Intercessory Prayer

by Jen

By Howard Lemmon

As I looked at her, something remarkable happened to me. I did not simply see a woman hanging up laundry on a clothes line. I felt a desire deep in my soul to offer a prayer to God for her.

In April of 1976, after serving in Elmhurst, Illinois for the first three months of my mission, I got a call from president Christiansen. He told me that I was being transferred to Downers Grove. My new companion would be Elder Reese. The Assistant to the president then got on the phone and gave me the date and time of the transfer along with depot location and train number that would transport me to my new assignment.

On the day of the transfer, I boarded the Burlington Northern Express and was lucky enough to get a window seat for my short journey across town to a different suburban city of Chicago.

As the train went down the tracks, I noticed that much of the journey was across rails that were elevated above the natural landscape on an embankment built for the train to run on. From my vantage point, I could gaze out the window on my right and look down over the fence tops into the backyards of the suburban homes of Chicago.

Traversing the neighborhood, I found it interesting to see the scenery below as house after house went by. The train was moving slowly but methodically down the track. It gave me time to look at each home as we passed, but not enough time to study intimate details of any of them. Soon, they all began to look alike as they passed by one after another. As the reflection of each house swept across my eyeballs over and over again like a broken record, I became disinterested in the repetitious scenery. A glazed look came across my face as I stared out the window into a surreal world that’s meaning was more complex then I had energy to even try to understand. However, my mind was open and my spirit was ready to be taught.

Suddenly, we come upon a home with a woman in the back yard. She was hanging up laundry on a clothes line to dry. She went about her work totally oblivious to the massive commuter train that chugged by just beyond her property line above her fence. Obviously, she was conditioned to no longer hear the commotion that rumbled past her home at regular intervals during the day.

But something was different about this woman. As I looked at her, something remarkable happened to me. I did not simply see a woman hanging up laundry on a clothes line. Instead, I saw a person who was a wife to a husband, and a mother of several children. She was the matriarch a very real family who was giving her life in their service. Her role was of great significance, as her family relied on her for so many things. I saw someone whose needs and wants equaled that of the best of us. I saw someone who strove to cope with her trials and difficulties through each passing day that came and went like the houses I was watching. I saw a mother whose life revolved around the love of the family that she brought into this world.

As I looked upon her dutifully engaged in her labor of love, I felt a desire deep in my soul to offer a prayer to God for her. I prayed to God for the welfare of her precious soul, and that she would find great joy in her family.

As the train progressed down the track beyond her home, the woman faded from my view until I could no longer see her over the fence-tops. I took a deep breath, sat back in the seat and reflected on the marvelous experience that I had just had. I felt peace and joy and the love of God dwelling within my heart.

I have never forgotten that experience. It made a great impact on me.

Since the train ride that day so many years ago, I have made it a constant practice to pray for many people who I have known and not known.

Often I am sitting at a stop light on my way to work and look over at someone in the car next to me. They may strike me as needing a prayer. I give it to them.

One day, I was in the celestial room of the Los Angeles temple after a temple session. I saw a young man sitting across the way pondering intently. I felt he had come to the temple that day for a purpose. I asked the Lord to please bless him with the answer that he was seeking.

I like to pray for others. I feel good when I do. There aren’t many things in this world that make me feel good. Praying for others is one of them.

Intercessory prayer for others is a hallmark of the true disciple of Christ. Jesus himself set the example by living a life of praying for others. Jesus’s great intercessory prayer to the Father in John Chapter 17 on behalf of his disciples is a classic illustration of the love of God reflected in the prayers others. Therein he said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them which shall believe on me though their word, that they all may be one as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

The Book of Mormon as always gives us key examples of the true application of heavenly principles. The son of Alma and the four sons of Mosiah were recipients of the benefits of intercessory prayer. An angel of the Lord appeared unto them while seeking to destroy the church of God, and said “Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord has said: This is my church and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.”

“Behold, the lord has 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 I have come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.” (Mosiah 27:13,14)

Imagine that!! The prayers of a person can change the lives of others. Imagine the possibilities!! Imagine the power that you hold as an individual to influence the lives of others for good. It is no less then the absolute power or the creator of the worlds whom our prayers are directed to.

It may never be known in this life exactly what impact our prayers have had in the lives of others. However, we can know of the amazing blessings that will come into our own lives by practicing this principle. Amulek says in the book of Mormon, “Yea, and when you do not cry unto the lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.” (Alma 34:27)

We live in a universe governed by eternal laws which are immutable. One of these laws is the law of restoration. Alma, explaining this law to his son, said, “see that you are merciful unto your brethren: deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually, and if you do all these things then you shall receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.”

Not one prayer no matter how small goes unheard or unrewarded back to you. A lifetime of prayer for the welfare of those who are around you will bring so much happiness and joy into your heart that it cannot be measured.

Howard Lemmon is father to 5 great children, one of them being Jen of *Jen* Magazine. He is writing essays like this one as a way to record his personal history and pass his testimony on to his posterity. Read other gospel essays from Howard.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous July 6, 2007 at 6:25 pm

Thank you for such a wonderful essay. Prayer does work; it is a great tool in our life. Your words were very touching. Again, thank you.


Susan August 19, 2007 at 3:07 am

Thank you for sharing your dad’s story. It is so cool to know that other people are praying for other random people. My father was a Catholic and he taught us that whenever we hear an ambulance siren, that we should pray for the people involved – the victims of the incident as well as the workers trying to provide service to them. Very nice, also, to know that some random people out there are praying for me if I look like I need a prayer. Which is probably right after I roll out of bed and finish at the gym, but before I put on my makeup! ha ha


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