President's Pen 8-1-16 (Prayer)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters, 

Thanks for your goodness and for all you do each day to give people hope as we teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Sister Hall and I have been out teaching with some of our companionships and it is awesome to see you teach with power and authority.  This work is true and we love you!

This week in our district councils we will focus on the important and critical commitment of prayer.  In our effort to connect people to heaven, I believe prayer is the simplest and sweetest commitment we extend to our investigators.  Of all the invitations we extend, prayer is the most personal.  Through sincere prayer, our investigators demonstrate their faith and repentance.  Prayer allows the Father to speak to His sons and daughters through the power of the Holy Ghost.  When we teach our investigators to get on their knees and pray, the windows of heaven are opened and a loving Father pours out the blessings He has prepared for His children.  

In our bedroom we have a small wooden sign that simply states, "Prayer Changes Things".  It changes things for our investigators when they come to understand that God is there, that He will listen, and that He will answer.  The only way our investigators can truly come to know if our message is true; if Joseph Smith is a prophet, if the Book of Mormon is true, and if this is God's kingdom here on the earth is if they get on their knees and pray.  The invitation to pray can't be underestimated nor taken lightly.  We need to extend it boldly and promise the blessings that will come as they communicate with their Heavenly Father.  We need to teach and help them understand that when they pray they must do so with real intent.  Real intent is where prayer changes things as it requires us to get up off our knees and act.  Change comes from action and we need to teach our investigators that they will be responsible to act as the Lord speaks to their hearts and minds through the power of the Holy Ghost.  

How many of our investigators really get on their knees and truly ask if what we've taught them is true?  How many understand that their humble and sincere prayer will be the catalyst for real change in their lives?  How many really know the “why” of prayer?  Perhaps more importantly, how do we as missionaries help them have sufficient faith to get on their knees to pray and then guide them through this all important commitment?

What do we know about the doctrine of prayer? The Savior taught, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). The Lord Jesus Christ then commanded, “Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Nephi 18:19).  In His Sermon on the Mount address, the Savior then teaches, “Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).  We are then taught that if anyone “shall pray and not with real intent of heart … it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such” (Moroni 7:9). To make our prayers meaningful, we must pray with sincerity and “with all the energy of heart” (Moroni 7:48). We are also taught that we should “study it out in [our] mind” before He will give us an answer (see D&C 9:7-8). Finally, the Savior taught, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you” (3 Nephi 18:20).  What patterns do you find in the doctrine of prayer?  I invite you to study this principle in more detail.

When Joseph Smith went into what would become the sacred grove, do you think he had any doubt in his mind that his prayer would be answered?  Using the Joseph Smith account, we can help our investigators come to understand that they, like Joseph, lack wisdom, or in other words, if they want to know where to find God’s true and living Church, they need to do just as he did. We are inviting them to find a quiet place, their version of a sacred grove, to get on their knees and pray, and believe they will receive an answer.  Do we help them understand and truly come to know that if they pray with real intent, God will answer them?  Do you know this and extend this invitation with the same assurance?  

The best time to extend the invitation to pray is when they understand the “why” and the “how”.  The why is simple…  “If you want to know what we have taught is true, we invite you to pray.  Here’s why… God knows you, loves you, and has promised that if we ask, we will receive.  The reason why you need to pray is because we have taught you that God’s Church has been restored to the earth again.  The reason why you need to pray is because we have taught you that Joseph Smith was called to be His prophet, just like the prophets of old.  The reason why you need to pray is because we have taught you that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, and if you want to know this for yourself, we invite you to read, ponder, and then pray to know if it is indeed the word of God.  We won’t convince you that what we have taught you is true, that is not why we’re here. We come to invite and help you find out for yourself and the best way to do that is to get on your knees.  We ask you to pray on your knees as it is a sign of respect and reverence to your Heavenly Father.   Do you understand why we would invite you to pray and can you share with me why this would be important?

Now for the “How”…  Using the pamphlet we can easily guide them through the steps of prayer, but here’s perhaps a more personal way.  “If your Heavenly Father was here in the room with you right now, what would you thank him for? (pause for answer) If your Heavenly Fathers was here in the room with you right now, what would you ask him for?  (pause for answer) Would you also want to ask Him if what we’ve taught you about His Church, His prophet, and the Book of Mormon is true? How would you want to ask this question?” (pause for answer) One of the things we know is that it is only through our Savior Jesus Christ that we make it back to our Heavenly Father and any time we speak to God we always end in the Savior’s name.  What we have just reviewed together is how we pray to our Heavenly Father…  Envision He’s here in the room with you and call him by name, “Heavenly Father”.  Know that he’s listening to you and then thank Him for whatever comes to your mind.  Know that he will always answer your sincere questions and ask Him what you want to know.  End your prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.  As the Lord’s representatives, He would invite you to pray and ask if this is His Church, if Joseph Smith is His prophet, and if the Book of Mormon is true, will you get on your knees today and ask him?  I promise he will answer you, He answers my prayers, and He will answer yours.  Can we kneel and pray with you right now and will you offer it for us?”

I won’t review with you in this email how they will come to know if what they have prayed for is true, but please study this so you teach it clearly and simply, with faith, conviction, and an absolute assurance that they will feel the fruits of the Spirit. 

Elders & Sisters, we need our investigators to pray.  Prayer opened up the heavens to the Prophet Joseph Smith and it will open up the heavens to our investigators.  If you love them, and want them to progress towards saving ordinances, they need to know the “why” and “how” of prayer.  In your district councils you will study this and role-play it.  Be dulcemente osado “sweetly bold” as you help connect them to God.  Follow up and ask about their experience with prayer and how they felt; a simple did you pray question isn’t good enough, we need to know what happened and then help them recognize the Spirit. 

I testify that God hears and answers our prayers.  I invite you to extend this invitation with more power and authority.  Let them know that this is what the Lord would have them do.  Be BOLD! Prayer truly changes things and have the faith that it will change the hearts of your investigators when they pray with real intent.  We love you and pray for you each day.  I’m grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who hears me and answers my prayers. 

Mission Update

Elders & Sisters, we have had over 200 souls enter into the waters of baptism to receive a remission of their sins this year! What a great blessing it is to represent the Savior in this great work.  We have vision to baptize and we understand why the work of salvation is so important.  Keep up the great efforts, begin with the end in mind, and let’s get all to the temple as soon as we can.  Love ya!

President Hall