Photo of young woman praying
Young Woman Praying by Peter Kratochvil.


Mighty Prayer Brings the Spirit

By Stephen M. Bird | January 30, 2012.   Print this Article

The term “mighty prayer” is used eight times in modern scriptures. [1] Our gospel doctrine class discussed it a little as we studied passages in the book of Revelation. I had introduced the lesson with a passage from Second Timothy: “This know also, that in the last days perilous time shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud,” etc. [2] I asserted that as more people in the world became wicked, the world would become more dangerous or “perilous”. Later, at home I received a Facebook comment from a friend in Arizona that seemed to confirm my belief. She wrote:

Three rowdy boys trying to run me off the road and then throwing a drink that exploded on my window is insane. They drove away like bats out of hell and even if I could of got their license plates, the police would never be there in time. Not feeling really safe in Phoenix right now…

These rowdy boys seemed to be “lovers of their own selves” and proud. If the number of people like them increases, then our world becomes more “perilous”. Conversely, if the number of people who are “humble followers of Christ,” [3] increases, then our world becomes safer.

“Perilous Times” Require Powerful Prayer

Maybe, when times are easy we can get by with routine or weak prayer, but when we face trials to our faith and challenges in our life; when we experience suffering or frustrated desires; then we might wish we knew how to offer something more than routine prayers.

In our class we discussed resources God has given to help us overcome evil in our personal lives. As we discussed prayer, I mentioned that I’d noticed a difference in some of my prayers. Sometimes I just “say my prayers,” but at other times my prayers seem more powerful.

Don’t get me wrong. I think even routine prayers are important. Certainly they are better than no prayer at all, for without any prayer, how then can our prayers become mighty? Each time we pray we have a chance to practice “mighty prayer”. Our real task is to learn about “mighty prayer” and how to do it.

Mighty Prayer

Just before our Sunday meetings began I had noticed a copy of the New Era on the Church library counter. It contained an article entitled, “What is Mighty Prayer?” I didn’t have time to read it before our class discussion, but I read it the next day and it seemed to clarify the distinction I was trying to understand.

Kersten told of receiving a phone call from a friend who described a “beautiful prayer experience.” “It was like real two-way communication with my Father in Heaven,” she said. “Heaven felt so close around me.” Kersten wondered if this was mighty prayer. She wanted to discover “what makes prayer mighty” and meaningful. [4]

Her experiments with praying amused me because I identified with them. Maybe you have too, i.e. praying in uncomfortable places to stay awake during prayer, or saying longer prayers, etc. Nothing worked until Christmas and then … Well, I’m not going to spoil it for you because I want you to read her story.

Prayer Changes Us

Distinguishing “mighty prayer” seems important to me. “In the movie Shadowlands, C. S. Lewis’s wife is dying of cancer and he prays fervently to God. She receives a remission from her cancer, and the Oxford chaplain is ecstatic, thinking Lewis has received the miracle he must have sought. But Lewis chides him, saying, ‘That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It [prayer] doesn’t change God. It changes me.’” [5]

Over time I am coming to understand what C. S. Lewis was saying; that prayer is really designed to change me. Because I believe that prayer changes me, by logical extension, I believe that “mighty prayer” must therefore change me more than just “saying my prayers”. In other words, mighty prayer, has more power to help me overcome sin and temptation. This is significant because Christ says in Revelation 21:7: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.”

In my teen years, I thought I knew how to pray. I knew how to address our Heavenly Father; how to speak civilly to Him; how to thank Him; how to ask for my desires; and how to close my prayer in the name of Christ. Even so, I’d had experiences with prayer that went far beyond these simple utterances and I knew that prayer, “mighty prayer,” had power to change my life.

Learning “Mighty Prayer” Takes Time, Patience, and Effort

In a worship service, a mother spoke about her young toddler’s communication difficulties. Her son struggled to express his needs to his parents. She compared her son’s learning to communicate to our learning to communicate with Heavenly Father. She said it was like learning a foreign language, which required “patience and effort.” Are our prayers empowering, inspiring and uplifting? If not, perhaps we need to learn more about how to pray mightily.

A Mighty Prayer Can Be Quiet and Short

The prophet Elijah challenged 400 priests of Baal to see whose God was most powerful. The winning God needed to consume the meat offering on the altars without any physical intervention from men. The 400 priests of Baal went first and prayed all morning. When Elijah mocked them, they prayed more loudly and frantically, even cutting themselves “with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.” They did this till the evening sacrifice, but they got no answer.

So Elijah took his turn. He had barrels full of seawater poured over the altar and offering of Jehovah until it overflowed into a trench that was dug around the alter to catch the water. [6] Then he prayed this short, but mighty prayer:

Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou has turned their heart back again. [7]

Notice what happened next:

Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. [8]

Yes, this depended on the Lord's will who directed Elijah to set up this test. It also depended on Elijah's faith and trust in the Lord. Learning to listen and hear the Lord's will would be important. It would also be important to learn to do the Lord's will. It would also be important to learn how to draw near to our Heavenly Father. Then our prayers would begin to really change our lives; to uplift us, empower us, and inspire us. Then our prayers would begin to be mighty.

This Story Helped Me Get It

Richard Anderson didn’t call it “mighty prayer,” but his story put me onto it. His story changed my life. He said he was a Bishop before he really learned to pray. [9] When I first read his story, I was a 26-year-old army sergeant stationed in Germany. My unit frequently went to the field, taking me away from my wife and son. I felt stressed and afflicted being away from my family. I began to pray the way Richard did and I received the same results.

I soon found a pen and pad of paper were necessary to write down the ideas as they came.

Like Bishop Anderson, I arose early each morning with “a chapter or two of scriptures to stimulate my thinking to some serious meditation, I found myself pondering the things of the Spirit until I felt I was ready to speak to my Father. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, I experienced the revelatory process Joseph Smith described, as strokes of pure intelligence entered my mind… I soon found a pen and pad of paper were necessary to write down the ideas as they came.” [10]

Like Richard, my family also benefited as I received “more inspired direction,” as love grew within our home, as I became more effective at work and in my church callings, as the scriptures opened new meanings to me. I too, found myself traveling “on a long and beautiful road that would lead to the fountain of living water—to Jesus, the source of all our knowledge, our faith, our truth, our being.” [11]

The two writers I mention suggest that this powerful, uplifting and edifying prayer is a daily possibility and they give sound ways for experiencing it. I liked these two stories a lot and I believe they are right. That’s why I’m sharing them with you. The more I review my life, the more it seems like “mighty prayer” has been the key to all the miracles and blessings in which I rejoice.


[1]Mighty Prayer” scriptures/search.

[2] 2 Timothy 3:1-7.

[3] 2 Nephi 28:14.

[4] Kersten Campbell, “What is Mighty Prayer?,” New Era, Dec. 2011, 6-8.

[5] Leonore Fleischer, Shadowlands (New York: A Signet Book, 1993), 198. Cited in Stephen M. Bird, Prayers That Bring Miracles (Murray, UT: Aspen Books, 1997), 160-161; emphasis mine.

[6] 1 Kings 18:17-39.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Richard D. Anderson, ““I Was a Bishop before I Really Learned to Pray,” Ensign, Mormon Journal, January 1976, 52-53. When you go to the January Ensign, to find this article, you must go to “Mormon Journal,” which contains the story. Also cited in Prayers That Bring Miracles (Murray, UT: Aspen Books, 1997), 65-66.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.




Like Richard, my family also benefited as I received “more inspired direction,” as love grew within our home, as I became more effective at work and in church callings, as the scriptures opened new meanings to me.

-Stephen M. Bird


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