Updated: Oct 7, 2020
'O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness, with the vain things of the world' Alma 31:27
Alma reminds me of Spencer W Kimball. He doesn't mince his words. I on the other hand am feeble at reproving someone for their prayers. If after one of our children's prayers I have made some comment, Vicky (my wife) turns and I am quickly reproved. I was raised LDS so born into the Ay-men prayer. Vicky went to Church of England through her youth but with becoming LDS retained the traditional Ah-men in her prayers. Why might this even stick out? It is strange and sad how we judge each other by our prayers.
I do not wish to judge the Zoramites for their prayers. I am prone to argue, 'well at least they are praying'. The book of Alma reveals later it was more to do with Corianton's indiscretion as to why they didn't believe. Their pride too, granted. But the real tragedy behind the Zoramite mission shows it is not how we pray that matters most but what we do, especially in His name.
'The Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith' Alma 31:38 emphasis added
Alma yet suffered many afflictions, so what is this scripture saying? It reminds me of a remarkable hymn It Is Well With My Soul. The story of how the words were written by Horatio Spafford is profound.
Prayers of faith open many miracles, but the most incredible is knowing it is well with our soul. No affliction or injustice can mar this truth when we find it, through our own prayers of faith. With this goal in mind, how can we pray in faith? While scriptures stand as evidence of answer to prayer, prophets have not often written their prayers in the revelations they have received. These moments when prophetic word turns away from us and back toward their source are insightful in how we might also pray in faith. We glimpse into prophetic souls who have found God, communicate with Him and serve Him in every circumstance. I challenged myself to find other prayers of faith in scripture. If you find more I'd be interested to learn of them in the comments. Here is what I have found.
'Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me:nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done' Luke 22:42
The greatest prayer of faith written. Through this incomprehensible prayer we have hope. We have a Saviour. We also learn what a prayer of faith is. Will.
In 2018 my family and I made the trip from London to Salt Lake for April General Conference. As a British military family we were able to fly concessionary travel with the Royal Air Force to Calgary and in this way we could afford all six of us to go. In early April, winter had a comeback as we drove through snow and ice from Canada to Salt Lake. The talk I have come to most remember from that conference was Elder Uchtdorf's Behold the Man. Culminating our pilgrimage, it struck me to see an apostle who served so incredibly in the First Presidency now return to the Quorum of the Twelve, and in perfect understanding of his new assignment exclaim a direct and powerful testimony of Christ. Talk about lifting where you stand.
Studying this talk led to a song I also called Behold the Man. As we learn of Christ or come to 'behold' Him, we are left with a battle of will. Each chorus of the song begins, 'Will you be blind, or come and find...' Prayer is where we lay and decide our will. Prayers of faith lay 'not my will, but Thine'.
'O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?' 2 Nephi 4:31 (30-35)
'O Lord, wilt thou turn away thine anger, and try again if they will serve thee? And if so, O Lord, thou canst bless them according to thy words which thou hast said' Helaman 11:16 (10-16)
A striking similarity in many prayers of faith, including Alma's, is the frequent use of questions beginning 'wilt thou'. I have decided to incorporate 'wilt thou' into my own prayers. I have no grand difference to report - but I like it. I am finding I can more accurately and confidently reflect my desires in prayer because by framing them into questions I am consistently emphasises my over-arching desire for His will above my own.
'O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.' 1 Samuel 1:11 (2:1-10)
I grew up playing piano, singing with my family, learning to improvise and write music. I had a music education I'm proud of with many wonderful opportunities. On leaving school I planned to serve a mission. My dad challenged me, could I write music to Hannah's song, 1 Samuel 2:1-10? I could not. The words were strange, the rhythms, meter and language.
I had over a year to prepare for my mission. Like many young men, I wasn't ready but oh how I wanted to be. I yearned not to waste a day of my mission on myself. I became like Hannah and started praying those prayers of faith that He might look upon me and my youth, lift me up, and help me overcome. Like Hannah, I promised I would give my best and in a similar way my prayers of faith were answered and I was so happy. In the few months leading to my mission, music began clicking into the words of Hannah's song. I orchestrated them for quintet and voice, and called together friends from my school days to come and perform my own composition of Hannah's song at my mission farewell. My dad still says it's the best thing he has heard me do! I haven't got a recording to share yet...it's coming.
We often pray in greater faith when we focus on others. In listing prayers of faith it is no surprise to see Jesus frequently listed, whose whole mission on earth was to do the will of His father.
Like us, Jesus went through the veil. He was not born with the knowledge He was full of moments before His birth. In learning who He was He would rely on the remarkable miracles and testimony of His mother, and His prayers. For Jesus to unquestionably embrace His mother's teaching shows one thing is not lost in mortality. Intent. Our desires form eternal characteristics, transcending birth and death. We can change them, experience can too, but their memory is etched into our spirit. This can inform how we teach the gospel to our children and friends. I think many live in anguish as lives pan out in opposition to innermost desires. Humble prayer exposes these beautifully, offering a way for us to realign our journey in harmony with who we are.
'Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name' Daniel 9:17-19 (4-19)
'O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?...Let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.' D&C 121:1-6
How do we pray in faith when it feels God is not there? A perspective on these prayers of faith is gained by opening another.
'And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever...how is it thou canst weep?' Moses 7 (see also 6:31)
Moses chapter seven is my favourite scripture. It is like the whole plan of redemption summed up and the most difficult question answered. Why? Why this whole life? Why this plan? Why bother? Love. The inexplicable reason for why Heavenly Father bothers is love. Love for all of us, those in the ark and in the flood.
I remember a double date I organised when I was single. I was 23 and had just got my driving license. Finally I was free to take out dates, rather than be taken out. I asked a girl out, she suggested making it double, so I brought my friend and she brought hers. As our activity, I photocopied Moses 7 and highlighted the four parts - Moses (the narrator), Enoch, God and Earth. I nominated myself as Earth. We climbed a local hill overlooking the Preston Temple and read the whole chapter aloud in our assigned parts. I remember the vista, wind and words, and the embarrassed nervous happiness of doing something peculiar.
Prayers of faith spoken through trial rely on a true understanding of the nature of God. Faith is only powerful in things that are true. If our mind's eye depicts characteristics untrue of God, the hopes of trial prayers may be unfulfilled. Prayer can quickly feel pointless and God as distant. Understanding God weeps can help us learn Him. When your trial is hard and the sadness unbearable, picture Him weeping. He does. By nature of being God, He cannot remove the sorrow he feels when His children suffer. His own strength as well as ours is knowing He gave His Only Begotten Son. He points to His Greatest Gift and whispers it is enough to lift us and Him together from wherever we are.
'And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him. And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvellous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father; And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvellous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.' 3 Nephi 17:15-17
In going through examples of great prayers of faith this week, a phrase in this scripture stuck out - 'the things which he prayed cannot be written'. It chimed with me and I began writing words:
Hope of the rising sun
Laughter with someone I love
Memory tender and moment sublime
Cannot be written
Hearing the prayer of a child
Singing along to a song
Finding forgiveness when hurting and wronged
Cannot be written
So I pray
Lifting the laden and sad
Listening to elderly chat
Striving to follow my Saviour and friend
Cannot be written
Finding connection and love
Knowing my Father above
Awe that He gave His own Son
He gave His own Son
It cannot be sung
Cannot be written
So I pray
'So I pray' was not initially there. Having made a draft of these words I began working on a melody. Something was incomplete. Events happened in my personal life this week making the words more meaningful. I struggled on, then suddenly came the additional phrase spoke through the music 'So I Pray!'
Factually the words of Christ's prayer with the Nephites probably could be written, but then it would not be Christ's prayer with the Nephites. The essence and miracle of prayers of faith is how they transcend words. How far the Zoramites were from this on their Rameumpton. The connection of our eternal soul with our eternal Father, through His Son, is the prayer of faith. It is well with our soul. We are lifted up. No tongue can speak it. A song tries to praise it. What greater thing is there for us than this?