Lessons on Prayer

I remember gazing out the window in my Grandma’s bathroom when I was 8 years old. It was the first time I truly felt like Heavenly Father heard my prayers and enveloped me with comfort.

Less than an hour before, I had witnessed my Grandma having a very frantic phone conversation. When she hung up, she gave me a quick hug, grabbed her purse, and told me there had been an accident. She was leaving to go to the hospital to see my youngest brother, Karl. I had no other details, but I could tell that the situation was serious.

My parents were on a temple trip in another state with the youth group from church. Cell phones didn’t exist and they were more than 8 hours from home. I was staying with my Grandparents, my home away from home. My three younger siblings were staying with family friends in the next town over in rural Ohio. The teenage daughter of the family had taken my siblings on a walk that afternoon, my two brothers walking alongside her and my baby sister in a stroller. There is typically little traffic on those Ohio country roads and no one thought twice about walking on the side of the road. 

At one point during their walk, a pickup truck came into view driving toward them. All should have been fine, he was in his lane and the walking crew was on the opposite side of the two-lane road. In my 4-year-old brother’s mind, however, he was not on the correct side of the road. As the truck approached, he bolted to try to get to the “correct” side – right in front of the truck. 

I did not find out these details until after my Grandma had returned home from the hospital that night. But when she left her house in a frantic rush, the only thing I could think to do was find a quiet spot to pray. Mostly I didn’t want anyone to see how nervous I was, but somewhere in my mind, I knew that praying at that moment was the only thing I could do. Boy did I pray. I prayed that my parents would make it back home safely. I prayed that I could be comforted when I had no clue what was going on. And I prayed that my little brother would be okay.

Later I would find out that the doctors fully expected my brother to be in the hospital for quite some time. And yet, just days later, they were amazed as they released him to go home with only a broken collarbone and concussion. I know others were praying for Karl, but this was my first lesson in Heavenly Father answering a child’s prayer.

You would think that by having such a powerful experience as a child that prayer would be one of my strongholds. It’s not. I try, I really do. But, prayer is not something that has come easily to me most of my life. It has often felt repetitive and awkward. And because I rarely feel like I’m doing it right, I tend to fall back on the idea that I can just always have a prayer in my heart.

The past few weeks, however, I have felt an increased yearning to learn more about prayer. And as often happens when we are earnestly seeking lessons from the Lord, He shows up in multiple ways.

My absolute favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 17. I cannot read the beautiful actions of the Savior without tears streaming down my face. And my children make fun of me when I read aloud, with my voice wavering, about when angels encircle the children with fire and minister to them. But, this week as I read this chapter, I was taught some profound lessons on prayer. 

The first thing that caught my attention was in verse 15, “And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father…” As I read these words, the thought came to my mind, “How can you get better at it if you don’t practice?” Ouch! Here I was, complaining that I don’t get much out of formal, kneeling prayer but how often am I actually practicing that? If the Savior needed to kneel down to pray, then certainly I am not exempt from that humble, physical action!

And so it was that one quiet morning, I knelt down next to the dining room table (which is where I normally have my morning scripture study) and asked for comfort. Just the day before I had received news regarding my children’s schooling that devastated me. To the point where I literally sobbed for 8 straight hours the night before. When I knelt down for that prayer, I was exhausted, depressed, and in the middle of an anxiety attack. I knew that Heavenly Father wasn’t going to change the situation, but I also knew that He could comfort me. It didn’t happen immediately, but as the day went by I felt a sense of peace envelope me. That morning I practiced and then reaped the rewards of that practice.

The second lesson I learned is that when I pray for others, I not only will feel an increase of love for them but both parties will feel joy. In 3 Nephi 17:17 we read, “…and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.” And then in verse 20, the Savior tells the people, “Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.” When they knew they were being prayed for sincerely, the Nephites were filled with joy. Not only that, but it filled the Savior with joy to see them overcome with love.

I love that when we pray for others, not only are they blessed but so are we.  In the Bible dictionary, it says this about prayer, “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”

Let me share a very recent, personal experience that taught me the power of this lesson. My children have wanted a puppy for years now. The timing has never been right for our family. I knew that I couldn’t handle a puppy with a child in diapers. And so for the past few years, that was our excuse. Once my youngest was potty trained last summer, my husband and I discussed our financial goals and realized that we were still not in a position to add a puppy to our family. The simplest way we could think of to explain this to our children was that we needed to wait until Dad got a raise at work. I have to hand it to my kids, they have been so surprisingly patient. 

The time now feels right. The children will all be doing online school for the foreseeable future and thus will be home to help take care of a puppy. Financially we have been diligent about working toward our goals. And we no longer have a child in diapers nor are we paying for preschool. It seems like the perfect time for a new addition to our home. But, apparently, everyone else also feels like it’s the perfect time for a puppy and every place I encounter has had a 12+month waitlist. I have been feeling an urgency to this addition in part because I know it will help one of my children with their anxiety. And yet I kept coming up empty-handed.

So, one-morning last week, I decided to practice my prayers again. Only this time, I got specific and asked for help in finding the right puppy for our family at the right time – late August or early September. I had spent the previous 48 hours scouring the Internet looking at dogs. The earliest I was finding availability was November. But, just hours after my prayer, my husband came across one of our desired dog breeds less than an hour from our home. Ready to go home in late August. I made a last-minute phone call to arrange for the kids and I to go see the puppy and now? We get to pick him up in a few short weeks to bring him home. The right puppy at the exact right time.

The joy on my children’s faces is immeasurable. And if you’re a parent who has witnessed pure joy in your children, then you know that my own heart was also filled with joy.

I know that not all prayers are answered in such a timely and direct manner. I am well aware that some of our most righteous desires will not be fulfilled. I have many of those desires. But, what I do know is that when we truly desire to be taught by the Lord, He will teach us lessons that will change our lives. Lessons that we simply need to ask for. May we all follow the example set by our Savior, Jesus Christ when he “knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father.” (3 Ne 17:15)

6 thoughts on “Lessons on Prayer”

  1. Thank you again for your transparency and humbly honesty, it’s so refreshing! I remember Karl’s accident, and that time of prayer, I love knowing your tender prayer was answered too!
    I needed this today, I too must remember when I feel I’m not being heard, that He is always hearing me, but often I need to try harder to engage with Him in this divine conversation.
    Love you and appreciated your example!

    1. Audra Elkington

      Oh Sharon, I am so glad it resonated with you and hopefully provided some encouragement! That was such a crazy time for everyone – so many people at our house!

  2. Thank you for sharing this experience about prayerfully finding the “right” puppy! In my adult life I have had several pets that I knew after unique spiritual experiences were specifically sent to me.

    Animals are very special and are so innocent! I especially love how dogs just want to give love and receive love! My most recent little companion died several years ago but he could sense when anyone was hurting, emotionally, or simply full of anxiety! My older sister has never liked “touching” dogs or being licked but was suffering acutely one day and cane over to talk. She lay down on my bed and my dog, already knowing to keep a distance from her, went over and literally sat on her. It was as if he was saying, “let me comfort you, dang it!” He had such a soft heart! That experience, at first funny, became one of realization for my sister. She was amazed he could sense her struggle and her heart was forever softened toward him.

    What an enriching and special blessing this little friend will be to you and your children for many years!

    1. Audra Elkington

      Debbie, thank you for sharing that experience! One of the main reasons we are getting one is to help my middle child who has extreme anxiety, especially around dogs. This once again confirms to me that this dog will be a huge comfort for her.

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