In light of the events of my Norton cousins in the past few weeks, I, along with many other people I know and don't know, have been thinking much about prayer. Not just the idea of prayer, but what the action of prayer actually does, and how it is translated or understood between the giver, receiver and intermediary. As so many people, in so many places, of many different faiths were tangibly moved, I was also touched to feel the presence of a community of prayer and faith as baby Gavin's story unfolded. Throughout the past week, my thoughts returned many times to the first five months of my time as a missionary in Uruguay.

When I started out my mission, I imagined stories of glory and success, as I'm sure most missionaries do. However, the place I first arrived at was a far cry from any type of success. The ward was a bit in shambles, the leaders had left, there were lots of hurt feelings and Sundays were dwindling in numbers from about 80 people to 15. As missionaries, we worked so hard to rally people's spirit, to teach lessons, to pull things back together, but even the few remaining leaders were skeptical. Everyone was ready to throw in the towel. One day while my companion and I were studying, we started to talk about prayer. We read the story in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 27. In this chapter King Mosiah has a son named Alma who is going about destroying the church and being unkind and unruly. It doesn't say how long, but I presume for a long period of time, Alma's father and the people pray for him. An angel appears to Alma and says the following to him: (verse 14)
". . . Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith."

What I love so much about this story is the fact that a community of people had to come together with faith that something good would happen. It may have seemed like a vain or hopeless thing to pray for at the time, and many of the people in the community may have wondered why they were praying for someone they perhaps did not even know that well, but I love the phrase, 'the Lord hears the prayers of his people'.

So, as my mission companion talked about this scripture and the idea of prayer, we decided to try something in our little ward. We went around to each family and talked about this story and the power of prayer. Then, with the leaders, we set a goal in the ward to pray together at the same day at the same hour every week with a specific purpose in mind. We wanted to pray that our ward would be filled with more love and strength in the gospel and that we would be able to get through this rough spot in a small, Uruguayan's town history. As a last heave of hope the people in the ward agreed with enthusiasm and for months we all prayed at the same time every week. I remember getting teary-eyed every time we went to a family's house to have that prayer. The spirit seemed tangible and it seemed to be working with in us in ways we couldn't quite explain. It felt like we were being buoyed up or that our veins were being filled a hopeful potion. Things didn't get better right away, although in some ways they did. We just felt like everything was going to be okay, and that things were being taken care of for us in ways we couldn't comprehend at the time.

I remember my last Sunday there I sat with my back to the congregation as I was the designated, so-so, pianist. The song was "There is Sunshine in my Soul Today", and everyone, (probably about 40-50 of us by this point because some people had come back) sang with vigor and with a real hope and gladness. Perhaps not that much had changed, except in our perceptions of the transpired events and current situation, but in my memory, I remember it as something more. I remember feeling bound as a community, I remember feeling happy, I remember feeling that God must want us to pray together because it is one of the few experiences that transcends the difficulty of our earthly time.

I felt some of that same peace amid a storm in the past few weeks. So although I don't comprehend the sadness of my cousins, or the heaviness of losing someone in the same way, I am grateful that we had the opportunity, and continue to have the opportunity to pray together, to reach out in the most humble and human way possible to someone else.


Chelsea said...

I love that Ash! Thank you! Love you!

shelly said...

This is so insightful and beautiful. Thank you for posting it, Ashley.

david. said...

i'll echo the other remarks and say thank you. i don't pray very much these days and when i do it feels rehearsed. sometimes i feel like i need a reminder of how prayers are, in fact, heard and that i'm not doing it in vain.
love you, ashley.