Answers to prayers

"Please bless the poor and the needy, and the sick and the lonely. . . ."

How many times have we heard such petitions? Perhaps we've uttered the same requests or heard similar pleadings from children emulating others' prayers. Certainly, asking the Lord to pour out blessings upon others is a noble gesture. But do we ever think that it might be through us that the Lord answers some prayers?All around us, we see people with hands willing to serve, feet ready to run to the assistance of others. Some perform deeds grand and noble, others render service small and simple.

In newspapers and magazines we read often of people who risk their lives to save others: a passerby who jumps into a raging river to drag to safety someone who has fallen in; a neighbor who runs into a burning home to bring out a child or elderly resident; a rescuer who rappels down a steep cliff to help a fallen climber. Heroic deeds make headlines and bring recognition to individuals for selfless actions. Our hearts are warmed by such accounts.

But all around us others go out on quieter rescue missions. Their deeds don't make headlines, and they seldom receive any kind of recognition or reward. They perform the small, simple acts of service. They help with the routine, sometimes mundane, business of daily living.

One example is the Relief Society sister who, busy with her daily tasks, received a strong prompting to visit another sister in her ward who had been having some health problems. Putting aside her chores, she drove about 15 miles to the member's home and found her lying on the floor where she had fallen an hour or so earlier and was unable to get up. She helped the woman onto her bed, stayed until a family member arrived and periodically checked on her during the next few days.

Did this Relief Society sister receive any kind of public recognition for her deed? No. Was her service needed? Yes. "She was an answer to prayer," said the woman who had fallen. "When I fell and realized I couldn't get up and couldn't reach the telephone, all I could do was pray that someone would come help me." And someone came. A prayer was answered.

It would have been well and good for the Relief Society sister, in her prayer that morning, to have uttered the words, "Bless the sick and the needy. . . ." But how much better things turned out because she added action to her prayer!

Little things make big differences. A visit or telephone call can brighten the day for someone who is alone. A card, note or letter communicates that we're thinking of one who might otherwise feel forgotten. A small bouquet brings light and cheer to one who isn't feeling well or is sad or discouraged.

Years ago, members sang this musical admonition:

Go, gladden the lonely, the dreary;

Go, comfort the weeping, the weary;

Go, scatter kind deeds on your way;

Oh, make the world brighter today!

  • (Deseret Sunday School Songs, 1909.)

President Joseph Fielding Smith said: "Service in behalf of others is one thing required of every soul. He who is able but who will not serve his fellows in some way is not fit to have place among them. Serving others is its own reward." (General Conference Report, April 1966, p. 101.)

In the New Testament, James gives us this definition: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27.)

This scripture plainly teaches that we are to have compassion for others. Sometimes, we might become judgmental and excuse ourselves from helping others by pointing out that they have brought their troubles upon themselves. We should remember that the Lord commanded us to love - not judge - one another. (See Matt. 22:39.)

As we serve others we demonstrate our love for the Lord. King Benjamin said: ". . . When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17.)

Service through the Church, community, numerous local organizations and on our own goes a long way in blessing "the poor and the needy, the sick and the lonely." Every neighborhood, town or city has people who need help in one way or another. After we ask the Lord to bless others, let's look around and see what we can do to become answers to our prayers.

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