Modern-day information sharing and communication technologies have experienced unprecedented advances in the past several years. Communication methods associated with cell phones, smart phones, email, and the Internet have enhanced the speed, scope and frequency of individual to individual communications.
While the communication technologies mentioned above have experienced much change, there is one communication method, in the midst of all of the communication technology changes that has not changed ... that is prayer.
As defined in the Oxford Dictionary, a prayer is “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.” Prayer or the act of individuals communicating to God or an object of worship is an age-old communication method that is used in multiple religions around the world.
Recently, a family experience caused me to think deeply about prayer. Last year a member of my immediate family was diagnosed with an illness that would require major surgery and had the potential to have a long-lasting impact on our family.
As we went through the process of preparing for, undergoing and ultimately recovering from the surgery, I was touched by the kind words, thoughts and outpouring of support from many family members and friends. As the words, thoughts and support were offered, almost without fail it came with some variant of the phrase “your family will be in our thoughts and prayers.”
While I am a believer that God does hear and answer prayers, the mere fact that I was hearing this heartfelt phrase multiple times a day over the span of several weeks caused me to stop and ponder what the implications of so many people praying on behalf of a common cause might be.
I reflected back to an experience I had many years ago as a 19-year-old missionary living in Japan for two years for the purpose of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who desired to learn about it. During this time of my life, prayer or requesting help from God and or expressing thanks to God, became a staple of daily life.
Multiple times a day I found myself praying for other people. I remember one particular day while praying for someone, questions like the following suddenly popped into my mind. How does my prayer factor into whether or not a particular person receives an answer to their prayer or what they need in their life? Would God not grant someone what they need based on their conditions, situation or their prayers, and not based on whether or not I pray for them? Do my prayers really make a difference in the lives of others?
In search for the answers to my questions I came across the following definition of prayer in the Bible Dictionary prepared by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Part of that definition reads as follows:
“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. 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. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings”.
As I read the above definition I received the answers to my questions. In as much as I believed that receiving blessings required some work or effort on my part, I came to realize that by praying for others I was actually working on their behalf to secure those blessing that they stood in need of.
So over the past several months as many family members and friends have so often expressed that our family was in their thoughts and prayers, I have taken great comfort knowing that so many people have been graciously “working” on our behalf, and petitioning God for the blessings of good health that we have humbly desired.
I am grateful to know and understand that in times of need each of us can work for and in behalf of each other by praying for each other.
President Michael Gazdik administers the ecclesiastical and temporal affairs of the Palos Verdes California Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is a member of the Dawn Unity Group. President Gazdik can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.