Answers to prayer usually come in quiet ways to mortals through the mediation of the Holy Spirit and through the intervention of other mortals. There are times, however, when God chooses to do the unusual—to give visions or dreams, to send angels from the courts of glory, in short, to minister to our needs in truly spectacular ways. Nephi explained that on certain occasions God “hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the nighttime. 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).
An intensely personal experience my family and I had some years ago demonstrates just how thin the veil is sometimes. One of our children had chosen to separate himself not only from Church activity but also from family association. He became heavily involved with addictive drugs and buried himself in a hellish world that held out little hope for a return to normal living. Shauna and I prayed and wrestled and yearned for his recovery and return, but we heard nothing from him, and we were left to wonder whether our son was dead, imprisoned, or lost. No word had come in many months, and the burden of pain and awful anticipation of a notification of incarceration or drug overdose grew heavier each day. One night as Shauna and I knelt in prayer, broken and torn emotionally and physically weak from worry, we wept through our prayers and pleaded long and hard, once again, for the Good Shepherd to lead his wandering sheep home. We went to bed and slept from sorrow.
Sometime during that night I found myself dreaming. My father, who had passed away several years before, came to me in the dream, embraced me, and then looked me in the eye. He said quite forcefully, “Son, I want you to pull yourself together. I am going to help you with those children of yours. Be patient.”
I awoke and immediately sat up in bed. My sudden movement wakened Shauna. “What’s wrong? What happened?” she asked.
I explained that I had seen Dad in a dream and he had told me he would help with our wanderer. Shauna and I both wept as deep feelings of gratitude and reassurance flowed into our souls.
Days later the phone rang in the middle of the night. Our son said, “I just can’t live like this any more. Can I come home?”
We were so thrilled to hear from him, so grateful to know that he was still alive, that we felt no need to set the terms or specify under what conditions he could return. We simply welcomed him home with tender affection.
One evening a few weeks later, he and I were sitting on the sofa in the living room. He turned to me and said hesitantly, “Dad, I need to share something with you.”
I nodded and encouraged him to proceed.
He continued, “I know this sounds strange, but one night some time back, I was on the verge of doing something that would definitely have cost me my life when I heard Grandpa Millet’s voice say, ‘Don’t do that! You have been taught better. Now get up and go home.’ Dad, is that too weird to be true?”
With some emotion I answered that it was not and added, “Now I have a story to tell you.” I then told him of my dream.
We felt the Spirit of the Lord resting upon us and sensed that the entire experience was true and from God. We embraced.
My father was a wonderful man who loved his children and his grandchildren. He did all he could to assist us while he was alive. Without question, however, his greatest influence on my family—which, of course, is his family, too—has come since he passed through the veil of death and has been allowed to minister on occasion to loved ones.
President Joseph F. Smith, in a general conference address in April of 1916, made the following impressive and instructive remarks:
“Sometimes the Lord expands our vision from this point of view and this side of the veil, so that we feel and seem to realize that we can look beyond the thin veil which separates us from that other sphere. If we can see, by the enlightening influence of the Spirit of God and through the words that have been spoken by the holy prophets of God, beyond the veil that separates us from the spirit world, surely those who have passed beyond, can see more clearly through the veil back here to us than it is possible for us to see to them from our sphere of action. I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them.
“We begin to realize, more and more fully, as we become acquainted with the principles of the gospel, as they have been revealed anew in this dispensation, that we are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors, to our friends and associates and co-laborers who have preceded us into the spirit world. We can not forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory. . . .
“How much more certain it is and reasonable and consistent to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond and are still engaged in the work for the salvation of the souls of men, . . . can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. They have advanced; we are advancing; we are growing as they have grown; we are reaching the goal that they have attained unto; and therefore, I claim that we live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; they can comprehend, better than ever before, the weaknesses that are liable to mislead us into dark and forbidden paths. They see the temptations and the evils that beset us in life and the proneness of mortal beings to yield to temptation and to wrongdoing; hence their solicitude for us, and their love for us, and their desire for our well being, must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves.”
President George Albert Smith likewise emphasized that “those who are on the other side [of the veil] are . . . anxious about us. They are praying for us and for our success. They are pleading, in their own way, for their descendants, for their posterity who live upon the earth.”
Lead image from Pixabay.
We all yearn for regular, meaningful communication with our Father in Heaven. And because he knows and loves us perfectly, he has provided an amazing vehicle by which we can converse with him, a means by which we can tap the deepest wellsprings of his knowledge, comfort, strength, and love.
That divine process is prayer, and it can make all the difference in our lives. As author Robert L. Millet observes, "Rewarding prayer is more than ritual an repetition. It is heartfelt, substantive, the very doorway to pure religion."
In his insightful way, Brother Millet helps us understand the true nature of prayer and its power to refine us and bind us to the Source of all blessings. From preparing for this sacred communion, to having faith that our prayers will be answered, to what to do when we don't feel like praying or when no clear answer comes, to following the admonition to pray always, we find here inspiring direction for exercising the sacred privilege of prayer.