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Please Pray For . . .

By Emily Milner

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.

Luke 22:40-43:
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.

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

13 thoughts on “Please Pray For . . .”

  1. I won't pretend to understand how it works. (I do believe in negative and positive energy and that just the act of thinking about and praying for someone creates a positive energy, but I have no idea how it all works in relation to God and angels.)

    What I do know is there have been a number of trials during which I have felt buoyed and carried by the prayers of others on my behalf. Even now as we start to get the first letters from our missionary I am touched by how often he has said already that he feels our prayers for him. Like so many miracles I have witnessed, I don't understand, but I know they are real. Knowing that is a good reminder I need to prayer more often and more sincerely.

    Sometimes when I am praying for people who are suffering I feel a bit overwhelmed and like my list could go on almost endlessly. Recently I was praying for the people in the path of Gustav (knowing there were more hurricanes on the way) and I wondered how it was possible to encompass all of that and I just had to turn it over to God, hoping God knew my heart and knew what was needed and would toss the intentions of my prayer in along with all the rest and that whatever happened, everything would be OK.

  2. Prayer is hard, so complex and personal. I feel the same way you do, it's so hard to know what effect you're having. If any. But I think that the effect on our own hearts when we pray for others is good. And obviously people can feel it. So I'll keep doing it. Even though sometimes it feels weird. Like you say, to just throw our good wishes out there for people we don't even know.

  3. I agree with the notion that prayer changes US. And I also have experienced when prayers still yet to be uttered, deep in my heart perhaps even beyond words, have also been heard and answered. So although I don't know how it all works, I know there is more to it than just the words. Our hearts matter. One of my favorite scriptures on this is Rom. 8:26:

    Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

  4. For years while growing up I prayed that my dad's heart would be softened and that he would come back to church. He did, and after I came home from my mission we were sealed as a family. Unfortunately he's been struggling again lately, but I know that praying for other people can work. I also know that it changes us, and that thinking about and praying for him helped me keep a positive view of him.

  5. I've been carried by something other than self for a good year now. For the first time in my life I've experienced sustained peace, regular happiness, and calm faith through everything that comes my way. The years leading up to this reprieve had been so tumultuous you'd think I was going through my teen years all over again.

    In this state it's easy to think I could handle any challenge, heartbreak, disappointment that comes my way. It's hard to remember feeling depressed, hopeless, heavy. It's something I think about sometimes…could I keep this perspective through the next round of life challenges (whatever they may be)? What is the source? If I could bottle it, the whole world would be transformed, because it's so great to feel happy and peaceful. Empowering. It's freed up resources to reflect, be introspective, and grow in needed ways. I hope it lasts long enough to really glean things that I haven't known I haven't known.

    I always thought it was weird when people at church would say "be careful what you pray for". Like prayer was an exercise in carefully wording one's request with enough legalese to ensure it wasn't twisted and turned on it's head. So God couldn't say "You asked me to help you be stronger!" etc.

    I believe Heavenly Father likes answering our prayers, likes blessing us and showing us that He loves us. He likes affirming our faith and letting us know that we’re not alone. But sometimes, just as with His son in the final hours in the Garden, we do need alone time…I just hope I am strong enough to survive it when it comes.

  6. I echo your thoughts. I so very often think if I actively prayed for all the things I need to pray for, I don't think I'd ever get up of my knees. Life would have to unfold around me, while I knelt and prayed that it wouldn't. Instead I've taken this scripture into my heart and soul Alma 34:27 "Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you." Always a prayer in my heart, but also hands in the dishwater.

  7. I'm with Dalene and the pos/neg energy idea and also not knowing just how it fits. I have felt strengthened by others' prayers, too. I probably do not do enough formal praying for other people . . . still fairly self-centered there. But I do believe it helps.

  8. Beautifully expressed Emily.

    Yes, I believe prayer is a physical, real power. I've witnessed it in my own life and others.

    I'll never forget my friend who had just lost her son to SIDs saying, "I can stand on the front porch and literally feel the prayers in my behalf rolling in…."

  9. I love the image of standing on the front porch and feeling the prayers rolling in.

    And I love the idea so many of you have expressed that prayer changes us. This is true; I find myself more open to the Spirit's guidance when I have been praying for someone.

    Thank you for your comments and the warmth of your spirits.

  10. Thank you for your thoughtful words. I have wondered/pondered some of the same things. I know that prayer is power; tapping into Heaven's power. We learn in the Bible Dictionary that prayer is necessary – we have to ASK for blessings that He is already willing to grant.

    When we served as Mission President in Korea I often reminded the missionaries that they are the "most prayed-for" people in the world: family, friends, apostles, prophets, every temple session in the world. We can tap into the power of prayers in our behalf with our faith. I know that every time someone says they pray for me or mine I am touched beyond words.

    I too, feel overwhelmed at the tragic circumstances (those you mentioned & others) that exist in the world, especially for good people. I believe without a doubt that our prayers, thoughts, good wishes do benefit them and change us for the better.

  11. I have really come to enjoy praying for people. I like the way it feels to consider those I love (and even those I don't know), and ask for blessings for their lives. It adds a dimension to my prayers that convinces me they're making it through the ceiling instead of bouncing off. I am strengthened by asking for strength for others. I am comforted by asking for their comfort. I am reminded of my blessings by asking for their blessing.

    I've had the experience of praying for my own husband, while he was away from home and in horribly trying circumstances. I'd done everything I could to aid him–right down to trying to contact missionaries or a bishop in the area, all to no effect. My final resort was a prayer that somehow, he would be put in the path of someone who could and would give him spiritual aid. I know I was in anguish–my heart was breaking for him. I prayed until I felt comfort, that yes, *someone* would be in his path.

    He called a few hours later–another man in the same training situation, whom he had met only briefly early in the week, had pulled him aside at the beginning of a break to say, "I don't know if you're a Christian man, but I've been feeling very strongly led that I'm supposed to pray with you. Can we find some private space to pray? I can't eat knowing I'm trying to ignore God."

    My husband is not LDS, and I have no idea what denomination that man might attend… but I know my husband, who is normally very private about spiritual things, latched onto the offer of prayer, and they found that space. My prayer of request for him was answered perfectly, and my husband was comforted perfectly, because a stranger on the other side of the continent was that "person in the path."

    With that experience in mind, I look forward to praying for those I know, and those I don't know. I cannot be on hand to help in every circumstance, but I am always able to pray, and I do have faith that those prayers can be answered.

  12. Wow, Liz. I love your story; that's amazing.

    And Janet, I agree about missionaries being the most prayed for. I think they are because they need it so much–I did, anyway. 🙂


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