“He’s not able to come home,” my mom delivered the tragic news to us.
My dad had volunteered for a tour in Baghdad, Iraq in 2004. Thankfully, it wasn’t a combat position–he was a JAG for the Marine Corp (a lawyer) and his job would be to train Iraqi lawyers how to hold a fair court of law with due process. He was only supposed to be gone for 10 months. I remember that my bishop gave us a promise from God that he would come home safe and well. Of course, we were still nervous since the Embassy was being bombed often, but we trusted that God would return him to us.
However, during that 10 month period, my mom experienced some of the worst pain of her life. It had been little over 10 years since she had a radioactive surgery to kill a melanoma tumor in her right eye. But, the eye was finally dying. It caused her so much pain–her eye swelled, she barfed a lot, couldn’t eat much, had splitting migraines, and was in bed most of the day. As the oldest, I was given a lot of responsibility around home. But, to a fourteen year old freshman with three younger siblings and no father currently at home, it scared me.
That was the situation when mom told us that the General wasn’t going to let dad come home for another few months. One the one hand, it meant my dad was doing such an excellent job and was truly needed in Iraq. But, on the other had, we desperately needed him back. My parents tried to use my mom’s medical condition to persuade the general to find a replacement. It didn’t work.
So, my parents, half-way across the world from each other, prayed and fasted that the general’s heart would be softened. My siblings and I prayed every night and every morning for the same thing. After a month, it was to no avail.
But, we didn’t give up. Growing up Mormon, we had a strong testimony not only in the power of prayer and fasting, but also in community support. We told both sides of our family. We told our entire congregation. Working with our Bishop, we decided to try to change the wording of our prayers: instead of trying to have the General’s heart softened, to help a replacement for my dad be found, but let the Lord’s will be done. A special Sunday was chosen for the congregation and our entire extended family to fast and pray. We all trusted that the Lord would help my family.
Less than a week went by and we heard that a replacement had been found for my dad and he would be coming home within a month! My mother and siblings immediately knelt down and thanked the Lord for answering our prayer.
Dad came home, was able to help mom get back on her feet, and our family was whole again.
Even 12 years later, that experience of prayer is the strongest testament I have to the power that can be when we plead with our Heavenly Father. I truly believe that if our hearts and intentions are pure and good, and that we are humble, Heavenly Father will always answer our prayers.
Mosiah 9:18 (Book of Mormon)
And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers
Doctrine and Covenants 112:10
Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.
2 Nephi 32:9
But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.