The Force of Family Prayer

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Gordon B. Hinckley

Paul of old declared to Timothy:  "This know also, that in the last  days perilous times shall come."  He said nothing of atomic bombs or intercontinental missiles or death-dealing submarines.  Rather, the times shall be perilous because "men shall be lovers of their own selves, ...blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, ...without natural affection, ...despisers of those that are good." (2 Timothy 3:l-3).

Honesty, character, and integrity do not come of legislation or  police action.  Only as we build back into the fiber of lives the virtues that are the essence of true civilization will the pattern of our times change.  That building process must begin in the homes of the people. It must begin with recognition of God as our Eternal Father and of our relationship to him as his children, with communication with him in recognition of his sovereign position, and in supplication for his guidance in our affairs.

Prayer, family prayer in the homes of this and other lands, is one of the simple medicines that would check the dread disease that has  eroded the fiber of our character.  It is as simple as sunshine and would be as effective in curing our malady.  We could not expect a miracle in a day, but in a generation we would have a miracle.

I feel satisfied that there is no adequate substitute for the morning  and evening practice of kneeling together--father, mother, and children. This, more than heavy carpets, more than lovely draperies, more than cleverly balanced color schemes, is the thing that will make for better and more beautiful homes.  In remembering together before the Lord the poor, the needy, and the oppressed, there is developed, unconsciously but realistically, a love for others above self, a respect for others, a desire to serve the needs of others.  One cannot ask God to help a neighbor in distress without feeling motivated to do something toward helping that neighbor.  What miracles would happen in the lives of the children of  America, and of the world, if they would lay aside their own selfishness and lose themselves in the service of others.  The seed from which this sheltering and fruitful tree may grow is best planted and nutured in the daily supplications of the family.   I know of no better way to inculcate love for country than for parents to pray before their children for the president and the congress or the queen and the parliament of the land of their citizenship.

On billboards in some of our cities a statement read, "A nation at  prayer is a nation at peace."  I believe this.  I hope this is more then a catchy motto.  I am satisfied that we shall not have peace unless and until we request it in the name of the Prince of Peace.

I know of nothing that will ease family tensions, that in a subtle  way will bring about the respect for parents which leads to obedience, that will affect the spirit of repentance which will largely erase the blight of broken homes, than will praying together, confessing weaknesses together before the Lord, and invoking the blessing of the Lord upon the home and those who dwell there.

I have been impressed by a statement made by James H. Moyle,  who wrote to his grandchildren concerning the family prayer of his own home:  "We have not gone to bed before kneeling in prayer to supplicate divine guidance and approval.  Differences may arise in the best governed families, but they will be dissipated by the spirit of prayer...Its very psychology tends to promote the more righteous life among men.  It tends to unity, love, forgiveness, to service."

We have reached the tragic point in our history where evidently  we cannot invoke the blessings of God in our schools, but we can pray in our homes.  The family is the unit of society.  The praying family is the hope of a better society.

Some time ago I was touched by the heartbreaking statement of  a young missionary in Japan.  He said, "I have been here for months.  I can't learn the language.  I dislike the people.  I am depressed by day and weep at night.  I wrote my mother and pleaded for an excuse to return home.  I have her reply.  She says: 'We're praying for you.  There is not a day passes that all of us do not kneel together in the morning before we eat, and in the evening before we retire, and plead with the Lord for his blessing upon you.  We have added fasting to our prayer, and when your younger brothers and sisters pray they say, "Heavenly Father, bless Johnny in Japan and help him to learn the language and do the work he was called to do."'"

This young man then went on to say through his tears, "I will try  again.  I will add my prayers to theirs and my fasting to their fasting."

Four months later he wrote a letter in which he said, "A miracle  has happened.  The language has come to me as a gift from the Lord. I have learned to love the people in this beautiful land.  God be thanked for the prayers of my family."

Can we make our homes more beautiful?  Yes, through addressing  ourselves as families to the source of all true beauty.  Can we strengthen our society and make it a better place in which to live?  Yes, by strengthening the virtue of our family life through kneeling together and supplicating the Almighty in the name of his Beloved Son.

This simple practice, a return to family worship, spreading across  the land and over the earth, would in a generation largely lift the blight that is destroying us, and it would restore integrity, mutual respect, and a spirit of thankfulness in the hearts of the people.