What Is Mighty Prayer?
December 2011

“What Is Mighty Prayer?” New Era, Dec. 2011, 6–8

What Is Mighty Prayer?

I always wondered what the scriptures meant by “mighty prayer.”

Although I prayed every day, I’d never felt like my prayers could be described as anything but ordinary. I wondered if the heroes in the scriptures were the only ones whose prayers could be described as “mighty.”

One day, a friend called and described a beautiful prayer experience she had had. “It was like real two-way communication with my Father in Heaven,” she said. “Heaven felt so close around me.”

Her experience caused me to wonder, “Is that what the scriptures meant by mighty prayer?” That was what happened with Enos when he knelt in prayer. Since I couldn’t remember ever having this experience when I prayed, I decided to find out what makes prayer mighty and how I could make my prayers more meaningful.

I started by making a list of the things I thought would work. My main problem was falling asleep during my prayers. It may seem silly, but the first thing on my list was to try praying in more uncomfortable places. This really worked to keep me awake, but my prayers still felt the same as they always did.

I thought I might try longer prayers, like Enos. Surely that would let Heavenly Father know that I really wanted to communicate with Him. Nothing changed. And although I was sure Heavenly Father was blessing me and listening to my prayers, I wanted to feel closer to Him than I was feeling.

Over a period of time I tried many other techniques, such as concentrating harder, writing down everything I needed to pray for so I wouldn’t forget anything, and praying out loud. Nothing seemed to make my prayers feel mighty.

Then one day that all changed. It happened to be near Christmastime and I was listening to “O Holy Night” in my bedroom. As I pondered the Savior and His mission, the music penetrated my heart. A feeling of joy and gratitude washed over me as I thought of the Savior’s love and His great Atonement. I got on my knees and uttered a simple prayer of thanksgiving, with the hope that I could become more like Him. As a gentle warmth and happiness enveloped my heart, heaven felt very near, and the Spirit helped me to understand that this is what it meant to have mighty prayer.

What made that prayer different than all the other prayers that came before? My prayer wasn’t any longer than usual, and I hadn’t even remembered everything I was supposed to pray for.

It wasn’t until months later, when I stood exhausted, hungry, and cold, on the banks of a muddy pond that I began to understand.

I was participating in a pioneer trek, and it was the last day. We hadn’t eaten much for breakfast, and the day before we had hiked for many miles. That morning we had pulled our handcarts to the banks of a very large pond, and we were going to ferry them across in order to experience in a small way what it must have been like to cross a river with handcarts. It had rained that morning, and we all stood in the sun, trying to dry ourselves as we waited for our turn to cross. While we waited, our stake president told us the story of the Sweetwater rescue—how several young men had put their own lives in peril in order to carry the desperate Saints of the Martin Handcart Company across an icy river in the middle of winter. As I stood listening to the story, I felt the love and sacrifice of those boys, and the Spirit swelled in my heart. I felt a desire to be like those great young men and help rescue all those needing spiritual help in our day, including my own family.

In my mind, I uttered one of the shortest prayers I’ve ever said, but it was one of the most powerful: “Heavenly Father, help me to be a rescuer.”

At that moment, I again felt that soft, warm, peaceful feeling of heaven close around me, and I knew through the Spirit that my will and my Heavenly Father’s will were one.

It was then that I understood the difference between those two “mighty” prayers and all the others. It was the Spirit. In those two prayers, the Holy Ghost was present and taught my heart and mind what to say so that my will was in line with the will of my Heavenly Father. The Spirit had helped to make my prayers mighty.

Since then I have tried hard to invite the Spirit into my heart before, during, and after prayer. Sometimes it comes through reading the scriptures, sometimes through listening to good music, pondering my blessings, or thinking about the Savior. Sometimes just a humble heart with a strong intent to follow through will bring the Spirit. Other ways I have prepared for prayer are by serving others, praying for others, or even just asking for the Spirit to be present. Though not every prayer is like the two I have described above, I have felt much closer to my Heavenly Father and, over time, have received more personal revelation than ever before.

Inviting the Spirit into my prayers helps me to feel like I regularly have real two-way communication with my Father in Heaven. I am able to better understand His will for me when the Holy Ghost is there teaching it to me.

I felt a desire to be like those great young men at the Sweetwater River who rescued the pioneers needing help.

Photo illustration by Frank Helmrich; detail from Christ and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann, courtesy of C. Harrison Conroy Co.

Detail from Rescue at the Sweetwater by Clark Kelley Price; Enos Praying by Robert Barrett, ©IRI