Prayer took on another dimension when, besides praying formally morning and evening, I felt prompted to set aside a time during the day to pray for special purposes. When first attempting this, I wasn’t sure what to pray for, but as I went through the motions of praying to the Father in the name of Jesus, the Spirit guided me and I knew what to petition for. As with Jesus’ disciples, “it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire” (3 Nephi 19:24). With the praying, in other words, came the desire to pray; and to pray for specific things.
How effective do we suppose our prayers are with God? Said Jesus, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6). Jesus added that prayers should contain the important element of our exercising faith: “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22). Knowing what to pray for, combined with “desire,” increased my faith almost to knowledge that my prayers would be answered.
All this process took for me was to overcome an initial inertia and make the effort. Didn’t many who took the time to pray earnestly see extraordinary results? Witness Nephi: “I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 18:3); “He hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me” (2 Nephi 4:23–24).
Jesus even gave us examples of what to pray for: “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed” (3 Nephi 18:21); “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37–38). Isaiah recommends a similar intercessory prayer: “You who call upon Jehovah, let not up nor give him respite till he reestablishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned in the earth” (Isaiah 62:6–7).
Like the brother of Jared, latter-day saints have been given too much not to offer intercessory prayers on behalf of God’s people of the house of Israel. After the Lord had chastened him for not remembering to pray for his traveling companions, “the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him. And the Lord said unto him: I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins; but thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man” (Ether 2:15).