“And it came to pass, that, as [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, when he had ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Hearing and responding to their request, Jesus showed them how to pray: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil” (Luke 11:2–3). Beyond merely demonstrating prayer, however, the Savior then explained the importance and power of prayer to His disciples:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give…to them that ask him? (Luke 11:9–13; see also Matthew 7:7–11)
Prayer, as Jesus modeled, is a time to put other things on hold and to communicate our thoughts and our thanks to the Almighty. Hearing our pleas and invitations, our Heavenly Father responds, revealing His power and love in specific and personal ways. I know that He does. Even in recent weeks, I have recognized answers to my own earnest prayers, answers that have been poignantly individualized and tenderly delivered. Surely, our Father in Heaven hears us when we pray, and He is ready to give us the good things for which we plead.
In 2011, Elder J. Devn Cornish told of a time that he was working as a resident physician at Boston Children’s Hospital. He said that, after a long day, he was feeling worn down, discouraged, and unprepared to return with a smile to his young family. As he rode his bicycle home, he remembered that there was a fried chicken shop on the way with an offer of twenty-nine-cent thighs or drumsticks. He felt that a snack would boost his morale enough to arrive at home happy—but he had only a nickel. He said, “As I rode along, I told the Lord my situation and asked if, in His mercy, He could let me find a quarter on the side of the road. I told Him that I didn’t need this as a sign but that I would be really grateful if He felt to grant me this kind blessing.” In praying, Elder Cornish wasn’t looking for a sign or for proof of God’s existence; rather, he had recognized his own helplessness and his need for divine assistance, and then he asked with humble faith for help.
Elder Cornish continued his story saying, “I began watching the ground more intently but saw nothing. Trying to maintain a faith-filled but submissive attitude as I rode, I approached the store. Then, almost exactly across the street from the chicken place, I saw a quarter on the ground. With gratitude and relief, I picked it up, bought the chicken, savored every morsel, and rode happily home.”
God heard J. Devn Cornish’s prayer and answered it with exactly what he had asked for. I think it’s important to recognize, though, that Brother Cornish didn’t ask for a quarter and then wait for one to fall from the clouds and hit him in the nose. He asked for a quarter and then fixed his gaze on the ground, ready to accept even the most unassuming answer to his prayer. Had he been looking to the sky, he never could have recognized God’s hand at work. He would have missed a quiet demonstration of God’s love, and he would have missed that quarter he so desperately desired.
I believe that God wants to bless us, to provide for our happiness, and to show us that He loves us. When we pray, we can communicate openly and freely with our Father in Heaven, trusting that He “upbraideth not” and that He “giveth to all men liberally” (James 1:5). We never need to feel that He is uninterested or that what we have to say is beneath His notice.
Elder Cornish concluded his story, saying:
In His mercy, the God of heaven, the Creator and Ruler of all things everywhere, had heard a prayer about a very minor thing. One might well ask why He would concern Himself with something so small. I am led to believe that our Heavenly Father loves us so much that the things that are important to us become important to Him, just because He loves us.
Because we are important to God, our concerns are His concerns. He is our Father: not only does He hear our prayers—He loves to hear them. As we share our thoughts, feelings, and concerns with Him, He will prepare the path and show us the way. Indeed, the trick of prayer is not one of getting God to bless us, but of learning to recognize the blessings He already sends, even when they’re as unremarkable as a quarter in a gutter. No desire is too small, nor is any person too insignificant. Our Father in Heaven will always listen and will, as Jesus taught, “reward [us] openly” (Matthew 6:6) and help us as we pray.