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The Power of Prayer

The Power of Prayer

President and Sister Tanner, President Council members, President Grace, Stake Presidents, faculty, staff and fellow students, I am humbled to have this opportunity to share my testimony with you this morning. My husband and I have the privilege of serving you on this campus. We have grown to love all that this school stands for. How we treasure our association with such outstanding students, and are grateful for the opportunity to learn from the wisdom and example of committed faculty and employees.

I feel of your spirit and the greatness of this school; it is uplifting and edifying. I sense my inadequacies as I stand before you, sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, under Whose direction I pray to address you today.

The entry under “Prayer” in the Bible Dictionary states:

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”1

I want to break down this meaning and demonstrate how the power of prayer has impacted my life and the testimony of Jesus Christ I hold so dearly in my heart.

"Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other."

As a child, I learned from my parents how to pray. My father was assigned as the Principal for the LDS Middle School in Latai, Nuku’alofa. My father wanted the family to move from Liahona in order to be closer to his job. To understand the difficulty of this task, you have to understand that land cannot be bought in Tonga. Land is passed down from father to son. Being a righteous man, my father knew that moving our family closer to his job was right and best thing for all of us. So, our family fasted and prayed fervently to ask Heavenly Father for his help in finding a place. Our morning & evening prayers included our family’s plea to find a place. To aid in this endeavor, my father requested the help of other family members to keep a look out for a place for our family. A week later, my uncle told my father that a person named Katoa, was willing to gift him a piece of land in exchange for $300 pa’anga to help his family. At that time $300 pa’anga, was a lot of money, an equivalent of $150 US dollars. When my father met with this man, he found out that all of his sons were provided with lands, but the man had extra land. Depending on how much land or how many pieces of land you have, each male member, from oldest to youngest, will receive a piece of land. A meeting was arranged by the Acting Minister of the land to sign off the piece of land to my father. Katoa’s brother was also requested to attend this meeting, giving him the opportunity to dispute the gifting of the land to an “outsider” of the family. The dilemma was that although Katoa’s sons had lands, his brother had a son that did not have land. This meant that rightly so, the extra land should have been given to Katoa’s nephew. Our family prayers became more earnest, understanding the ordeal we were facing. If this was the Father’s will, we had faith that this almost impossible arrangement would work out. Friday morning, my father offered our family prayer and again, petitioned Heavenly Father’s help, if it was His will. My father and Katoa were at the office by 1:45 pm. 2:00 pm came and Katoa’s brother was nowhere to be found. The Acting Minister said that they would wait 5 more minutes to give Katoa’s brother a chance. After 2:05 pm, the paper was signed and my father was legally given the land. During our family prayer that night, my father offered thanksgiving for blessing our family with the piece of land obtained. Our communion with our Father in Heaven that night was a sweet and powerful feeling that filled each of us with a strong testimony that what we had been praying and fasting for was indeed in correspondence with our Heavenly Father’s will and that He had provided a way for us to fulfill that will. Our home was later built and we moved in. Many, many years later, our home became the meeting house for the Nuku’alofa 2nd Ward when we lost our chapel due to the lease not being renewed. Our ward was assigned to the Havelu Chapel for our church meetings. Our home became the meeting place for ward choir practice, mutual for single adults, early morning seminary, full-time missionary’s district meetings and countless ward meetings.

My father took to heart the Savior’s admonition given in 3 Nephi which says:“Pray in your families unto the Father, always, in my name that your wives and your children may be blessed.”2 I’m grateful for the wonderful examples of faithful parents, who throughout the course of their time here on earth, taught my siblings and I the importance of consistent and sincere communication with our Heavenly Father. The lessons I learned early on in my family setting, helped to shape how I personally accepted and confronted challenges later in life.

Upon graduating from high school, I had the opportunity to serve a full-time mission in my homeland of Tonga. The first area that I was assigned to was the island of Ha’afeva in Ha’apai, where I traveled by boat with my mother as my companion. My mother was given permission from the Mission President to accompany me in order to ask her mother, my grandmother, to allow the missionaries to live with her. You see, my grandmother was not a member of our faith however, she agreed to allow the missionaries to live with her under one condition: that the gospel not be preached in her home. She did tell my mother that the missionaries were required to join with her in morning and evening prayers. My companion, Sister Masiu, joined me on the island two days later. We happily agreed to my grandmother’s arrangement, and already saw opportunities to share the gospel with her “under her conditions.” We also resolved to leave some of our church pamphlets around the house, hoping that she would read them.

At the time that I was serving, there was maybe about 300 people living on the island and the only members were the Branch President and his family along with my companion and me, so you can imagine the amount of work we had ahead of us. Most of the people on the island were my family members and even though they provided us with meals, they refused to hear the message that we had to share of the restored gospel. We continued to pray and plead with the Lord for an opportunity to find a family that would not only be willing to let us in their home, but also be accepting of His message. Through acts of service, we were only able to answer the inquiries of those who received us. Because we were young and recently graduated from high school, many people associated our age with naiveté, which is why many rejected our invitations. After four months of serving with no one accepting our invitations to hear the message, we felt discouraged. Even though we prayed, fasted, obeyed missionary rules and worked diligently, we felt that we had yielded no fruit.

On April 2, 1978 which was a fast Sunday, Sister Masiu and I decided to set a specific goal that we would fast and pray about. We asked the Lord to direct us to one person on the island who would be ready to hear the message of the gospel and accept the invitation to be baptized. That night as we evaluated our day and made plans for the week, Sister Masiu suggested that we each prepare scriptures to help us focus on our goal for the week. I turned to Alma 29:1-4:-

“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God with a voice to shake the earth and cry repentance unto every people!

Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

... I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire…”3

Sister Masiu then shared her scripture from Alma 37:36-37:-

“Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and withersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.

Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if you do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”4

After sharing our scriptures and thoughts with each other, we had both felt the impression to act. We decided we would pray unto the Lord all night in a sincere petition for His help to achieve our goal of finding one adult to teach and commit to baptism. Throughout the night, we would pray together as a companionship and then individually. The most meaningful and sincere prayers we offered contained many expressions of thanks, asking forgiveness for our shortcomings and imperfections and petitions for assistance to improve the work in that area.

Monday morning came and although we had been up all night praying, we felt rejuvenated and ready to tackle our goals for the week. I felt armed, not only with the understanding that our answers, or assistance, may not arrive immediately, but also with the comfort and confirmation from the Holy Ghost that the Lord had heard our pleas and was aware of each of His children on that little island. As we were leaving the house that morning, my grandmother called us back to ask if we could help with the cooking and house chores because she was not feeling good. We gladly told her not to worry and made slight changes to our schedule for the day. Grandmother was sick that whole week, so we adjusted our schedule to accommodate the chores at home. Our week was successful in rendering service and finding joy while building the Kingdom, but we still hadn’t found someone who fully accepted the gospel and the invitation for baptism.

The following Monday, April 10th, as we were leaving the house for the day, grandmother called us back to the house. She wanted to speak to me in private, and had asked Sister Masiu to wait outside.

Grandmother looked at me seriously and my first thought was, “This is it! She will tell me her last wishes and I will have to relay them to her children.” But to my surprise, she whispered to me very quietly, as if there were someone in the room over hearing our conversation. She made me promise that I would not tell a soul of what she was about to share with me. I didn’t know what to expect at this point, so I made the promise as she proceeded to tell me of a dream she had.

She told me that she had this dream the previous Sunday and didn’t understand what it meant. It caused her to worry, which resulted in her being sick the whole week. In her dream, she said she was laying in her bed and a man came to her window calling her by name, “Sioana.” She said she looked at the man and didn’t recognize him, so she got out of bed and went to the window to find that the man calling her was her father, Sulivenusi Hafoka. He told her, “Come join the true church.” Grandmother couldn’t make sense of this and asked him, “What is the true church?” He answered, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. Then he walked away. My grandmother followed him because she didn’t understand his response of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, but wanted to know what this “true church” was. In her dream, she recalled that they arrived at a place that was not familiar to her. Her father stood on one side and her on the opposite side of the room. My grandmother said she saw a white cemented space, surrounded by pipes, with stairs leading into water. Her father told her once more, “Come, join the true church.” Grandmother said she asked him again, “What is the true church?” Her father answered, “The Mormon Church”, which is when she awoke from the dream.

While laying sick in bed, she wondered how her father knew that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the “true church”. He had been a minister in the Methodist Church and was very devoted to his faith. It didn’t make sense to her and she couldn’t understand the dream, in addition to that, she did not speak to others about it for fear that she would be mocked.

Tears of happiness rolled down my face while my grandmother recounted her dream. In my heart, I shouted for joy. I couldn’t help but think of the many prayers offered that night by our own families and many church members asking the Lord’s assistance for missionaries to find the honest in heart. I called my companion into the house and we knelt in prayer, giving thanks to the Lord for hearing and answering our pleas of assistance to further his work on the island.

My companion and I told grandmother of our goal, the plans we committed to carryout to achieve that goal, and the struggles that we had in the work. I told her that the place her father took her to in her dream was a baptismal font. We helped to answer questions she had about the church as well as questions she had about how her father had joined the Church even though he had already passed on. We shared the Plan of Salvation with her and our conversation turned from minutes to hours.

That day, brothers and sisters, my testimony was strengthened and I knew that we were not alone in the isles of the sea. Heavenly Father had heard and answered our prayers reminding me of the promise given by the Savior in the books of Matthew and Mark:

“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”.5

“What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”6

My grandmother was 77 years old when she was baptized on June 11, 1978. I was able to serve on her island for ten months. After being baptized and confirmed a member of the church, she remained faithful in attending her church meetings and received her endowments in the Tonga Temple in 1982. Some of her children were sealed to her and their father on April 6, 1982 in the Oakland Temple.

“Blessings require some WORK or EFFORT on our part before we can obtain them.” This experience required work and effort not only on our part as missionaries, but also my grandmother, our families at home who prayed for us and the members of the church who prayed on our behalf. We did not see blessings as an immediate result our efforts alone, but as the continuous and combined work or efforts of everyone involved in the work.

Prayer requires work and effort before we can obtain them – but is also requires us to align our will to our Fathers. When we do so, anything that we ask will be granted. Nephi son of Helaman was an example of this. The Lord told him in Helaman 10: 5, “And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to My will.”7

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The plan was to have surgery to remove the tumor, followed by 4 chemo sessions every three weeks and then radiation, five days a week for six weeks. Our children were ranging between the ages of 6 years to 15 years old. At our family home evening, my husband informed our children, that as a family, we would fast and pray before my surgery. At the beginning of our family fast, my husband offered a very simple prayer petitioning Heavenly Father’s help. As I listened to him, I felt the urgency of his petition. I knew that Heavenly Father was aware, and is still aware, of every cell in my body especially the ones that were cancerous. Believing in miracles and the power of the priesthood is important, but faith sufficient to accept the Father’s will was the most important factor in my surgery and recovery. I knew from this simple prayer, that Heavenly Father would give me the peace I sought and the courage I needed.

On the morning of my surgery, there were some procedures that needed to be done in preparation for my surgery. I was taken to the x-ray room where they injected a dye into the area where the tumor was so the doctor would have a clear view of it during the surgery. As I laid on the table with a machine hovering over my body, I glanced at what the technician was doing as she entered some information; after which, she left the room. I laid there and something told me to watch the monitor. When I observed what the monitor manifested, I could clearly see two tumors, one above the other. The technician came to check the monitor then left again. When I went back to the room to prepare for my surgery, I told my husband, who was waiting, “I saw two tumors”.

The surgery was performed and it took a while for me to come to, and when I finally woke up, my husband was upset. He expressed his concern and confusion because I was still asleep after the doctor came to check on me several times. He asked the doctor if she had removed both tumors and the doctor reported that there was only “one.” He then explained to the doctor that I saw two tumors on the monitor. The doctor reassured him that there was only one and I was discharged that night.

Four days later the doctor called me at work to explain the nature of the tumor. She proceeded to tell me that there was “good news” and “bad news” and asked which I preferred to hear first – I asked for the “bad news.” She apologized and told me that she didn’t review my x-ray on the morning of my surgery but reviewed the x-ray two days later and saw that there was a second “tumor.” I included my husband in the phone call and he firmly expressed his feelings with my doctor. I requested time to consider my options for the next step I would be taking for my treatment. After much thought and prayer, I requested an immediate mastectomy. Could this mishap have been avoided? Absolutely. Should I have let my husband express the anger he felt towards the doctor for overlooking the x-rays from the morning of my surgery? Sure! I could have, but I count this “mishap” as a blessing in disguise. I did not want to burden my family members in asking them to be my drivers to and from the hospital for my radiation, 5 days a week for 6 weeks, not to mention the expense of gas and then food to feed my drivers. The mastectomy eliminated my radiation treatment and prepared me for the same procedure and treatment to be done on my other breast, where a tumor would be discovered six years later.

We don’t always know why the Lord gives us specific challenges, or why He doesn’t take them away when we pray sincerely and often, however, we can be assured that He is in control. I do not believe that my illness was a punishment from God. Instead, this became a time for me to learn to trust and depend on Him and His Son. Regardless of the outcome of this dreadful disease, I am grateful that Heavenly Father has seen fit to test me with these challenges that seem perfectly custom-tailored to try my faith, my capacity to endure, and to help me grow spiritually, as He does with you and all of your challenges. In retrospect, I’ve learned how much God truly loves me by inventorying the petitions He had refused to grant me. Perhaps our tests are yet another chance for us to seek after Him and to come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Lord promised, “Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, their troubles and their afflictions and shall be lifted up at the last day.”8

I have a testimony of the power of prayer. I have come to realize my absolute dependence on the Lord and have more fully felt His love and mercy. I testify that God knows our names and so much more. He knows the intent of our hearts, our righteous desires, and our every pain. “He will lead you by the hand and give you answers to your prayers.”9 He loves us enough that He gave His Son as our Savior. By that gift He made it possible for us to gain immortality and eternal life. Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. The fullness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in this dispensation. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

[1] “Prayer”, Bible Dictionary, 752-753

[2] 3 Nephi 18:21

[3] Alma 29:1-4

[4] Alma 37:36-37

[5] Matthew 7:7-8

[6] Mark 11:24

[7] Helaman 10:5

[8] see Alma 36:3

[9] Hymn, 130