The Purpose of the Prayer Roll

February 15, 2011 | 50 comments
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Today I was sent a FaceBook request to join a “prayer chain page” to pray for a woman hospitalized in Texas. I don’t know the sick woman and only distantly know the woman making the request. A similar thing happens on some email lists. People post, requesting others to pray for someone they know but those on the list do not.

There are two things about this that strike me as being odd

  1. Given all the people I actually know who need help — on all different levels — it would seem a strange use of time (and spiritual favors?) to pray for people I don’t know at all.
  2. The implication is that the more people who pray for someone, the more likely it is that God will respond.

These thoughts led me to the prayer rolls. For those who don’t know, the prayer rolls are lists of names that are written down and placed on the altar during temple endowment sessions. The people named on the rolls are prayed for collectively during the session.

In order to place a name on a prayer roll you can:

  • Write the name on a piece of paper at the temple and place it in the box.
  • Call the temple in question and give the name (some have a dedicated line and voice mail where you can leave a name).
  • Call the general Salt Lake number and leave the name (800.453.3860).

You do not have to be a member to be on the prayer roll. Once a name goes on a prayer roll list, it stays for two weeks.

What are your thoughts about the purpose of prayer rolls? Does having lots of people pray for someone really help the person being prayed for? (If so, should you call as many temples as possible to get the name on many rolls?) Is this more to help us feel like we are doing something when we are unable to do anything else? Other ideas?

50 Responses to The Purpose of the Prayer Roll

  1. Julie M. Smith on February 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t know if I agree with it, but the argument could be made that the prayer roll is not a quantity-thing but a quality-thing; that is, prayers in the temple are qualitatively different (presumably in efficacy) than other prayers, or prayer chains.

    Another way to look at the prayer chains is that, regardless of potential efficacy increases, it would boost the spirits of someone to know that, say, 300 people were praying for them.

    I don’t know.

  2. Rob Perkins on February 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I think it’s all those things, and I think that the fact of the prayer roll in the Temple at least implies that the answers to your questions are yes, they really help the person being prayed for, and also simultaneously yes, they help us out of feeling helpless.

    I also think of it as a symbol of what Christ does, by interceding and praying to the Father on our behalf. In that sense we’re expressing a formal desire to be like Jesus.

    I call one temple, most of the time, the closest one, once, for the two-week period.

  3. Alison Moore Smith on February 15, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Julie, that’s an interesting idea, that temple prayers are higher quality than non-temple prayers. It’s a hopeful thought — with the idea that the more spiritually in tune we are, the more open God is to consider our requests — but also a discouraging one. My thinking is that the most desperate of situations (those most needing timely intercession) would usually be those where one doesn’t have the luxury of calling a temple and waiting for the list to by typed up.

    Rob, I have a hard time with the quantity issue. As if getting God’s help is a popularity contest or as if he can’t hear (or often chooses not to hear) the one voice. Any thoughts on that?

    I like your idea about modeling Christ. Just getting outside ourselves to pray for *others* has to be helpful — at least to us, if not to the subject of the prayer.

  4. SilverRain on February 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I don’t think that quality OR quantity of prayers makes them more likely to be granted.

    That makes them sound like a wish list, and the Lord as some kind of great Santa Claus who has to be persuaded to give us blessings.

    I always thought of temple prayer rolls as supportive. I know that when my name has been on a prayer roll (that I know about) I have felt the support and concern of others. And when I have prayed for those on the roll, I have felt bonded to them in suffering, even if I don’t know them or what their issues are.

  5. Paul on February 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I belong to an online group that from time to time will request prayers in behalf of one member or another of the group. It is a non-denominational group (we do not discuss religion), but we allow (and honor) these requests.

    I believe Julie is correct that it can be heartening to the subject to know that many people are reaching out in prayer, and that might strengthen the faith of that person.

    Elder Oaks taught that what matters in blessings (and therefore, I assume, prayers) is the faith of the person seeking the blessing and the will of the Lord. Given that, it is, I suppose, entirely possible that including someone’s name on the prayer roll in the temple is meaningless for a person who does not know it’s there or does not have faith for it to have effect. But if a person does know it is there, and does have that faith, the prayer roll prayer may be an act of faith just as the request for a priesthood blessing can be an act of faith.

    I personally have experienced and have known others who have experienced positive effects of being on the temple’s prayer roll.

    That God hears the prayers of many does not mean he does not hear the prayer of one.

  6. Anita on February 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Our prayer roll reminds me of the Wailing Wall–the western wall of the former temple in Jerusalem is filled with scraps of paper poked into every nook and crevice, where people have written prayers and put them as close as they could get to their God.

    I think it’s an aspiration, a focus. But I also remember reading in some near-death experience book how the woman saw prayers as light beams leaving earth, with different intensities and concentrations–and I like the idea of our strong prayers in the circle sending a powerful beam up to heaven.

    On a lighter note, some temples have a notepad so you can see what has been written before–I laughed to see the Utah Jazz listed on the prayer roll once :-)

  7. Gdub on February 15, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I’ve always seen it, like Rob, as a matter if intercession. I think the off-handed manner we dismiss the quantitative value of any given prayer is a bit neglectful of what scriptures seem to teach. The scriptures don’t present the Lord as a being that has to be persuaded to grant blessings, but neither do they point to Him as some sort of genie with infinite wishes.

    Instead, it seems as though God is bound by His eternal laws and principals; that thee are rules to this that qualify certain blessings. There mere act of anyone praying grants a certain type of blessing, but the quality and sureness of receipt may be reliant on righteousness. Otherwise, how are we to account for the fact that the homeless don’t simply pray food into their hands, while Moses prayed water out of rocks?

    I guess what I’m saying is that I think we confuse our inability and unrighteousness in judging who’s prayers ought to be answered with the Lord’s RIGHT to make that judgement. It doesn’t make the Lord partial, if only to eternal laws we just don’t grasp with our finite understanding.

  8. Suleiman on February 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Jews who visited the wailing wall used to pound nails between the stones. Today slips of paper are rolled and pressed between the stones. These slips of paper have concerns/prayers written upon them. They called these “nails in the sure place.”

    I think it was’is a means of casting one’s burdens down, probably inspired by Isaiah 22.

    Perhaps we should look at the prayer roll as a means of casting humanity’s problems, even our specific problems at the feet of the Lord, hoping for his atoning power?

  9. Alison Moore Smith on February 15, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    That makes them sound like a wish list, and the Lord as some kind of great Santa Claus who has to be persuaded to give us blessings.

    Of course, and we can kind of make fun of that or acknowledge that it’s true. Asking for blessings is a wish list. Sure, we can bracket the wish with “thy will be done,” but we’re still hoping for a particular kind of help or an answer or relief or healing.

    I don’t think it’s a problem to realize that we are wishing for such help. Rather, the problem comes when we belief God is a genie who must respond to our demands.

    I always thought of temple prayer rolls as supportive. I know that when my name has been on a prayer roll (that I know about) I have felt the support and concern of others.

    I agree with this, but (as you note) this would require the person on the roll to know about it. So, if they don’t know, then it doesn’t help?

    A couple of weeks ago, when my husband was playing at church, another player collapsed on the basketball court. Our stake fasted and prayed for him the next Sunday — while he was in a coma. Could this have helped him given that he didn’t know?

    And when I have prayed for those on the roll, I have felt bonded to them in suffering, even if I don’t know them or what their issues are.

    I have to say that, honestly, I don’t feel this way. It’s probably just thoughtlessness on my part, but I don’t really know how to be bonded in suffering to someone when I don’t know what’s going on. I do think about those I know who are suffering or those I might have placed on the rolls myself. And sometimes I wonder who else is on there, and pray silently that they might have help.

  10. Alison Moore Smith on February 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Paul and Anita, thanks for the thoughtful input.

    Gdub:

    I think the off-handed manner we dismiss the quantitative value of any given prayer is a bit neglectful of what scriptures seem to teach.

    Gdbu, what do the scriptures teach about numbers of people praying about an issue? I didn’t mean to be dismissive of the idea, but the implications are problematic to me.

    rules to this that qualify certain blessings

    What rules are you referring to? I’m always stuck by the always-necesary-caveat of “if it’s the Lord’s will.” Hard to measure results when you’ve got a looming unknown like that. :)

    Suleiman, good insight. Maybe that’a s big part. Here’s my concern, Lord, I give it to you to carry.

  11. SilverRain on February 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Of course, and we can kind of make fun of that or acknowledge that it’s true. Asking for blessings is a wish list. Sure, we can bracket the wish with “thy will be done,” but we’re still hoping for a particular kind of help or an answer or relief or healing.

    I don’t think “thy will be done” should be a bracket. It’s an attitude. I don’t think that praying or asking for blessings should be a wish list at all. And by subscribing to the belief that more or better people=greater prayer efficacy you are also subscribing to the belief to some extent that God is a genie or input machine. That if we follow his rules just right, we get blessings. On a superficial level, that is true . . . but I don’t believe that is the real purpose of prayer.

    So, if they don’t know, then it doesn’t help?

    Maybe not them, but it helps us.

    Prayer is not for God. It’s for us. And it’s not to fulfill our desires, it’s the process by which we bring our wills in alignment with God’s will. When that is a cooperative effort, we are also unifying ourselves with each other. I think that is an important concept to understand in temple worship, especially.

  12. Paul on February 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    #11: SR: “I don’t think “thy will be done” should be a bracket. It’s an attitude.”

    Yes.

    After forty years of church membership and a half-century of life, I realized that I needed to pray differently. I had long prayed my wish-list and tacked on a perfunctory “thy will be done”. A series of heart-wrenching experiences in my life helped me to learn (with the help of a few trusted family members and friends) to pray to seek His will, rather than to deliver my wishes.

    That said, sometimes, I AM in need of a particular blessing, and sometimes people I love are also. And in those times, it may be appropriate for me to add my name or theirs to the prayer roll at the temple.

    Temple prayer has many purposes. One is for the education of the participants, and one is for the blessing of the participants and one is for the blessing of the subject of the prayers (including those on the prayer roll).

  13. kevinf on February 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    These are really important and complex questions. My initial reaction is that the quantitative aspect is questionable, implying that if we bother God often enough, by enough petitioners, he eventually will tire and be willing to grant our requests to get us to stop annoying him. That’s a simplistic analysis, but I think it points in that direction.

    I like Suleiman’s comment:

    Perhaps we should look at the prayer roll as a means of casting humanity’s problems, even our specific problems at the feet of the Lord, hoping for his atoning power?

    If there is any value in the prayers of many, it may be that many have humbled themselves to be willing to accept the will of the Lord, and casting our burdens down in faith.

    As to the qualitative aspect, I do believe that our prayers are more effective when we are in the right frame of mind, and being in the temple certainly helps.

    There is a powerful passage in Orson Scott Card’s Folk of the Fringe, in which a resurgent Lake Bonneville has flooded most of the Salt Lake valley, leaving only the spires of the Temple above the water at Temple Square. Treasure seekers, looking for rumored “Mormon Gold,” use diving equipment to enter the temple. They find no gold, but they find at the bottom of one of the flooded spires a large pile of flattened tin cans, with names enscribed on them, dropped into the waters by faithful Saints in absence of the regular prayer rolls.

  14. DavidH on February 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    It would be interesting to know the history of the prayer roll–whether if at the beginning the persons prayed for were mentioned orally by name in the prayer, and if the paper list came about because it was impracticable to read a long list of names.

    I think there is power in symbols and rituals. (I too am a member of nondenominational prayer list/group (at work–members of the group are called the “prayer warriors”)).

    I think there is a symbolism (and a power) to self, to the person prayed for, to his or her family, and to God, that individuals are taking time to request that God’s loving and compassionate will and blessings be upon people, even people who we may not know personally.

  15. Gdub on February 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Alison, those are some good questions. I can’t believe I left you without actual scriptural examples.

    D&C 45:3-5 gives us a scene of Jesus supplicating the father on our behalf. He presents himself as somebody “who did no sin, in whom [God] wast well pleased”. Thus, the Savior seems to be using His obedience as a means to obtain a blessing from the Father. It’s interesting that he doesn’t try to convince The Father based on the worthiness or merit of mankind, but on *His* perfect obedience. It seems Christ is giving an example of the efficacy of His pleading over ours. That blessing, BTW, is His grace and salvation for those who believe on Him.

    Mosiah 11:23-25 gives an account of Abinadi delivering a message from the Lord. The Lord informs the wicked people that He will not hear them unless they repent:

    “…except they repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord their God, I will not hear their prayers, neither will I deliver them out of their afflictions…”

    Thus, their access to God via answered prayers is made conditional on their righteousness.

    D&C 130:20-21 teaches that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated”. In other words, you can pray as hard and fervently as you wish, but unless you’re obeying the laws upon which those desired blessings are dependent they’re not going to come.

    I hope those scriptures provide a little background to my previous statement.

  16. Gdub on February 15, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    “I don’t think “thy will be done” should be a bracket. It’s an attitude. I don’t think that praying or asking for blessings should be a wish list at all.” —SilverRain

    I think that’s a very important concept to note. Prayer is certainly a dialog with the intent that we come to understand God’s will. Would it be inappropriate, though, to assume that part of that enlightenment means an acquisition of knowledge of correct principals and laws which, if lived, may open doors to previously witheld blessings?

    Think of gravity. Before modern flight, it could’ve been easy to believe that attempting to soar through the air was hubris. But, once the law of gravity is properly understood, it can be applied to provide lift to wings, and thus used for our benefit. I think gospel laws and principals are a lot like that, and as we come to understand them, we can make use of them to achieve heretofore unknown blessings.

    That said, we can’t turn this process into some sort of scientology-like system of degrees. It’s not really systematized, but is an organic process that requires lots of introspection and casting away of ungodliness.

  17. Alison Moore Smith on February 15, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    To clarify, my use of the term “bracket” wasn’t mean to sound flippant, just to indicate that we can *explicitly* enclose the request in the context of God’s will being done. (Most often in public prayers I hear this assumed rather than said. In addition, I’ve noted over the past decade or so that about a third of the time temple prayers don’t even have the explicit mention of God’s will.)

    Silver, you bring up some good points and questions. I don’t have answers. If you don’t think praying for blessings is a wish list, well, then you don’t. I don’t know how it’s not one.

    I agree that you should pray for his will to be done, but that’s not what I’m talking about. And that’s not the *only* thing we should pray for that. (You know, the search out in your minds stuff.) When we ask for a blessing, it’s generally not “Please give me whatever blessing you think is right.” (Although that, too, could be a wish list.) It’s usually, “Please heal my son.” or “Please help me find a job.” or “Please help me pass my test.” or “Please help me find Grandma’s birthdate.”

    I recall the Lord’s Pray.

    • They will be done
    • Give us this day our daily bread.
    • Forgive us our debts
    • Lead us not into temptation

    Wish list with the prayer that God’s will be done.

    I recall Jesus’ prayer in the garden:

    • Remove this cup from me
    • Thy will be done.

    Here’s what I’d like, but if that’s not what you want, so be it.

    And by subscribing to the belief that more or better people=greater prayer efficacy you are also subscribing to the belief to some extent that God is a genie or input machine.

    Thus the question. So why do we have prayer rolls?

    So, your position is that prayer is solely to align ourselves with what God’s will already is and to help us feel for others. Is that a fair statement?

    I can see prayers working that way. But, again, I’m left wondering how prayer rolls help, given that we don’t know who’s on them or what their situations are. How do prayer rolls help us align our will with God’s or to feel for masses of unknown people?

    Paul, thanks for the comments. I agree, as you said, that often we need to pray differently…BUT sometimes we have specific needs. In my experience, when people put a name on a prayer role, it’s not because they hope the person “can get what God wills” but because they have a specific problem.

    Isn’t God’s will a forgone conclusion? I’ve assumed that this addition to our prayers is more along the lines of “I understand that your will trumps mine and I can accept it even if it’s different from mine” than “well, but if you MUST have your way, I’ll let you.”

    kevinf, that’s a great insight. Maybe many being willing to humble themselves and ask God’s help does have some impact. Love Folk of the Fringe, thanks for the reminder.

    DavidH, I’d be interested in that as well. Thanks for commenting.

    [P.S. I don’t know why the comment CSS is formatting regular unordered lists like that.]

  18. DavidH on February 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    In a sense, the prayer roll is similar to other work we do in the temple. Many times, I perform an ordinance for a person who is not a relative (apart from the fact that all of us our brothers or sisters). And even when I perform an ordinance on behalf of someone who is an ancestor or relative, it is a person I have never met and usually know very little about. When Jesus said that we should love not just our friends, but those who we might consider enemies, I think he also may have meant that we should love not only those we know, but those we do not know as well. Just as doing an ordinance on behalf of an unknown person is for our benefit and theirs, perhaps praying on behalf of a person whom we do not know (or even know their name or identity) also is for the benefit, in some transcendant (or even immanent) way for us both.

  19. Polly on February 15, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    My husband and I were just discussing prayer rolls the other night. It’s not just the number of people praying but the faith of those praying and those who are being prayed for in the temple. In the bible dictionary it says, “Prayer is a form of work.” It shows the Lord how important something is to us. Prayer is also supposed to bring us into a greater understanding of the Lord’s will for us, it is not about changing His will to what we want. The more we pray, the more we should understand the Lord’s will; so maybe the prayer roll is more about all of us coming closer to what the Lord wants for each of us through our faith than it is about praying for a specific answer.

  20. just me on February 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I think prayer is largely for the prayer. It helps us develop our relationship with God.

    My mom was diagnosed with cancer and I prayed that she would be healed. She died and I learned that my prayers were answered in a different way. Rather than my mom being healed, my siblings and I were given the peace, love, strength and help we needed to deal with her early death.

    Just because we ask for a specific thing and that thing isn’t granted, doesn’t mean that the prayer wasn’t heard and answered. We were given what we really need to survive and even progress.

    I believe that when I ask Heavenly Father to bless a friend or someone on the prayer roll He will send an extra measure of comfort to that person. And maybe it’s good for me because I learn to care for other, mourn with those who mourn. I learn to trust God by praying to him.

    Being merciful, I believe that God also sends comfort and help to those who don’t have a lot of prayers being said for them…

  21. Ken on February 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    As someone who was recently diagnosed with a stage IV cancer and am in a terrible battle with it, I have been humbled to have friends put my names on prayer roles at several temples worldwide, sometimes multiple times. I find this a source of strength to me. But after hearing and reading Elder Oaks’ talk in October 2010 GC (which I think is a fairly significant departure from traditional LDS thinking) about healing, I have wondered about he mechanism of prayer rolls. If I was not aware of my name having been put on these rolls and thus could not exercise faith in it, would the effect be lessened? Is the mechanism of temple prayer rolls different than priesthood blessings of healing? And given that those who pray around these rolls do not know the specific names involved, they can exercise faith generally, but not usually in a specific way. It seems as though the mechanism of prayer rolls must be our belief in intercession.

  22. Naismith on February 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Wanted to get back to the idea of praying for someone you don’t know at all. I think there can be great power in that. Because if you pray for a job or your son to be healed, then you get to enjoy the job and healthy son. But praying for a stranger is pure charity.

    My baptist sister spent time in Bosnia when the wounds of conflict were still fresh. They walked around an assigned section of town, and stopped at every block, to pray for the people who lived on that block, that they would find enough to eat, be able to sleep, have some joy in their lives. And then moved to the next block and prayed for those people.

    I have been cringing a lot the last 10 years, because of prayers for our servicepeople fighting in Afghanistan/Iraq. It seems very ugly and self-serving, failing to acknowledge that the people in places we are invading are also children of our same heavenly parents. I think such prayers should be for ALL who are in the path of armed conflict, whether in uniform or not.

  23. Bill Paternoster on February 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    As a stake president I would discourage forwarding emails to pray for people.

  24. Alison Moore Smith on February 16, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments everyone.

    DavidH, that’s what I’m trying to see, what the possible benefit for the person being prayed FOR would be.

    Polly, you seem to think that the numbers DO matter. So if we show the Lord (by our numbers) that a particular person is really important, he’s more likely to listen? That’s what this seems to imply to me, but I find it troubling.

    Just me, your idea is that being on the prayer roll give “extra” comfort to the person being prayed for? But if he does the same for those not being prayer for, what’s the point?

    I assume that being on the prayer roll MEANS something, that it’s different from NOT being on the prayer roll, but any way I slice it, it doesn’t quite make sense — or at least doesn’t seem fair. (Not that much is fair anyway, but…)

    Ken, I’m so sorry to hear what you are going through. Thanks for your thoughts. Those questions are mine as well.

    Naismith, I really agree with that. As was said above, praying for someone we don’t know can help us be humble, faithful, redirect outwardly, change perspective. Those all seem reasonable to me. It’s the other end I can’t make much sense of.

    Bill, most of the prayer chains and prayer requests I get are not from other Mormons, although the one that prompted this post was from a Mormon about another Mormon.

    But why would you discourage that? What harm could come from asking someone to pray for a loved one?

  25. Alison Moore Smith on February 16, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Sorry, Bill. I didn’t recognize you. Poser. Go get a real hobby.

  26. Cameron Nielsen on February 16, 2011 at 2:33 am

    I think it’s established doctrine that both the quantity and quality of people appealing to God for a particular righteous desire affect his willingness or the likelihood that it will be granted.

    God reasons with us according to our understanding, and allows us to explain our desires and motivations when asking for blessings.

    When God told the prophet if he could find X number of righteous people, the city would be saved, etc. so clearly quantity and quality can have an effect on his decision, depending on the situation.

  27. DeeAnn on February 16, 2011 at 6:26 am

    I don’t know why or how the prayer roll works, I just know for a fact that it does. I don’t know why or how having multiple people praying for someone works, but it does. At the very least, if you don’t believe it works, it can’t hurt. I would never discourage anyone from praying for another person, ever.

  28. DeeAnn on February 16, 2011 at 6:29 am

    And I would just add, that we need more prayers in this world, not less. People shouldn’t be “coerced” into praying for someone, which I think might be the feeling when you receive a prayer chain letter or something to that effect. But a sincere request for prayers if you feel so inclined is always welcome in my book.

  29. Jeremy on February 16, 2011 at 9:27 am

    It’s been briefly touched on by a few commenters here, but I believe the prayer roll is directly connected to the combined faith of those around the altar in the temple. We learn in Lectures on Faith (and in the Bible dictionary under “Faith”) that faith is not only a principle of action but a principle of power. Our righteous use of faith can generate miracles – even the healnig of the sick.

    James teaches us that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up” (James 5: 15). Whether the people around the altar actually know the people on the prayer roll may be irrelevant since it is their faith that matters, not the intimate knowledge of the afflicted.

  30. Forrest on February 16, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Great comments, all. As for numbers, it seems, if I remember correctly, that Alma the Younger was blessed because his father’s prayers were joined with those of the church.
    We are taught that God knows what we are going to ask for before we do. In many cases we are inspired to pray and often given the words for that prayer. For those of you who know, remember the name of the occasion in which the names on a prayer role are mentioned.

  31. SilverRain on February 16, 2011 at 10:07 am

    “When God told the prophet if he could find X number of righteous people, the city would be saved, etc. so clearly quantity and quality can have an effect on his decision, depending on the situation.”

    Not clear at all. God already knew the outcome of Abraham’s search. The search wasn’t for God. It was for Abraham.

    I think the prayer rolls work because we, as imperfect mortals, are uniting ourselves together. There is power in faith, but it is not the power to change God’s mind, it is the power to change us.

    I think one of Polly’s comments is on the right track: the numbers matter, not in the sense of ++people=++likelihood of the granting of blessings, but in the sense that the more people pray for something, the more participants are unified and opened to the power of heaven.

    Temple prayer is another step to this same concept, and if I ever meet with any of you in the Celestial Room, maybe I’d feel freer to go into it more.

    I don’t know how to explain what I understand any better than that.

  32. Paul on February 16, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I like David H (18)’s view about the relationship of temple prayer to other temple ordinances performed on behalf of others.

    Although I also raised the question about whether the temple prayer is effective for those who do not know about it, I still list people on the prayer roll without telling them.

    I agree with SR’s view (as in 31 and other comments) that we are likely not “swaying” God with our prayer, but that does not mean we do not pray fervently. We are taught to pray always and be believing, and the Savior taught regularly that someone’s faith made him (or her) whole.

    I am reminded in discussions like this one of the healed blind man in John. When asked to judge whether the Savior was a sinner, he said, “I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). As it relates to temple prayer (and many things) I do not know how it blesses us exactly, but I know it has blessed me.

  33. Bronwen on February 16, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I feel when I pray that I am a co-creator with God. There is this river of Love and I am pouring my personal Love into it. When the spirit tells me what to pray for- I am really helping- really being His hands in this realm. There are studies that show those that are prayed for without knowing are statistically advantaged. When I align myself with God my own divinity becomes clearer- the beam of Love is expanded on earth. Prayer works- it is Real.

  34. Angel Chick on February 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I know my name has been added to a prayer roll, however at the time I was unaware. I was praying for an answer to a medical problem that was getting worse and stumping the doctors. As I prayed before another Doctors appointment I felt my answer was many have joined you in your petition and you will receive your answer. Let me state it was not the answer I wanted. I thought if we knew what was wrong I could be cured. My answer was You have Multiple Sclerosis it has no cure. On my 3 hour trip home from the Md. I stopped and gave thanks for the unknown many who had petitioned on my part. I will admit I have often prayed for folks I do not know such as those in Egypt this past month or Tibet. I know that I am not alone in my prayers as I have added these to the prayer rolls. I believe that praying for and individual or many who are unaware of my prayers becomes known to them as mine was. Yes we all are blessed by pray and it has strength whither it is alone or many.
    I know that I am aware of others by listening to the spirit as I pray and this gives me a leap of faith I did not even know I was lacking. So from the receiving end of pray (not known) it is beneficial for me and hopefully for the ones praying.

    To end this in the most simple way I can, please add me to your prayers and I believe you will be adding strength to me as I attempt to be more caring of my fellow man. I pray for the ones who need more than I so that they may also feel the spirit in their times of need.
    May God bless each of you and answer your prayers. Angel

  35. Gdub on February 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I just found a great scriptural example of the “prayer roll” concept in 3 Nephi 18:23-24

    But ye shall apray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name. Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed

    It would be irreverent to go into a fully detailed reason of many of the ways which this could be an interpretation of the prayers conducted in the temple, but it seems that part of the reason we do it is because Christ desires us to participate in the role of being a mediator. Thus, prayer in the temple, on behalf of others, is a way in which we can petition the Father on their behalf to grant blessings based on our faith, just as Christ did on our behalf. Thus, it teaches us to become more like Christ, and it brings blessings to others.

  36. anonymous on February 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    When I’m having difficulty with a person often the only way I can bless their life is by placing their name on the temple roll. Then I know that spiritually the problem will eventually be worked out for the best. In the meantime, while I am hurt, angry, or perplexed about how to handle the situation, others can be praying for them, too. I believe this is a wonderful, healthy, helpful way to overcome serious relationship problems.

  37. Ken on February 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Great comments. I think it’s hard to separate the prayer roll from the circle we form around it when we pray in the temple. And like one of the other posts says, I have been in such circles when the officiator specifically prayed for “our service men fighting for our freedom in Iraq (or Afghanistan)”, and I cringed, thinking of the pretenses on which the Iraq war was based, the enormous cost in civillian deaths, etc. Sorry, that’s my $0.02 worth. Those kind of experiences make me question the assertion that temple prayers are necessarily of higher quality than those offered in church. My understanding is that the officiators are not given a script, yet it seems like most of the prayers in the temple I go to sound almost identical.

  38. Cameron Nielsen on February 17, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Ken,

    I think that Heavenly Father probably ignores sincere and/or misguided remarks in our prayers, even temple ones. I don’t believe that such things diminish the overall quality of our prayers, especially for something as complicated as wars and rumors of wars. I honestly don’t think any of us can assert we know enough about that situation to fully understand it.

    God has allowed horrible things to happen to countless people all the time. Satan inspired the hearts of leaders to initiate world wars, but God seems to turn that towards good. I think that in some cases, has included US occupation and involvement in other countries affairs, however imperialistic and misguided they may have been. Not in all cases, but some.

    Secondly, the quality I’m thinking of with regard to temple prayers relates to the obedience and heart-felt desires of those in the circle, not really to the audible words of the prayer at all.

  39. Alison Moore Smith on February 17, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Can’t spend time to respond tonight. Just wanted to say I’ve been reading and really appreciate your thoughtful responses and the different ideas you’re presenting. :)

  40. Cameron Nielsen on February 17, 2011 at 1:09 am

    I’d like to say this is my favorite thread on T&S in a while. I look forward to more posts that deal with sharing spiritual intelligence and knowledge we’ve acquired. The intellectual ones are interesting, but I want to be edified when I come to T&S like I am by lots of these comments. I know a post creator can’t really cause something like these comments to happen, but I’m they happened this time.

  41. Alison Moore Smith on February 17, 2011 at 3:29 am

    Nice comment, Cameron. Thanks. You can always count on me for the non-intellectual posts! :-D

  42. StephenT on February 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    In regards to the above phone number for the prayer roll, that number is the church operator, not a specific temple. You can use that number to reach the Salt Lake Temple. If an operator answers, just ask for the Salt Lake Temple Prayer Roll. If you get the automated system, the extension is 2-2685.

  43. Mr Q&A on February 18, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Long time reader 1st time commenter on T&S

    I’m interested in the history of the prayer circle, (were names of the sick always placed on the alter?).
    I understand the sick used to visit the temple for official blessings of healing. I wonder if this is a modern administrative adaption, sending in your name has the same effect as physically recieving a blessing within the walls of the temple?

    I find the whole concept of prayer really interesting, great post thanks.

  44. Alison Moore Smith on February 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    StephenT, thank for the info.

    Mr. Q&A, glad to have dragged you out of hiding!

    The prayer circle is just a circle of people saying a prayer, but I’m not certain how much would be appropriate to address here. So I feel more comfortable not saying much. There might be a source on lds.org or fairlds.org or something?

  45. LD Powell on February 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I have often wondered about the equality of many praying for one versus no one praying for one. I don’t have an answer. I just remember that Heavenly Father notes the fall of one sparrow. I am looking for that wisdom. Thanks for all the posts. Loved the discussion.

  46. Glenn Smith on February 21, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Those who have been to the temple will remember how the prayer circle is defined. I am uncomfortable stating the definition in this forum, but I agree it adds to the power of the prayer. Thus, the prayer circle is more than just a group of people standing and praying in a circle. Certain people are asked to withdraw from the circle before the prayer is said. There is purpose to the circle and the form of the circle. On your next temple trip, ask the temple president about it.

  47. darceeyates on March 3, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Allison, I apologize for not not having read every single post on here before posting myself. But I did read some. Great article. I have wondered often about this one myself. The following line, I just loved! I laughed so hard.

    (If so, should you call as many temples as possible to get the name on many rolls?)

    You have a wonderful way of putting everything into perspective.

    My other favorite line regarding prayer I paraphrase from C.S. Lewis. O.K. I was going to paraphrase but then I couldn’t help myself and looked it up.

    “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 doesn’t change God- it changes me.”

    In a movie I watched staring Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis.

    They stated this sentiment as — some people prayer thinking they can change God. The wise man prays to change himself.
    — C.S. Lewis

  48. darceeyates on March 3, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    oops that tag at the end is misplaced.

  49. Horse Wrangler on August 7, 2011 at 1:27 am

    Knowing full well that this is anecdotal, I still feel that it is worth sharing. I am primary caregiver for a man whose brother was incarcerated in a California prison for about 15 months. Shortly before his release, he was assaulted by three men who savagely beat and kicked him. When he was found and taken to the prison dispensary, it was determined that he needed the attention of specialists at a fully equipped hospital. He lay there in a coma for three months when the physician from the prison contacted the man’s mother and told her that he hadn’t seen any brainwave activity on the monitor for quite some time and asked for permission to remove the man from life support. The mother, in her late 70s and in a care center herself did not know what to do so she called her son in Salt Lake City. The son in turn called me and I suggested to the man to call his mother back and emphatically refuse permission to take her son off life support.
    The next day I called all of the Temples operating in a 50 mile radius of Salt Lake City and put the man’s name on all of the prayer rolls. Then the younger brother and I dedicated a day to fasting and praying for the man. Two days after our fasting was concluded, the man came out of his coma. Although suffering a degree of permanent brain damage and physical impairments, he lives and is, as I write this, sleeping upstairs in a guest bedroom of my home. I haven’t dissected the operations or philosophies of the prayer roll, although I know that the idea of a group prayer for the benefit of Saints in need is very ancient. I do feel that it may be connected with the idea “…that they might be one even as We are One…”. I believe there is ‘power’ when we turn from our selfish thoughts and day to day interests and focus on supplicating our Heavenly Father, the Almighty God, in the Name of His only Begotten, for aid in helping someone we do not know, but for whom we care. I stand all amazed…

  50. Roland Richey on August 7, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    FWIW – One time recently I got a chain email from Utah on behalf of someone in really serious distress. The purpose of the email was to get that person’s name submitted to the prayer roll of every LDS temple.