The first month of my mission I taught only three discussions, tagged along in two different trios, and witnessed a scandal unfold among our missionaries. All that, combined with the sudden exposure to unfamiliar poverty, the strange food, and the Christmas season, made it the worst month of my entire life. Looking back I can still say that: it was hardest thing I have ever been through. I felt disillusioned and completely crushed.
As I pulled out of my despair, I began to experience, in a real and powerful way, the prayers of my family. I can’t put words around it adequately, but it was like a cushion of Spirit around me, a buffer that sustained me and gave me strength to grow through my problems. Those prayers sustained me my whole mission long, from greenie discouragement, through joy in the work, to the fatigue I felt at the end. I was carried by my family’s prayers.
And what I want to know is, how does that work? I have only theological speculations here, no real answers. Does each thought, each wish, get logged into some celestial computer and passed on to the person who needs it? Is there a heavenly prayer meter, that measures my prayer’s intensity and strength, and passes on corresponding strength to the people I pray for? Or do prayers summon angelic strength?
I often run across painful stories where prayers are requested: Stephanie and Christian Nielsen; Carol Decker; Parker. When I am especially moved, I do pray for them. But I will be honest: it’s hard for me to open my heart to every single tragic event. It’s hard for me to mourn with everyone who mourns, to send out the energy of my prayers to everyone. I find myself closing my heart to horrific stories; I can’t wrap my head around the pain.
With these prayers for people I don’t know, I sometimes feel like I’m just sending good wishes out into the ether, that I have not connected. I question whether my good wishes constitute the faith and prayers really necessary to help them.
But always I come back to the strength I felt on my mission. It was real. And I know, from reading here, that when I pray for strangers, in the heavenly equations of calculating prayers, my strength is used for their good.
Today I’m praying for my grandma’s surgery to go well. I’m praying for my father-in-law’s pain to be eased. I’m praying for my kids, that they will be protected from temptation. And, the prayer that I always pray, the one I trust most of all will be answered: I pray that we will all be strengthened.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.