As a young man of almost sixteen, I was wondering what to do with the copy of the Book of Mormon that I held in my hands. A few weeks previously, I had been asked to write a report on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for school. I had walked over to the Church Mission Home in Santiago, only a few blocks away from my house. A missionary gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon and several Church magazines. The latter were full of colorful photos that helped me with my report. But now that I had finished my paper, I wondered what to do with the book.
I opened the book to a promise that would change my life: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5).
As I read these words for the first time, I was immersed in the Spirit. I was acutely aware that it was the Holy Ghost I was feeling, testifying of the truthfulness of the book I held in my hands. While usually the Holy Ghost has acted upon me as a still, comforting reassurance, there have been a few instances in which I have felt the influence of the Holy Spirit as a compelling force. This was one of those times. Three and a half years later, 9 March 1974, when I was an agricultural student at the University of California, Davis, I was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I began receiving the missionary discussions after I had read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, over a four day period, during Christmas break. It was while reading the Book of Mormon that I discovered the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As I write these words, I am only a few years away from my 40th anniversary of my baptism and confirmation. If I am honest, I must admit that it was not easy to truly understand how to pray: to do so in such a way that I could know that my prayers had been heard. Even though I am still learning how to pray, I would like to share a few things I have discovered about prayer. To me, prayer is the essence of religion. It is a communion between God and man. Scripture study and prayer are my stay and my staff.
When we pray, we address God the Eternal Father, and we do so in the name of His beloved Son, even Jesus Christ. In the olden days, people who traveled to faraway lands would do so with a letter of introduction. Such a letter would open many doors. By coming in the name of Christ, we can dare approach the Father in prayer. It was Christ Himself who repeatedly taught us to address the Father in Jesus’ name: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23b).
We pray while we walk, while we talk, while we study, and not just when we can take the time to kneel down. Further, many people cannot kneel for medical reasons. If we are able to kneel, however, there is something very special about doing so. We add our testimony that indeed the time will come when “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.”
In order to obtain an acknowledgment that our prayers have been heard, one of the first steps is to be precise in terms of what we are asking for. I like to think that the particular answer to my prayer is less important to me than knowing that the prayer was heard by the Father. It helps to first meditate upon some of the things that I am grateful for. Then I can kneel down and address the Father, tell Him of those things I am grateful for, speak of my love for Him, and ask one simple question. “Father, hast thou heard my prayer?” I can then ‘listen’ for the reassurance of the Spirit, that indeed my prayer has been heard of the Father. For me, this is normally a comforting feeling or warmth. I can now thank the Father for having heard me, and do so in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. We now know what an affirmative answer feels like.
Now, we have a pattern: we ponder in a spirit of gratitude, we thank the Father, we ask Him a question, and we feel of His loving comfort through the Spirit. Through this pattern we have a key to ask other questions. “Is the Book of Mormon the book mentioned by Ezekiel 37:15-28 that, together with the Bible, would help bring people unto Christ?” “Am I making the right choice in dating such a person?” “Is this a good field for me to study at the university?” “Should I begin to look for a different job?” An affirmative answer to these questions will be much like the comforting one we received when we asked if God had heard our prayer. We now have a key to asking questions regarding matters that are important in our lives. One day I realized that this is precisely the pattern of prayer taught to us in Moroni 10:3-5.
Moroni 10:3. “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.” Here we are exhorted to be filled with a spirit of gratitude for what God has done for us. To ponder His tender mercies from the creation of Adam until now brings to mind one of my favorite scenes of all time, when the Savior walked along two of His disciples on the way to Emmaus and expounded the scriptures to them: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). What a better way to be filled with gratitude than to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures.
Moroni 10:4. “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” We have already spoken about the importance of addressing the Father in the name of Christ. Verse 4 also calls for faith in Christ and confidence that we will receive an answer. So it is that we read in James 1:5-6: “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. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Let us not be afraid to ask. We have been commanded of the Savior to pray always (Luke 21:36b).
Our attitude in prayer needs to be submissive to the will of the Father. If we really do not want to know the will of the Father, we will probably not receive an answer. If we want to tell the Father what we want done, rather than ask that His will be carried out, we will probably not receive an answer, either. To ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, means that we will act upon the answer. God does not want us to be like the people of Judah who approached Jeremiah the Prophet to inquire of the Lord for them.
The people seemed, on the surface, committed to do as commanded: “Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God” (Jeremiah 42:5-6). The Prophet Jeremiah did inquire of the Lord on their behalf, but the answer enraged the people so much that they reviled the Prophet and accused him of speaking falsely (Jeremiah 43:2).
Moroni 10:5. “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” Through this simple pattern of prayer to the Father in the name of Christ, then, we may receive reassurance from the Spirit about proceeding through life’s most difficult mazes.
God loves us so much, that He is concerned over those things we are concerned about and says, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). So, let us pray in confidence, full of assurance that God will hear our prayers. While some promises that God makes to us may take some time before they are realized, they will come to pass.