“Chapter 11: Praying to Receive the Blessings of Heaven,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff (2011), 108–14
“Chapter 11,” Teachings: Wilford Woodruff, 108–14
In March 1835, while serving his first mission, Wilford Woodruff had to travel through rivers and swamps in the southeastern United States. To traverse the swamps, he and his companion cut down a tree and made it into a canoe. They rowed safely for about 150 miles before abandoning the canoe and walking. President Woodruff later recalled that they took a road that “lay through swamps, and was covered with mud and water most of the way, for one hundred and seventy miles. We walked forty miles in a day through mud and water knee-deep. On the 24th of March, after traveling some ten miles through mud, I was taken lame with a sharp pain in my knee. I sat down on a log.”
At this point in the journey, his companion, who had become weary of the work and had decided to return home, left him there, sitting on a log in an alligator swamp. Undaunted, Wilford Woodruff turned to the Lord. He said, “I knelt down in the mud and prayed, and the Lord healed me, and I went on my way rejoicing.”1
Years later, President Woodruff showed his faith as he, his wife, and several others traveled by boat to serve in England. “We had been traveling three days and nights in a heavy gale, and were being driven backwards,” he recounted. “Finally I asked my companions to come into the cabin with me, and I told them to pray that the Lord would change the wind. I had no fears of being lost; but I did not like the idea of being driven back to New York, as I wanted to go on my journey. We all offered the same prayer, both men and women; and when we got through we stepped on to the deck and in less than a minute it was as though a man had taken a sword and cut that gale through, and you might have thrown a muslin handkerchief out and it would not have moved it.”2
There is one admonition of our Savior that all the Saints of God should observe, but which, I fear, we do not as we should, and that is, to pray always and faint not [see Luke 18:1; D&C 88:126]. I fear, as a people, we do not pray enough in faith. We should call upon the Lord in mighty prayer, and make all our wants known unto him. For if he does not protect and deliver us and save us, no other power will. Therefore our trust is entirely in him. Therefore our prayers should ascend into the ears of our Heavenly Father day and night.3
The inhabitants of the earth do not realize the effect and benefit of prayer. The Lord hears and answers the prayers of men, women and children. Prayer has more power, a great deal, to bring down the blessings of God, than almost any other thing.4
When the world rise[s] up against the kingdom of God in these latter days, should the Saints have any fears? … We should not. There is one thing we should do, and that is, pray to God. Every righteous man has done this; even Jesus the Savior, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, had to pray, from the manger to the cross, all the way through; every day he had to call upon his Father to give him grace to sustain him in his hour of affliction and to enable him to drink the bitter cup. So with his disciples.5
Whatever is necessary for us to receive and enjoy, it is our duty to ask the Lord for. We should go before Him in secret places and make our wants known, that our prayers may be heard and answered upon our heads. Herein lies our strength. Our trust is in God, and not in man.6
It is the duty of every Saint of God … to let his prayers ascend into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, day and night in the season thereof, in the family circle and in private places, for the Lord to sustain his people, build up Zion and fulfill his promises. …
… I have more faith in prayer before the Lord than almost any other principle on earth. If we have no faith in prayer to God, we have not much in either him or the gospel. We should pray unto the Lord, asking him for what we want. Let the prayers of this people ascend before the Lord continually in the season thereof, and the Lord will not turn them away, but they will be heard and answered, and the kingdom and Zion of God will rise and shine, she will put on her beautiful garments and be clothed with the glory of her God, and fulfill the object of her organization here upon the earth [see D&C 82:14].7
As a people we should rise up in faith and power before God and make our wants known, and leave our destiny in His hands. It is there anyhow. It will remain there.8
I feel that we should lift our hearts in prayer to God our Heavenly Father for His mercies, and that He will guide and direct us by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that our minds may be enlightened, and our understanding opened to comprehend His mind and will concerning His people.9
Whenever you are in doubt about any duty or work which you have to perform, never proceed to do anything until you go and labor in prayer and get the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Spirit dictates you to go or to do, that will be right; and, by following its dictates, you will come out right.
We shall be brought to many places during our career in the ministry among the nations of the earth, where we may consider a certain course of procedure to be right; but, if we do not know, it will be better for us to go before the Lord, and ask in faith that we may be instructed in the way of life.10
Let us labor faithfully and pray unto the Lord for wisdom day by day, that we may have power to conquer and overcome.11
It is the mind and will of God that every man and woman who have entered into the marriage covenant, and who have sons and daughters given unto them, as soon as those children are old enough, should teach them to pray.
It is the duty of the Latter-day Saints to teach their children to pray while they are young; to teach them to understand the principle and benefits of prayer, so that they can pray for their parents and everything that is necessary. If you begin with children in this way, and you train them up in the fear of the Lord, they will seldom depart therefrom. The head of the family should not do all the praying himself, but should call upon members of his family to pray, and to ask the blessing at [the] table.12
We as a people should be humble, be prayerful, be submissive to the powers that be that we may receive the promised blessings of our Heavenly Father.13
We should live in that way and manner that we can go before the Lord and ask for those blessings, in faith and in power, that we need to sustain us to carry out the purposes of God. … This is necessary for our advancement.14
God intends to give to His Saints the good things of the earth, as well as the blessings of heaven, as they shall become able to use them properly. …
… Many of you have learned how to pray; then fail not to let your prayers ascend up into the ears of the God of Sabaoth; and He will hear you. … But the blessings of heaven can only be obtained and controlled upon the principles of righteousness.15
We have no time to lose to prepare ourselves for the things that are coming on the earth; and who wants to lose his crown, his glory, and hope of eternal lives that he has had in days past and gone by receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ? No man that has any portion of the Spirit of God. Let us rise up and magnify our calling, and labor before God until we can get the Holy Spirit, and until our prayers rend the veil of eternity and enter into the ears of the God of Sabaoth and [are] answered in blessings upon our heads.16
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
Review the stories on pages 109–10. Ponder or discuss different ways Elder Woodruff might have responded in each of these situations. What can we learn from his responses?
What impresses you as you read President Woodruff’s teachings about our duty to pray? (See pages 110–11.) What does it mean to you to pray in faith? Why must we pray in order to receive the blessings we need? What are some other purposes of prayer?
How can prayer help us when we have decisions to make or when we have questions about our duties? (See page 111.)
What are some ways Heavenly Father has answered your prayers? How should we respond when an answer to prayer is different from the answer we have hoped to receive?
What assurance did President Woodruff give parents who teach their children to pray? (See page 112.) What are some principles of prayer that parents should teach their children? How can parents help their children make prayer a part of their lives?
In family prayers, why is it important that all family members receive opportunities to pray? (See page 112.) How has prayer strengthened your family?
Study the final section of the chapter (pages 112–13), looking for attributes that President Woodruff said we should have. Why are these attributes necessary as we pray and as we seek answers to our prayers?