“As a member of a congregation, what are my responsibilities during prayers?” Ensign, Jan. 1976, 66–67
John H. Cox, president of the London England Stake Last year my wife and I had the pleasure of attending a royal garden party on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, London, at the invitation of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. For me the most impressive moment of that event was the entrance of the queen herself. The hubbub of the guests immediately subsided, and as she stood on the terrace, with the bands playing “God Save the Queen,” there was a reverence present that pervaded the entire assembly. I had heard the national anthem many times in my life, but this was the first time in the actual presence of the monarch. The occasion had a special poignancy. I was inspired, and I prayed for the welfare of my country and its leader.
The Saints in Britain had a similar experience at the area conference held at Manchester. As President Joseph Fielding Smith was about to leave the meeting, we all rose to sing, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” That too was an inspiring moment, an outpouring of the Spirit, during which faith and devotion were greatly enhanced.
Now let us try to imagine how we would feel if, having sung a hymn and prepared ourselves spiritually, we were to witness God himself entering or departing from one of our church meetings. I wonder what rapture would fill our bosoms as we contemplated the living God.
When we address our Heavenly Father in our public prayers, asking that his Spirit or influence be present with us, it is in the faith and expectation that our requests are heard. Receiving the influence of his spirit is the key to meaningful participation; it is our most basic responsibility during group prayers. The presiding officer in the meeting will listen to the whisperings of the Spirit in calling on the spokesman, who then will rely upon its promptings in all that he says. Then, as we encourage the Holy Ghost to enter into our hearts, all conditions are met for a blissful moment of inspiration.
We will want to follow each word of the prayer, lending our support, contributing our faith, sustaining every desire, and, as we have been firmly instructed, confirming our acceptance at the conclusion with an audible Amen. (See Priesthood Bulletin, October 1973, p. 4.) No matter where we might be, whether sitting among the congregation, standing in the foyer, or perhaps watching the meeting on television, we will want to be totally involved.
Any doubts we may have had about the need for us to be in attendance would quickly evaporate in such an exercise of our faith. Our faith could also be channeled to the assistance of those who are to participate in the meeting, such as the conducting officer or those giving talks. “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.” (D&C 108:7.) And our faith would be rewarded, for “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 Ne. 18:20.) From that moment on we would not be concerned with the oratorical aptitude of the participants; rather, feasting upon the Spirit, we would “look unto [God] in every thought.” (D&C 6:36.) Such a oneness in a congregation would be highly inspiring.
Being conscious of the presence of the Spirit, we would be reminded of the Lord’s commandment: “Keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary.” (Lev. 19:30.) Clearly, only a quiet, still, and contemplative attitude is appropriate. Heads should be bowed, eyes closed, and arms folded or hands clasped. One of the objectives in attending the meeting will be to pay homage to Him. “Wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul.” (2 Ne. 25:29.) This is the ideal state in which to listen and to learn. For new members and children, this “lesson” will be particularly beneficial. One day it will be their turn to be spokesman.