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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Having the Faith to Pray

"You'll Find a Way" by Terry O’Brien is one of my favorite stories in recent Ensign magazines. It's the tale of a soldier who was drafted into war shortly after his mission. He was worried about being able to keep his LDS faith and his practice of daily personal prayer in the intense atmosphere of military barracks. His bishop promised him that he'd find a way, if he exercised faith. Wonderful story of how one person's example can touch many others. It also shows how people who may seem like our enemies can be tools for miraculous good and may become wonderful allies with a little touch of God's hand.


Jared said...

This is a faith promoting story. I enjoyed the read.

I was in the same situation in the military. However, I hadn't been on a mission. I was doing my best to keep the word of wisdom and stay sober on the weekends.I was hanging out with the missionaries and trying to stay out of trouble.

I decided to pray in different ways so no one saw.I did attend all my church meetings.

Sunday morning I would be up preparing to go to church. In a barracks with 150 to 200 men Sunday morning, was at times, a sight to behold. Often there would be men passed out lying in their vomit. The southern states provided the soldiers stationed there with moonshine. It was a strong brew.

Off base there were many strip clubs--it was a decadent atmosphere.

I was the only Mormon in my group, that is, until one man who was very critical of me for waking him up decided to come to church with me. We almost got into a fight. I told him to get off of his lazy butt and come to church with me. To my surprise he did. He met with the missionaries and was baptized in a few months.

I don't think this story would make it into the Ensign magazine. However, I lived it and found out that missionary opportunities can be found in the most unlikely of places.

When I was in Germany and Viet Nam I found the same thing. In Nam I was called to be a military missionary by Elder McConkie's son, Joseph. The military provides unique missionary experiences, especially in a war zone.

Tracy Keeney said...

Great story Jared! I grew up Army and married Air Force, but we ended up having to get out on a medical, and we both really miss it. Military wards are AWESOME!
Thanks for linking the story, Jeff. One of the things I've really come to appreciate about my non-LDS friends, are the things THEY can teach US. Too often, we assume that WE'RE the teachers, but we can learn alot from them.
I've had similar 'prayer' experiences as the soldier, where I felt like I had to pray in "stealth mode". Just one example: I was singing and playing keyboards with a band. We were performing at a big extravangza at Virginia Beach-- thousands of people. It was very loud, there was another band on stage, finishing up their last song, people clapping, singing-- you can imagine the noise. We were behind the stage, getting ready to on and I was saying a pray in "stealth mode". None of the other band members were particularly "religious" and in fact were rather worldly. So before a show, I would actually keep my eyes open, focus on a spot or object, try to tune everything out and pray silently in my head. When another band memeber came over and started talking, I put my hand up to indicate "wait... just a minute". I finished up my prayer really quikly, and when I turned to him, he asked "are you zoning out?"
I said, "No, just saying a quick prayer." He said "oh-- well pray for all of us, we could probably use it."
At the next show, he actually asked me if I'd pray for us, and when I said "sure", he called everyone over, said I was going to pray for the group and they all bowed their heads. I was completely floored. From then on I sort of served as the band chaplin, so to speak. :) I'd been praying in stealth mode out of reverence for prayer. To me, prayer was something sacred, between you and God, and you don't do it in public where there's loud talking or music, you don't hold it up to be mocked or ridiculed. So I was trying to do it unnoticed. But in the process of trying to "protect" the sacredness of speaking with God, I was also assuming that my prayers NEEDED to be protected. And it turned out that in fact, they were appreciated and respected.

Alex Valencic said...

As much as I love faith-promoting stories, ones such as this always leave me with the same question:

Must we physically kneel in order to offer up a prayer to our Father in Heaven? I don't think so. I think that the Lord hears our sincere prayers, regardless of the form of them. If I utter a quick, sincere, "Oh God please help..." I am sure that the Lord hears and answers my prayers, just as he does for all others.

So why the fuss about kneeling to pray? It seems to me it would have been much easier to simply pray while lying in bed.

Tony said...

Wonderful story...happened to have it as a podcast on my Ipod...it should show us just how something as seemingly small as praying can change a whole atmosphere and people. "And thus we see that from small mean are great things brought to pass"

Tracy Keeney said...

Alex, it certainly isn't necessary for us to be on our knees. In fact, the vast majority of our prayers aren't.
Prayers over meals, prayers at the beginning and ending of meetings, etc are all said while standing or sitting. The prayers over the Sacrament are the only "public" prayers that are said while kneeling.
In fact, even prayers during temple ceremonies are said while standing or sitting. Surely, there isn't a "correct" position for prayer.
There IS a difference in "feeling" though, when you're on your knees. I guess it's mostly a psychological thing, but I know for me, the physical position of being on my knees automatically makes me feel more humble-- maybe because it's a physical manifestation of spiritual submission. There isn't a heavenly mandate for kneeling-- Heavenly Father doesn't NEED us to kneel-- but I think that often WE need it.
Maybe for this particular soldier, he felt a NEED to kneel.

Mormanity said...

No, we don't need to kneel to pray. We don't really need to close our eyes. But I think these things help in showing reverence and helping to focus. For him, it was a personal ritual that turned out to be helpful in catalyzing the event. Had it been me, I'd have just prayed quietly from the top bunk.

I'm glad he wanted to kneel each day and will respect his approach to prayer.

Jared said...

I agree, prayer doesn't always have to be on our knees. However, I think we would all agree, we need to experience answers to our prayers on a regular basis.

Fox said...

Anyone ever say a prayer while walking or doing some other activity? I have. In fact some of my most heartfelt and desperate prayers have been more like thoughts and intentions rather than audible pleas or ritual motions to imply reverence. Its what is in the heart that counts in my opinion. But bending the knee, folding the arms or hands, and closing the eyes not only shows reverence and humility to who you are praying to, it also induces a different state of mind/being that creates a more receptive or clear environment within. I mean chemically as well as mentally and spiritually. Some even say that it hollows or consecrates the area around you, and effects other people spiritually. You L D Saints recognize that as the Spirit I believe. I suspect that may have been the case with Tracy and how it affected his band members. Nothing wrong with either, but the latter is obviously more desirable... Im sure Alma chose to pray like that for good reason ;) btw I like what Tracy Keeney said about prayer, I think its mostly for us too.

Fox said...

er... I said Alma but I really meant Moroni, or whoever it is in that epic painting with the guy in the woods on the hill praying with a sword at his side and the plates on the ground. Such a focused and reverent expression on his face. That artist is just amazing =]