“A Matter of the Heart,” New Era, Nov. 2003, 13
When you are away from home and family, prayer can provide the shield of protection you will need. Parting can be hard, particularly when the parent and the child know that they may not see each other for a long time. I had that experience with my father. We parted on a street corner in New York City. He had come there for his work. I was there on my way to another place. We both knew that I probably would never return to live with my parents under the same roof again.
It was a sunny day, around noontime, the streets crowded with cars and pedestrians. On that particular corner there was a traffic light that stopped the cars and the people in all directions for a few minutes. The light changed to red; the cars stopped. The crowd of pedestrians hurried off the curbs, moving every way, including diagonally, across the intersection.
The time had come for parting, and I started across the street. I stopped almost in the center, with people rushing by me. I turned to look back. Instead of moving off in the crowd, my father was still standing on the corner looking at me. To me he seemed lonely and perhaps a little sad. I wanted to go back to him, but I realized the light would change and so I turned and hurried on.
Years later I talked to him about that moment. He told me that I had misread his face. He said he was not sad; he was concerned. He had seen me look back, as if I were a little boy, uncertain and looking for assurance. He told me in those later years that the thought in his mind had been: “Will he be all right? Have I taught him enough? Is he prepared for whatever may lie ahead?”
There were more than thoughts in his mind. I knew from having watched him that he had feelings in his heart. He yearned for me to be protected, to be safe. I had heard and felt that yearning in his prayers, and even more in the prayers of my mother, for all the years I had lived with them. I had learned from that, and I remembered.
Prayer is a matter of the heart. I had been taught far more than the rules of prayer.
I had learned from my parents and from the Savior’s teachings that:
We must address our Heavenly Father in the reverent language of prayer.
It is important to give thanks for blessings and to ask for forgiveness.
We ask for what we need and pray for others to be blessed.
We must surrender our will.
We can be warned of danger and shown early what we have done that displeased God. (See Matt. 6:9–13.)
I had learned that we must always pray in the name of Jesus Christ. But something taught me those words were more than a formality. There was a picture of the Savior on the bedroom wall where my mother was bedridden in the years before she died. She had put it there because of something her cousin Samuel O. Bennion had told her. He had traveled with an Apostle who described seeing the Savior in a vision. Elder Bennion gave her that print, saying that it was the best portrayal he had ever seen of the Master’s strength of character. So she framed it and placed it on the wall where she could see it from her bed.
She knew the Savior, and she loved Him. I had learned from her that we do not close in the name of a stranger when we approach our Father in prayer. I knew from what I had seen of her life that her heart was drawn to the Savior from years of determined and consistent effort to serve Him and to please Him. I knew the scripture was true that warns, “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13).
Years after my mother and father are gone, the words “in the name of Jesus Christ” are not casual for me, either when I say them or when I hear others say them. We must serve Him to know the Master’s heart. But we also must pray that Heavenly Father will answer our prayers in our hearts as well as in our minds.
I have had prayers answered. Those answers were most clear when what I wanted was silenced by an overpowering need to know what God wanted. It is then that the answer from a loving Heavenly Father can be spoken to the mind by the still, small voice and can be written on the heart.
My dad was concerned that day in New York because he knew, as my mother knew, that the only real tragedy would be if we were apart forever. That is why they taught me to pray. They knew we could be together forever only with God’s help and with His assurances.
The afternoon my mother died, we went to the family home from the hospital. We sat quietly in the darkened living room for a while. Dad excused himself and went to his bedroom. He was gone for a few minutes. When he walked back into the living room, there was a smile on his face. He said that he’d been concerned for Mother. During the time he had gathered her things from her hospital room and thanked the staff for being so kind to her, he thought of her going into the spirit world just minutes after her death. He was afraid she would be lonely if there was no one to meet her.
He had gone to his bedroom to ask his Heavenly Father to have someone greet Mildred, his wife and my mother. He said that he had been told in answer to his prayer that his mother had met his sweetheart. I smiled at that too. Grandma Eyring was not very tall. I had a clear picture of her rushing through the crowd, her short legs moving rapidly on her mission to meet my mother.
Dad surely didn’t intend at that moment to teach me about prayer, but he did. I can’t remember a sermon from my mother or my father about prayer. They prayed when times were hard and when they were good. And they reported in matter-of-fact ways how kind God was, how powerful, and how close. The prayers I heard most were about what it would take for us to be together forever. When I saw in my mind my grandmother rushing to my mother, I felt joy for them and a longing to bring my sweetheart and our children to such a reunion.
I testify that our Heavenly Father answers the pleadings of faithful prayers. I testify that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can have eternal life in families if we honor the covenants offered in this, His true Church.