challenge or special needs, we ask for Heavenly Father to help them. If they have shared recent success stories, we express our gratitude for the Lord’s blessings. As we close each prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, we feel His watchful and caring love for us and for the entire world.
One additional insight about prayer came to me last year when I viewed the “Book of Mormon Video: Enos Prays Mightily” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org/media/collection/video) that did not portray Enos continuously kneeling in prayer for a day and night. Instead, it showed that he prayed as he built and tended a fire, lay sleepless on the ground, walked in the forest, stopped, pondered, and vocalized the desires of his mind and heart. This helped me better understand that prayers can be offered in a variety of ways.
The hearing impaired, for example, pray with their eyes open and use both their mouth and hands to express their gratitude for blessings and supplication for their needs. In Gethsemane, Jesus knelt, stood, walked, and even lay on the ground sweating blood in agony as He drank the bitter cup of His great atoning sacrifice for us.
Remembering a Father’s Daily Prayers
As I further understand this principle of prayer, it helps me to find ways to “pray always, and not faint” (2 Nephi 32:9). One of the most caring acts that loving fathers can do for their children is to pray for the spiritual and physical welfare of each of their family members.
An inspirational story appeared in the New Era years ago. The author recounted the following: “When I was young, our little family lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor. I slept on the couch in the living room. …My dad, a steelworker, left home very early for work each day. …Each morning my dad prayed for me. He prayed that I would have a good day, that I would be safe, that I would learn and prepare for the future. And since he could not be with me until evening, he prayed for the teachers and my friends that I would be with that day. …As I got older, I came to sense his love and interest in me and everything I was doing. It is one of my favorite memories. It wasn’t until years later, after I was married, had children of my own, and would go into their rooms while they were asleep and pray for them that I understood completely how my father felt about me” (Julian Dyke, “Thanks, Dad,” New Era, Apr. 1993, 38).
This Father’s Day we are so grateful that Jesus taught, “Pray in your families unto the father always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed” (3 Nephi 18:21). Our hearts are also filled with gratitude for earthly fathers who teach their children to pray.