Prayer is obviously an important thing. Our ability to communicate with our Heavenly Father is such a precious gift. I’ve always been grateful for prayer, but my attitude towards and my gratefulness for this dialogue between me and the Father of my Spirit has increased so much with being a missionary.
I’ve always prayed. Ever since I was little, I was taught how to pray and knew what it was. Similar to most people, my attitude towards prayer has fluctuated throughout my life. I will go through periods of quick, mostly meaningless prayers and periods of more fertile prayers. This cycle of prayer draught/famine and abundance is common to most other principles of the gospel. It is part of learning, growing and becoming perfect.
On my mission, though, I have had to pray with much more real intent, much more earnestness than I have ever had to do in my life. I depend on the Lord for everything. We all do. We depend on the goodness of our Father for literally everything. But as a missionary, that becomes more obvious as we are engaged in trying to do His work. Without knowing His will, which we receive through personal revelation in part as a result from our prayers, we cannot do His work. I’ve learned what it means to cry unto the Lord and to plead with Him. There are many days where I seem to spend most of my time praying. Many days where I plead for His help and guidance to overcome my inadequacies and to tell me what I can do to overcome them and surmount the obstacles that stand in my way from serving Him fully and doing all that He has asked. I have literally cried to Him many times, overcome by discouragement, gratitude, disappointment, etc.
The miracle is, that He hears everyone. I mean that in a dual sense–He hears every person and He hears every prayer–the sincere and the less-so, the long and the short, the casual and the heart-felt. What is more, He answers them all and He answers us all. Not to be trite, but He often doesn’t answer them in the way that we wanted or expected, leaving us to assume that He left them unanswered. But He doesn’t. He does not ignore His children. I’m going to give two very different examples to illustrate this, both from the past couple of weeks. One is humourous, the other isn’t–but both were answered.
First. I believe I mentioned that I dropped my toothbrush down the toilet on the first of April. And how it disappeared. Like seriously disappeared. Despite our gloved hands reaching out and searching for it, it was gone. Except it wasn’t. It’s presence soon made itself known. In the form of a toilet that would no longer flush.
At first, it was only a little bit weak when flushing, but then it got worse. And then it stopped all together. Sister Abbott and I had to go to the Church any time we needed to go to the bathroom. Which was EXTREMELY inconvenient. So irritating. So I asked Elder Randolph if he would help me call a handy man, as I had no idea how to go about doing that, let alone being able to explain that my toothbrush had disappeared into the (bad pun coming up) deep dark bowels of our toilet. Elder Randolph agreed to help. On two occassions. But…he’s busy.
So I decided that I needed to just take matters into my own hands. So I bought a snake and an industrial plunger. I told Sister Abbott that I might be in the bathroom for a while. I put on our bathroom sandals, girded my loins (i.e. tucked my skirt up into my garments) and set to work. I snaked this way and that, to no avail. I plunged for over an hour, arms burning, past caring that our bathroom had turned into our own personal Sea World with me getting sprayed with toilet water. I poured dish detergent in and kept plunging, bubbles coming up and out of the toilet. Nothing. Still no flush.
I turned off the water and pulled out a wrench and some pliers. Disconnected the tank and started unbolting the actual toiled from the ground. I get to the last bolt–which is totally rusted and will not budge. At all. So I put it all back together again and resumed the plunging. Still no luck. Exhausted and discouraged, I call it quits.
And then, after all of this, I prayed. I said, ” Heavenly Father, I know that this is supremely stupid, but my toothbrush fell down the toilet last week and disappeared. I know that Thou already knowest this, but…I’ve tried everything I can think of, but the toothbrush is not coming out. And it’s not going down. Any suggestions? I really can’t think of anything else to do. Is it possible that Thou couldst just make our toilet work? We’re missing out on our study time becuase we have to go to the church bathroom and it is mostly just a hassle. I know it isn’t that big of a deal, but I would really appreciate it if Thou couldst just help our toilet flush. I would be so appreciative.”
I tried it again. Still didn’t flush. I honestly think that it was flushing worse. Went to bed a little bit discouraged. And having not gone to the bathroom.
Which meant that I woke up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom (sorry if this is too much info). And my sleep-addled mind forgot that the toilet wasn’t working. So I used it. And pushed down the handle. And fully woke up when it flushed strong and loud with a great rushing of water (I’m tying to make this a little more dramatic–just roll with it). It worked! And it has worked since. Without any problems. yes, it was a small stupid thing, but Heavenly Father heard. I could say that it was all of my plunging and the dish soap, but we all know that it was a loving Father who was mindful of one very stupid young missionary in Korea.
The second experience is of a more serious tone. So after, as I might have detailed in my last blog, being kicked out of our appointment with our Vietnamese investigator by her Aunt-in-law, we had not been able to meet. [Melina note: no, she did not mention this.] We showed up for our next appointment–no answer. We called her father-in-law (she doesn’t have a phone) but he said that we couldn’t meet that day. We called later over the next few days, but each time he told us that we couldnt’ come. We had to face the reality–we had been dropped.
We were devestated. Ramddeua wants to learn the gospel. She had been keeping all of her commitments. It wasn’t her who didn’t want to meet with us, but there were factors outside of all of our control. Our every prayer was for her and to be able to meet with her. I talked with our mission president’s wife about the situtation and she gave me some good suggestions.
Following her advice (on Thursday), I made a card for Ramddeua in Vietnamese about Christ and His Atonement as well as some scripture references for her to look up and some questions for her to answer. I then wrote the simplest (and, I am sure, most grammatically incorrect) testimony ever in Vietnamese. I prayed that we would be able to give it to her somehow.
Early Saturday morning, we got a phone call from our Bishop. Not really the kind of phone call missionaries want to recieve (even though we alwyas say that we are happy to help–which we are, just not at the cost of our study time)–someone in our ward was moving and we needed to help. But then, the answer to our prayer–the Sister who was moving some things was Ramddeua’s sister-in-law and the things that she was moving were being stored at Ramddeua’s house.
We went to help, and there was Ramddeua! She said that she was well. Her baby was as cute as always. Ramddeua’s smile was sweet and as shy as ever. When her father-in-law wasn’t looking, we gave her the message card as well as the Gospel Principles manual in Vietanmese. She was very appreciative.
I honestly thought that we might not ever see her again, but as I had been making the message card, Heavenly Father had spoken peace to my soul and affirmed that He is a just and merciful God and although His daughter might not be able to accept the gospel in this life, she most certainly would have the chance to do so in the next. And I had then – and still have now – no doubt that she will one day receive the ordinances she needs to return and live with our Father in Heaven.
So I gave her the card with hope but also a little bit of melancholy. But then she said something in her slow Korean. Just a whisper really, but something that further spoke to me of how our Heavenly Father answers His children’s prayers and will ensure that every righteous desire is fulfilled. Those words were, “Tuesday at two?” “Yes,” we said that Tuesday at two would be fine.
And then, same as always, she, her husband, and their son came to sacrament meeting yesterday.
My friends, I testify that our Heavenly Father lives and knows and loves us more than we can comprehend. I promise that you’ve never said a prayer in your life that He hasn’t heard and hasn’t answered in some way or other. He will not leave you alone to go through this life. He hears, answers and weeps with you. He rejoices with you and over you. He is your Father. You are His child. I promise in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, that He hears AND answers your prayers.