Last Sunday, I was walking down the hallway toward Sunday School right at the end of the allotted hour; as I neared the foyer where the class is given I heard a lady giving the closing prayer. As she prayed for the Conference speakers in preparing their talks I was moved by her expression of faith.
I do not understand the mechanism of prayer and I do not pretend to comprehend how and why God answers our efforts to supplicate and petition him but, as has been noted many times before, I believe that the act of prayer has a quite real effect upon the person praying.
Moreover, those prayers for the speakers at General Conference can change us in quite specific ways. I suspect they prepare us to listen with charity, with kindness and with hope. Implied in this prayer is a sense of the struggle that these speakers have very probably faced as they have prepared their remarks. It captures some of the time and thought they have given to their assignment. By expressing this sensitivity we are perhaps more willing to hear what they are imperfectly trying to convey. Such prayers extend a form of generosity toward the fallibility of those who are struggling to know the will of God themselves and who are struggling with a feeling of their own inadequacy. These petitions verbalize a desire for God will’s to be manifest through the words of another, often an unmet person whom we may never see or hear from again, but who we hope will change our lives for the better.
Those prayers articulate one dimension of a practical humility, which is also a hallmark of sainthood.