A Widow’s Prayer

Hide Footnotes


“A Widow’s Prayer,” Ensign, Aug. 1999, 30

A Widow’s Prayer

In a small rural town, a young mother determined she would not be a burden. Then her food ran out.

I met Emma when the two of us worked together in stake callings. One day after a meeting, we sat together outside on the grass. I could tell even from the beginning of our friendship that she was a woman with considerable backbone. But backbone, she told me once, was not always a virtue. Then she told me about the first summer after her husband passed away.

Left with the responsibility of rearing four children and running a farm, she had resolved to herself: I won’t be a burden on family or friends. I’ll stand on my own two feet!

During the next few months, she worked hard. By summer she knew she would have a good wheat crop that year, but it would be delayed because of a cold, late spring. In the meantime, she used the last of her flour to make a final loaf of bread.

That evening Emma put what remained of the loaf in milk to soak, then she made up a song and went around the table serving the children. “One spoonful for you,” she sang, “and one for you. Johnny’s a good boy; he gets two.”

The children entered into the fun of the game and laughed gleefully when it was their turn to get two spoonfuls. When the last of the bread and milk was gone, little Mary spoke up. “Let’s play some more, Mama. I’m still hungry.”

“I haven’t any more food, dear. We will have to make do for tonight.”

Finally the children were put to bed. Emma stood by the window looking out at the field of grain. She had not eaten at all that day, and it would be at least three weeks before the grain would be ripe enough to harvest. Even the cow had given no milk that day.

As Emma reflected on her family’s situation, she felt ashamed. The bishop, a kindly man, had offered to counsel her and lend help and support, but she had always answered him abruptly. Just last Sunday he had said to her, “Sister Davis, all the crops are late this year. We have food at the storehouse. Can we help in any way?” She had declined. Now, as she thought about it, she realized many others had tried to help, to lighten her burden.

Emma leaned her head against the window and sobbed out a prayer. “Dear Heavenly Father, I have been what the scriptures call stiff-necked. I think now that all my fierce independence has led me to false pride. I need Thy comfort and influence. I need the bishop to advise and counsel me. I need the power of the priesthood that comes into my home when the home teachers visit. I need the close association of my Relief Society sisters. I need programs of the Church to help me raise my children. I cannot stand alone. I need Thee.”

As she closed her prayer, a feeling of strength and love and warmth came over her. She went to bed and slept the night through, something she hadn’t done since her husband’s death.

Later that same night, a few miles away, the bishop was awakened from a deep sleep. He listened for some noise that would account for his sudden awakening, but everything seemed quiet. Carefully he got out of bed, dressed, and went to the barn to check on the animals. It was a beautiful night, and the moon cast long shadows along the lane, where poplars grew tall and serene. All seemed well. On his way back to the house, his thoughts turned to members of his ward. The Hendersons had a new baby; Brother Martin had severely cut his foot; the Howells had their elderly father visiting. Was everyone all right? Then his thoughts turned to Sister Davis and her young family. He paused. He had not seemed able to reach Sister Davis’s heart, yet he sensed she needed his help.

At that moment he knew why he was wide awake in the middle of the night. It would be daylight soon, so he decided to hook up the horses and drive to the Davis ranch. He decided it wouldn’t hurt if he loaded up a few things from the storehouse, just in case.

Emma was up early that morning. She dressed quietly so the children would remain asleep, then she tiptoed outdoors to begin her chores. As she stood in the yard looking down the road, she saw a team and wagon slowly coming toward her. When it drew close, she met the bishop as he climbed down from the wagon.

“I have never been so glad to see anyone in my whole life,” she said. “There are so many things I need to talk over with you, Bishop.”

Illustrated by Michael Malm