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Comer: The role of prayer and faith in obtaining blessings


By Ryan Comer - | Dec 9, 2023

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Ryan Comer

Over the years, I have heard many people call into question the effectiveness of prayer, saying that God is going to do what God wants to do and it really won’t be influenced by us. If we can’t have influence through prayer because God is going to do what he deems necessary anyway, then what is the point of praying?

I will admit, I have had this thought run through my mind in the past as well.

One thing that I’ve tried to remember as I’ve contemplated this issue, however, is that just because our prayers may not change God’s will doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pray. Here are two specific reasons.

Reason 1: Praying is an act of faith. When we pray for something we know can’t be achieved without God’s help, we show our total dependence on God. Maybe we’ll realize that blessing, and maybe we won’t. But I believe that a loving God will bless us in ways we might not be able to anticipate because of the faith we demonstrate, even if he doesn’t give us the blessing that we went to him for. A critic might say that kind of mindset never allows for God to lose. If we are blessed, it’s because he answered our prayer. If we aren’t blessed with what we ask for but think that we will be blessed in the future because of our faith, God is answering our prayer again. Either way, God wins. This is true. God always does win. This is why he’s perfect. Perhaps it would be easier for me to side with the critic if I hadn’t seen numerous examples throughout my life of faith being rewarded. I have gone to God in prayer to ask for something, not received it, but then seen other blessings, namely increased faith, peace or wisdom. I know I’m not alone in being able to recognize those blessings that have come because of prayer and faith.

Reason 2: I believe there are certain blessings that God wants to give us that we can only obtain through prayer. We may not be able to change God’s will through prayer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have access to blessings through prayer. Here’s how I think of it from a parental perspective. If my child comes to me and says he wants something, I may not give it to him. If for whatever reason I have decided that he shouldn’t have that thing that he wants, I will say no, and no amount of asking is going to change my mind. Does that mean that he should never ask me for anything at all? Of course not. Maybe there’s another thing he will think of that he wants that I am willing to give him. Sometimes, I may want to see how much he wants a particular thing, and that’s demonstrated by his willingness to ask me for it. This has happened a number of times. I realize there might be a specific thing that my child wants, but I am not just going to simply give it to him. If he asks for it, that shows me how much he wants it, and then I am willing to get it for him. Why would it be any different in our relationship with God?

I was recently uplifted by a message shared on Facebook by Elder Dale G. Renlund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said:

“As we celebrated Thanksgiving, I reflected on the miracles I have seen in my life. One for which I had a unique vantage point relates to President Jeffrey R. Holland and his recent hospitalization. President M. Russell Ballard was an exemplary ministering brother, checking on President Holland every day. President Ballard occasionally asked me to accompany him, and each time we gave President Holland a blessing.

“By way of background, I have spent years visiting patients in hospitals. Many were critically ill, and I saw many die. The second time I accompanied President Ballard, President Holland was in critical condition. Adrenaline-like drugs were being used to support his circulation. He was virtually non-responsive. The physicians didn’t know exactly what was wrong and had informed his children that the prognosis was extremely poor. I felt a sense of foreboding. I told President Ballard that the only way President Holland would come back to meaningfully fulfill his Apostolic calling was through divine intervention. Physicians, surgeons, and medicines were not going to do it. Only through God’s blessings would it happen. President Ballard nodded and said, ‘We will just have to keep praying and exercise our faith.’

“The next time I accompanied President Ballard to the hospital, President Holland was sitting in a chair, chatting with nurses, asking about breakfast. He asked about my wife, Ruth, and daughter, Ashley. He was his usual self. It was a miracle. It was divine intervention. He was discharged from the hospital and gained strength by the day. When President Ballard’s health took a turn for the worse, President Holland reversed the roles and became an extraordinary ministering brother for the rest of President Ballard’s life.

“Now, President Holland has been set apart as the Acting President of my quorum. God is in the details. President Holland has been preserved for such a time as this. How blessed I am because of him. How blessed my quorum is because of him. How thrilled I am to learn from and take direction from him. God lives. This is His Church. He is directing it. This I know. And I am thankful for this knowledge.”

Elder Renlund was able to recognize that the only way President Holland would be able to recover was through God’s help, and President Ballard — who agreed — said that meant continued prayer and faith. President Holland subsequently recovered. Would President Holland have recovered without the prayers of Elder Renlund, President Ballard and countless members of the church throughout the world praying for it?

President Holland certainly believes the prayers were helpful, saying as much in a video posted to YouTube by Church News five months ago.

“I’ve believed all my life about prayer,” he started. “In many, many cases, a lot of the people in the church, maybe most, pray for the brethren, and I just want to somehow take that up a notch in people’s hearts where they understand that that really, really matters.”

Citing his health challenges he continued, “I should have been probably taken, but I wasn’t, and I think with all my heart that it was the prayer of little kids in Kansas and sweet colleagues that I met in Zimbabwe and someone praying in a Japanese language that I don’t even understand but that they do and God does. I believe that I’m the beneficiary of that, and so here I am. I’m staggering toward the finish line, I refuse to get off the track, I’m still in the race and I’m grateful to the Saints for those prayers.”

That’s all I need to hear about the effectiveness of prayer.

Contact Ryan Comer at rcomer@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @rbcomer8388 and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rbcomer8388.


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