A few decades ago, religious leaders of many persuasions passed along to their congregations an inspiring story of a child who prayed with hope and faith.
The story, basically, was about a terrible drought. Crops dried up and livestock stood in danger of dying of thirst. In the midst of impending disaster, a humble minister asked members of his congregation to fast and pray for rain. The entire community was asked to join in a massive appeal to the Lord that, in His mercy, He would send rain. People gathered, joining prayers and hoping to pierce the heavens that seemed to seal life-sparing moisture from the earth.
Among them was one young girl who, in an act of sure faith, brought an umbrella. She was the only petitioner for moisture who was certain it would rain that day.
Numerous versions of the story about the girl with the umbrella have been handed down through the years.
It is a tender account of a child's faith. It reminds all what it means to pray with belief, to approach the Lord with complete confidence that He will satisfy our needs, whether we're praying for relief from a parched earth or hunger and thirst of the soul.
Declared Isaiah: "Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; …
"And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not" (Isaiah 58:9, 11).
What comfort we will find if we, like the girl with the umbrella, approach the Lord prepared to receive all the blessings He will pour down upon us in our times of need.
Speaking in the April 2003 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley encouraged Latter-day Saints to pray for many things. In part, he said:
"Pray for peace in the earth, that the Almighty who governs the universe will stretch forth His hand and let His Spirit brood upon the people, that the nations may not rage one against another. Pray for the weather. We have floods in one area and drought in another. I am satisfied that if enough prayers ascend to heaven for moisture upon the land, the Lord will answer those prayers for the sake of the righteous.
"Way back in 1969, I was in South America. I flew from Argentina to Santiago, Chile. The Andes mountains were dry. There was no snow. The grass was burned. Chile was in the midst of a devastating drought.
"The people pleaded for help in bringing moisture.
"We dedicated two new buildings on that visit. In each of those dedicatory services we pleaded with the Lord for rain upon the land. I have the testimony of many who were in those meetings that the heavens were opened and the rains fell with such abundance that the people asked the Lord to shut them off.
"Pray for wisdom and understanding as you walk the difficult paths of your lives. If you are determined to do foolish and imprudent things, I think the Lord will not prevent you. But if you seek His wisdom and follow the counsel of the impressions that come to you, I am confident that you will be blessed.
"Let us be a prayerful people. Let us bring up our children 'in the nurture and admonition of the Lord' " (Enos1:1) (Ensign, May 2003).
When there is a physical drought, countless people move into action: governments send aid, scientists advise on the best chances for crop development and survival, volunteers rush in to bring relief.
A more serious drought, that of the soul, receives scant attention in the media. But help beyond that provided by governments, science or manpower is available and far more effective.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke of having met a patriarch from the Tongan Island of Vava'u, which periodically undergoes severe droughts. "The island has long inlets or bays, almost like sounds, which curl into the island below steep hills. When drought conditions left the village without water, there was only one way they could obtain fresh water and stay alive. Over the centuries they had found that fresh water traveled down through rock formations inside the mountains and came up in a few spots in the sea," Elder Cook said.
The pariarch explained to Elder Cook that an older man who knew how to identify these spots would go out in a boat with young Tongan men, whom he would direct to dive deep into the seawater where they could fill containers with fresh spring water.
"This old patriarch likened this lifesaving tradition to the living waters of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the wise man to God's prophet here on earth," Elder Cook said. "He noted that the water was pure, fresh and, in their drought condition, lifesaving. But it was not easy to find. It was not visible to the untrained eye. This patriarch wanted to know everything the prophet was teaching.
"We live in a precarious time. The world is in desperate need of the fresh spring water, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should listen intently to the prophet as we make choices" ("Live by Faith, not by Fear," Ensign November 2007).
May we, in whatever kind of drought we face, ever look to the Lord to find relief.
Bringing last April's general conference to a close, President Thomas S. Monson said, "We live in troubled times. I assure you that our Heavenly Father is mindful of the challenges we face. He loves each of us and desires to bless us and to help us. May we call upon Him in prayer, as He admonished when He said, 'Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing — yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth" (Doctrine and Covenants 19:38).