The object of prayer should not be to present a wish list or a series of requests — but to secure the blessings that God is eager to bestow, according to His will and timing, said Elder David A. Bednar.
"Every sincere prayer is heard and answered by our Heavenly Father, but the answers we receive may not be what we expect or come to us when we want or in the way we anticipate," he said.
Speaking Sunday afternoon, Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve said simply saying prayers is quite a different thing from engaging in meaningful prayer.
"I expect that all of us already know that prayer is essential for our spiritual development and protection. But what we know is not always reflected in what we do. And even though we recognize the importance of prayer, all of us can improve the consistency and efficacy of our personal and family prayers."
Elder Bednar told Church members that, like Joseph Smith, they must ask in faith — "which I understand to mean the necessity to not only express but to do, the dual obligation to both plead and to perform, the requirement to communicate and to act."
When Joseph entered the grove of trees he focused not just on what he needed to know but also on what was to be done, said Elder Bednar.
"True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to righteous action," he said.
Further, he said, action alone is not faith in the Savior, but acting in accordance with correct principles is a central component of faith.
"Thus, faith in Christ leads to righteous action which increases our spiritual capacity and power," he said.
Elder Bednar said asking in faith requires honesty, effort, commitment and persistence.
"We properly pray for the safety and success of the full-time missionaries throughout the world. And a common element in many of our prayers is a request that the missionaries will be led to individuals and families who are prepared to receive the message of the Restoration. But, Brothers and Sisters, ultimately it is my responsibility and your responsibility to find people for the missionaries to teach. Missionaries are full-time teachers; you and I are full-time finders. And you and I as lifelong missionaries should not be praying for the full-time missionaries to do our work.
"If you and I would truly pray and ask in faith, as did Joseph Smith — if we would pray with the expectation to act and not just to express — then the work of proclaiming the gospel would move forward in a remarkable way....
"I testify that prayer becomes meaningful as we ask in faith and act. I invite all of us to pray with faith about our divinely given mandate to proclaim the gospel. As we do so, I promise doors will open, and we will be blessed to recognize and act upon the opportunities that will be provided."