Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Missionary Farewell Talk - “Heavenly Father Hears and Answers My Prayers”

Good afternoon brothers and sisters. My name is Emily Vance. My heart is so full, as it is finally my mission farewell, and my last Sunday before I enter the MTC to serve my Savior and the people of Teresina, Brazil. I am so grateful to have this opportunity today to share some of my thoughts and experiences, and my testimony of Jesus Christ. I pray that the Spirit will be with me.

Our Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. I have personal knowledge that this is true as I have seen absolute evidence of this throughout my life. My prayers have been heard and answered. I have prayed a lot in my life, for so many different reasons, and with many different levels of understanding. I don't remember exactly when this happened, but one day I figured out that prayer was not a negotiation process, but rather an alignment process. I realized that we don't move God to our point of view, and that prayer is less about changing our circumstances and more about changing us. It is about seeking Heavenly Father’s will for us and asking for His help to do what we need to do. When we align our will with His, answers and spiritual power flow more freely, and we offer up prayers of greater faith.

I heard a story many years ago that I have never forgotten. The story was about a terrible drought. Crops dried up and livestock stood in danger of dying. Due to this terrible disaster a humble minister asked members of his congregation to 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. All the people gathered, they joined prayers, and pleaded for the moisture they so desperately needed. Among them was one little girl who, in an act of sure faith … brought an umbrella! She was the only one that was certain it would rain that day.

This story is a great example of what it means to pray, believing; to approach the Lord with complete confidence … believing as well that He will satisfy our needs whether we are praying for relief from a parched earth or for hunger and thirst of our souls.

In Isaiah 58, Isaiah says: “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 you continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat they bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose water fail not”. I know that we can find comfort, like the little girl with the umbrella, if we approach the Lord prepared to receive all the blessings He will pour down upon us in our times of need.

I am so grateful that I grew up in a home and with parents who taught me to not only pray at a very young age, but that I could pray for anything … and that my Heavenly Father would hear and answer my prayers.

I've learned many things about prayer and my Heavenly Father throughout the years. I learned that it is important for prayers to be sincere and honest … and that pretending as a little girl to be afraid of the dark so I could sleep with my parents every night wasn't necessarily honest although sincere. I also learned that you don't just get Ugg boots when you pray for them, or anything else that ALL of your friends have … and that you just might end up with a cheap knockoff from Costco … but also that Heavenly Father always knows what we really need and what is best for our progression.

I also learned that the Lord answers our prayers in His own time and that maybe sometimes those prayers can even feel unanswered … so that we learn to put our faith and trust in Him and learn patience … like when my bed wetting prayers weren't answered until middle school … just another reason why my parents were praying so hard for me not to be afraid of the dark … that was a rough stage!

Elder Richard G. Scott taught that when the Lord answers “Yes” to our prayers it is to give us confidence. When He answers no, it is to prevent error. When He withholds an answer it is to have us grow in faith through Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. Sometimes answers to prayers are not recognized, because we are too intent on wanting confirmation of our own desires. We fail to see that the Lord would have us do something else. Sometimes it may not be that we are doing anything wrong; it may just be that we have not done the right things long enough. Sometimes we are confused because we can't take NO for an answer. Elder David A. Bednar said: “Our progress would be hindered and our judgement would be weak, if every answer was given to us immediately.”

There is a story told about a kindergarten teacher who walked around her classroom as the children did their artwork. She stopped beside one little girl who was concentrating VERY hard. “My, my, Chelsea” the teacher said. “You look pretty serious about your drawing. What is it?” Chelsea replied, “I'm drawing God.” The teacher paused and said, “I didn't think anyone knows what God looks like!” Without even looking up from her work, Chelsea replied, “They will in a minute.”

Chelsea had a point. It is our business to know God. As Jesus said in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, it is life eternal to know the Father and the Son (John 17:3). One of the best ways to know the Father and the Son is through prayer. Jesus Christ himself has promised, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you”. (D&C 88;63) There are no disclaimers or exceptions in His invitation. We are the ones who determine whether or not we find Him. The more we know about the Lord, the more we experience His mercy, devotion, and willingness to guide us even when we may not feel worthy of His direction, and the more confident we become that He will answer our prayers. I know that if we increase our connection with Jesus Christ, our testimony will expand and mature and we will begin to care more about life forever, than life today.

I love faith-promoting stories about children. I feel like I can relate to them so well because I remember the great faith I felt as a young child and how eager I was to believe. When I look back, I remember the powerful impressions and feelings that made me feel and know that I wanted to follow the Lord all of the way, every day. Somehow, I just knew that the gospel of Jesus Christ was the only way to find eternal happiness and joy. I learned quickly though, especially as I got older, that I had to choose this every day… through my actions. It hasn't always been easy and I am far from perfect, but I made eternal decisions and goals as a little girl in Primary that I have carried in my heart all of these years … like receiving my Young Womanhood recognition, going to college, making covenants in the temple, and serving a mission. These were seeds that were planted deep in my heart that never moved. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father, my Savior, and my parents for making sure those seeds took deep root, grew, and became real.

I am so grateful for the relationship I have with my Heavenly Father and Savior and for the powerful testimony I have gained of prayer and how it has helped me turn others to Christ. Years ago, I developed a very unlikely friendship with someone from my high school. He didn't have any friends that I ever noticed, and his story reminded me of the boy from the movie, “A Cipher in the Snow.” He was just a young man that everyone knew but nobody really saw. I knew that nobody really saw this child of God, and it made me upset. I decided that he was going to be my new best friend. I was so grateful that when he felt desperate or hopeless that he could always call me and know that I would always answer. In every conversation that I had with him I bore my testimony. I have helped him to understand that he is loved and that he has worth. I have taught him how to pray to the Lord and to understand that his connection with his Savior can be so much more vital than our connection. I have sent him a Book of Mormon that he has promised to read soon.

I am ready to find other lost sheep and turn their hearts and lives to Christ. I have been praying to have charity for the people of Brazil and I already love them so much. I can't wait to meet them, to look into their faces, and to really SEE them. I can't wait to teach the people of Brazil how to pray and then to actually be in their presence when they utter their first prayer. I know my heart will explode with gratitude to receive such a blessing and tender mercy. I can't wait to be set apart as a missionary, to be an ambassador and witness for Christ, to wear my badge humbly but proudly, and to teach all within the sound of my voice about Jesus Christ and His beautiful plan of happiness. I know that our Heavenly Father loves us, that He is always there, that we are never alone, and that He hears every sincere word and remembers and answers every sincere prayer.

MY MISSIONARY SCRIPTURE: D&C 16:6 “And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen.”

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