Are You There?…

“In childhood, as I suppose for everyone, I had problems at night with bad dreams and nightmares. My dreams troubled me and made me afraid to go to bed at night, to be in the lonely dark. In her inspired way to bring me comfort, my dear mother suggested in my prayers I ask Father in Heaven for relief. Believing always in the words of my mother, I did exactly what she recommended, including in every kneeling prayer, ‘Please bless me to have no nightmares or bad dreams.’ I can tell you by personal experience that the Lord answered my prayer and I received the relief I was seeking. To my memory that was the first of many answered prayers I have offered and received in my lifetime. I am a witness that the Lord answers our prayers.”

Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 18 November 2023

As a little boy, each night my mother would sit on the edge of my bed while I knelt beside, arms folded, head bowed, eyes closed, “My dear Father in Heaven….” My young heart believed Heavenly Father was mindful of us, and willing to provide blessings. To my memory I do not recall ever really doubting He was there, but there were times when I wondered if my prayers were worthy sufficient to reach heavenly ears, to be answered.

Young Danny Malcolm

We all wonder at times if Heavenly Father is hearing our prayers, or the prayers of those in suffering anguish. I think of little children in dark places, children of all ages, in perils of war, victims of abuse or inhumane barbarism. Who is hearing the cries of those experiencing loss, pain, loneliness or fear, crying out in silent hope, “Are you there?”

I am acquainted with such feelings of pain and sadness, but never have I suffered as I have seen so many more afflicted with sorrows unspeakable. The anguish of disease or injury is felt by all at one time or another. Fear and loathing bears its own bitter fruit. Worse yet, inhuman depravity abounds in streets, dark corners, loveless abodes, deep pits of unjust imprisonment, and anyplace where the power of evil is embraced over love and compassion. Is God there for all of these?

I think about the pleading prayers of many faithful who have gone before, calling out to God in hours of despair: The penitent psalm of David, once so favored of the Lord, hardly thinks himself worthy to look to God, “How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” (Psalm 13:1); Disciples on the storm tossed sea, thinking that all was lost to them, desperately called out to the slumbering Lord, “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38); The prophet of the restoration groping in the dark for warm light in a world that had denied he and his people freedom and peace, “O God, where art Thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth Thy hiding place?” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1); On the cross at Calvary, even the very Son of God, not immune from the pains and sorrows of mortality, cried out to His Father, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

A sweet children’s hymn, “A Child’s Prayer” (Janice Kapp Perry, b. 1938), provides invitation and comfort to praying children, for sons and daughters of God everywhere:

Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
“Suffer the children to come to me.”
Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.

An ancient American prophet described his wrestle through prayer endeavored and heard, “And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto Him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto Him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. And there came a voice unto me, saying: ‘Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed’” (Enos 1:4-5).

To those others, faithful prayers were answered also:
Inspiration for David — “But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because He hath dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5-6);
For storm weary apostles, safety in miracles — “He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39);
Reassurance for the dungeoned prophet Joseph Smith — “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8);
Exaltation for the Son of the Almighty, who lived and died for all — “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye Him” (3 Nephi 11:7).

“Christ Visits the New World” by Walter Rane

The invitation to pray in seeking comfort, peace, relief, safety, solace, and answers to the great questions — even “Are you there?” — comes in promise from the Savior of the World, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you” (John 16:23).

We must seek the throne of God, with heads bowed in loving and humble submission, even as little children, willing to receive in gratitude whatsoever the Lord will give. Out of love He will give. He will answer our prayers. We must be unwavering in our faith, patient even in the abyss of despair, knowing that a greater reward awaits us tomorrow or in the world to come, but it will come.

As we read from the apostle James, the brother of our Lord, “The trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:3-6).

“In Favour with God” (Jesus Praying with His Mother) by Simon Dewey

It is needed to ask for divine aid, and understandable even to ask, “Are you there?” Those in days past who have asked in humble submission have received answered prayer, even though not always what was expected, or even in the moment sought, but answered nonetheless.

Let us seek our Heavenly Father, even as His little children. Our prayers will be answered, our seas calmed, our loneliness comforted, and our pain relieved, our sins forgiven us, and our delivery and exaltation with Him made sure. Heavenly Father is really there, we but need to lift our hopes heavenward and hear His voice of love, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Mark 11:24). In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Reflections on the Writings of James — the Brother of Jesus

By Bishop Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 24 November 2019

There are few words recorded by James, the brother of Jesus, to which we have access, but the words written have reached through the centuries, enlightened minds for truth and inspired righteous action, even unto a restoration of all things. Who can forget the immortal words of the prophet Joseph Smith in reference to James 1:5? “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; …I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to ‘ask of God,’ concluding that if He gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture” (Joseph Smith—History). Did James know in his day the power of the words that he penned? “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). I suppose it matters not, except to say that the Savior knew, and we know now that James’ invitation was an invitation from God that applies to us all.

“Joseph Smith Seeks Wisdom in the Bible” by Dale Kilbourn

That invitation was not the whole of the divine teachings that we receive from the Lord through James. Who of us should not use and apply well his teachings on patience in faith, gratitude in gifts, and the need for true followers of our religion to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). For we indeed need to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

Is it enough for us to declare our faith, to state some day upon which we were saved or baptized, and then leave everything else, every good work for someone else to do, and expect that we will sit at the side of our Savior in the eternities, perhaps even in judgment of others? It is not enough for us to believe or to know that the gospel is true, that Jesus Christ saves man from sin, then to standby only and let the rest of the world descend into hell. James spoke this well, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? …by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:19-20). True, we cannot place one toe of our foot within the celestial realm without the atoning grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, but without the fundamental change that comes to people of true faith, which produces fruit of Godly works, not even the tip of the nail could endure the glory of God’s light. Indeed, by works is faith made perfect, “…as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

“True, we cannot place one toe of our foot within the celestial realm without the atoning grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, but without the fundamental change that comes to people of true faith, which produces fruit of Godly works, not even the tip of the nail could endure the glory of God’s light.”

Daniel Joseph Malcolm

What regarding our unruly tongues? James spoke well, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26). It is important, no imperative, that what comes out of our mouths and is spoken from our tongue is a true reflection of our Christianity. We would never use a shovel digging in fertilizer to spoon food in the mouth of our wanting babe. A place of cleanliness cannot be a place of filthiness and yet still be clean. A well of water that has been contaminated can only be purified with drastic measures. We cannot speak evil with our mouths and expect that what next flows from our tongues will carry the power and spirit of God’s word. James noted and then counseled, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be…. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom…. Speak not evil one of another, brethren” (James 3:10, 13, 4:11).

Finally, I am the first to admit that I am an imperfect man. I love my Savior and I strive to follow Him in every way that I can, and when I fall short I repent. James’ merciful final words in his epistle give me hope for my shortcomings. James wrote, “…if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). I for one am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the work of the Lord and serve my brothers and sisters. I am grateful for the Lord’s mercy and for the opportunity to be mercifully justified.

A depiction of the family of Joseph and Mary with their children Jesus, James and others.

The words of the Lord delivered by his lesser known brother are sweet to my wanting heart. From that ancient promise that helped give spark to the restoration of all things to the other clarifying truths that we find in the writings of James, his words are priceless to the seeker of the fullness of the gospel. It is my prayer that we will always be seekers of all that the Lord has for us from the words of the Apostle James to those of living prophets. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


A Child’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
“Suffer the children to come to me.”
Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.

Pray, he is there;
Speak, he is list’ning.
You are his child;
His love now surrounds you.
He hears your prayer;
He loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav’n.

Words and music: Janice Kapp Perry, b. 1938
© 1984 by Janice Kapp Perry

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.