Dear God: Help.

· How do you pray for someone to change? ·

January 28, 2017

Today, some thoughts about prayer. Prayer and I have, at times, not gotten along. Often, overwhelmed by the monotony of my days and the lack of quiet time I have, I end up merely “saying prayers.”

When I was younger, it felt like this: trying to choose precisely the right words before an Almighty Omnipotent God (in a galaxy far, far away), because if I ask for what I need the wrong way, I won’t get it.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at just talking–pouring my heart out, and not worrying about the words, because I know He loves me. And then listening, not on my knees impatiently, but throughout the prayer for ideas, and afterwards, as soon as I get even a seed of an idea, I’ll write it down and think about it, and see where it takes me.

But one area in which I’ve never really known how to pray, or tried very hard, is how to pray for other people to change. If I think they’re generally humble and want to do God’s will, I can leave it at, “Please soften his/her heart so that (fill in the blank).”

But what if they’re not? What if they’ve proven themselves to be extremely stubborn and hardheaded? Is it wrong to actively pray against someone else’s agency?

Because we know God WANTS us to have our agency and wants us to choose. He will not force us to do anything. That’s why we’re here: we chose the plan that would allow us to screw up. Otherwise, the reward for being automatons would mean little.

So if God isn’t going to make someone change, why should I pray for it? Shouldn’t I stop trying to make other people change, and focus on what is in my realm of control? Isn’t that the healthy thing to do? I mean, how many abused women stay with their husbands because they hope he’ll change? Or focus on how dissatisfied they are in their mediocre marriage because the person they married has far more flaws than they realized? Isn’t it better to pray for more love and grace for yourself to “accept the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can, and wisdom to know the difference”?

I find this particularly challenging with people I’ve never met and will never meet. Like political leaders.

How do you pray with faith for someone to listen to others’ wise counsel, if he doesn’t indicate any signs of listening to anybody?

How do you pray with faith for someone to use his position to help and lift other people, when he seems fixated on his own image and plastering his name everywhere?

How do you pray with faith for someone to try and unite the country when he’s used divisive rhetoric throughout his campaign?

I know there are representatives of many faiths who have somehow found the faith to do this, like these pastors from NYC, who met with the current president and prayed for him (expressed in ways I thought were gracious and sincere), but also sent a very clear message to him about the kind of leader they hope he can be.

But what about when you’re on your knees, alone, and the intended recipient of your faith isn’t there to hear it?

Perhaps I need to rethink my focus. Perhaps my faith should be centered less in the ability of a man to be changed, and more in God’s ability to work miracles in ways I can’t imagine. Like serendipitous events combining to get qualified people in his cabinet. Or giving courage and discernment to those around him who have the power to act if (or when) the time comes.

Or boils. Boils might do the trick.


How do you sincerely pray for leaders whose actions you find troubling?

January 25, 2017


  1. Marivene

    January 29, 2017

    When I pray for some members of my extended family, who are currently not interested in what the Lord’s will for them might be, I often ask that their hearts might be softened, that they might recognize their blessings, that those close to them might give them good advice, & that they might desire the companionship of the Holy Ghost, so that they might fill their missions here on earth. I have to remind myself that it is not my mission to “save” my family memebers; that is the role of the Savior. My part is to love them, & to pray for them, & to model appropriate behavior. The Savior does not force ( or even try to force) anyone to follow Him, but he invites us constantly.

    Because of my experiences in praying for my extended family, & especially because of the personal peace that I have found using this approach, when I pray for my leaders, be they political or ecclesiastical, I ask that the Lord help them to feel & recognize His guidance, and that he sustain them physically & spiritually as they seek to do His will. I pray for those around them to give them good advice, in which they can feel the inspiration of the Lord, & I pray for them to recognize their blessings & to be humble.

  2. Emily B

    January 29, 2017

    I really like this post, and I am impressed by the advise given in the comment above, I think the questions asked are spot on for many of us.
    I recall the experience of praying for our president in our family prayer recently and it was a different for me, I found myself choosing my words and my intent more carefully.
    I think it all boils down to love, seeking to have charity. Sometimes I like to imagine who I might bump into in the next life, and how I would greet them, can I let go of all of my judgments and just be glad to see them? Can I love them?
    Can I love a person that has committed murders? Trafficked humans? Molested a child? I know these are extremes, but we also are not to judge the person, only the sin. And boy is it a hard distinction to make. And I keep coming back to love being the answer for me.

    • Kim in Virginia

      January 29, 2017


      I love your specific ideas and words for your prayers…I’m putting those beside my bed! They are very Christlike and great ideas to substitute for “boils”, which is certainly tempting, Elizabeth!

  3. Heather B from SC

    January 29, 2017

    I’m just here to say you’re so much longer than I am. I want boils, but, like, popped oozing ones. Or bubonic plague.

    • Heather B from sc

      January 29, 2017

      *kinder. Not longer. Swype hates me, today.

  4. Kim in Virginia

    January 29, 2017


    Great post! thanks for food for thought…and my thought is….
    I attended a spectacular funeral 2 weeks ago for a 96 year old woman. I have adored her from afar for years and at the funeral her bishop shared… something I had not known… that her oldest son had strayed from the truth in which she raised him for 40 years. Throughout that LONG time period she had constantly prayed for him to have a spiritual awakening. One day the son called and said he was ready to return and did. The bishop focused on the power of a Mother’s prayers.
    I loved that thought and immediately changed my prayers for my daughter (from help her to turn back to thee, help her to come back to the gospel, help her to have boils, help her to have the experiences she needs to come back…).
    Somehow praying for someone to have a spiritual awakening doesn’t seem as invasive of their moral agency. And perhaps it is just what political leaders need. I don’t know…
    But thank you for your thoughts…

  5. Anonymouse

    January 29, 2017

    Prayer is mainly about us bringing our will into conformity with God’s and asking for those blessings which are contingent upon asking for.

    First, one needs to get a testimony by the Holy Ghost as to the state of things as they truly are (Jacob 4:13) so they know God’s will and then they can sacrifice whatever is necessary, such as assumptions, convictions, false beliefs or premises, that prevent them from accepting His will.

    Regarding political leaders; God is the installer and remover of kings (Daniel 2:21). Specifically, in regards to Trump, I find it interesting that so many Mormon bloggers seem to think and feel that the Lord is not with Trump but I do not see affirmative statements that the Holy Ghost has told them that Trump is not the Lord’s servant. There are many people who asserted the prophecy that Trump would become President, before the election, and that Trump would be the Lord’s servant.

    What if these people are correct and the way things truly are is that the Lord is with Trump?

    What then does that say about those who fight against (whether that is with prayer or any other tool) the Lord’s anointed political leader?

    Of course, when it comes to getting and acting according to testimony the stakes really get raised. As Joseph Smith taught “Nothing is more dangerous than to think one is under the influence of the Holy Ghost when one is actually under the influence of some other spirit.”

    • Justine

      January 31, 2017

      I’m sure you would never presume to know such things for certain, right? You would never speak to the answers I have received in prayer, as I would never presume such for you.

      I am horrified by what I see politically, and as a centrist-conservative person, I actually feel moved to act against the horrors I see (for the first time in my adult life, no less). My prayers are an odd jumble not of how to change our leader but how to not be so scared and angry, how to be strong, how to know when to act and when to stay still. My prayers are to come into alignment with gods will, but that does not mean than our president is anything more than the voice of 1/4 of our population that votes for him. That doesn’t make it Gods doing. This one is on us.

  6. Brooke

    January 30, 2017

    Interesting post – it raises valid questions that I think many of us are dealing with, whether personal, political or otherwise. My concern, however, comes when a person (such as Anonymous) feels that he/she must post in secret, not feeling comfortable revealing his/her true name. This is what makes me the most sad for the world in which I am trying to raise my children – that it will rarely be safe for them to openly & honestly express their opinions.

  7. Amira

    January 30, 2017

    I’ve always been able to pray for political leaders, whether I agreed with them or not, until now. While I wish Trump no harm, I am focusing praying about what I can do to help those who are hurt by his policies and praying for those who can possibly mitigate some of the damage he is causing.

    I’ve never prayed one way or the other to know if the Lord is leading any US president. That’s not really the point to me. Instead, I look at the actions of the president and decide if they’re in line with the gospel and go forward from there.

  8. Hayley

    January 31, 2017

    I remember one night coming into my son’s room to tuck him into bed once again for the umpteenth time that night. At the time he enjoyed listening to a christian radio station to fall asleep too. Just as I walked in, the DJ asked his listeners to join with him in praying for the current president–whom I was not very pleased with whatsoever. I lingered in his room for a few moments just to hear what sort of prayer this was going to be. I found it was full of such humility and grace that I felt the spirit enter the room as I listened. It was exactly what Marivene was alluding too. I personally did not feel at the time this particular president was being Christlike or listening to the voice of the people, and I felt that even if we were to pray for him, he was a bit of a hopeless cause. As I listened to this sincere prayer-with no malice or edge (but also with no conceivable amount of general acceptance of him either–meaning I had no idea if the DJ favored this president or not–I’m leaning to probably not so much) I was able to feel a great amount of hope of goodwill for our president, the likes of which I had not ever felt before. I continued to disagree with that president throughout his term, but I still could feel an amount of grace towards him I hadn’t had prior to having this experience.

    I guess what I am trying to convey is sometimes just being able to give a truly charitable prayer can help us feel at peace and be able to gain a hope for success and well-being for another brother/sister on Earth, despite the fact that they may or may not change their ways. Oftentimes prayer has a way of changing our own hearts as well as those whose hearts we are praying for.

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