3 Nephi 18:15-21 & Enos — LeGrand Baker — prayer and ‘mighty prayer’

3 Nephi 18:15-21

15 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.
16 And as I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in my church, among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name. Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you.
17 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them:
18 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
21 Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.

In the scriptures, prayer is a very serious matter, and the habitual reciting of a “shopping list” is probably not what the they mean when they admonish us to pray always. There are several important scriptural instructions about how we should pray and what we should pray for, some are explicit and some are only implicit. I have discussed some already. One is:

“3 Nephi 13:9-13, Matthew 6:9-18 — LeGrand Baker — The five versions of the Lord’s Prayer”

You can easily find this by going to the search engine and typing “3 Nephi 13:9-13” You can also find it by entering “Lord’s Prayer,” but that will bring up more citations than just the one you are looking for. Another is:
“Mosiah 26:39 — LeGrand Baker — prayer without ceasing”
which can also be found by entering either the reference or the title in the search engine.

I tried to put my own feeling about prayer in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord. This is the very best I could do:

Prayer is like walking in the mountain with a friend. There are times when you see a sunrise so expansive and glorious that it must be shared with your friend to be fully appreciated. There are times you walk with the other in silence, then you stop and your eyes look—alone—as you ponder the perfect beauty of a columbine. Sometimes you talk together—your friend and you—but only briefly – because a smile can say so much more. Sometimes the words flow like the confluence of two great rivers and the ideas reach out to embrace a world as big as the open sea. Sometimes you walk together quietly and say nothing, and the unspoken words are more profound than speech. There is no aloneness in the quiet, just as there was no aloneness when all your conscious world was only the beauty of a single columbine. Friendship is like that. So is prayer. {1}

A classic discussion of what prayer should be is this famous one spoken by Amulek:

17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you (Alma 34:1-41).

There is another kind of prayer that is sometimes mentioned but never described in the scriptures. It is also a very profound prayer. In the Book of Mormon its intensity is described with the words “mighty prayer.” We first encounter the phrase in Nephi’s psalm where he writes that his prayer was spoken with boldness

24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me (2 Nephi 4:24).

It becomes increasingly apparent, as we examine the scriptures, that this is the kind of “mighty prayer” that is prayed by prophets— and not in ordinary circumstances or with ordinary results.

For example, Enos’s characterizes it as a “wrestle,” perhaps suggesting the same kind of boldness Nephi described. He wrote:

2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins. …
4 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 (Enos 1:2, 4).

Mormon also describes Alma’s “mighty prayer” as a “wrestling with God.”

10 Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance (Alma 8:10).

These choices of the word “wrestle” are probably reminiscent of Jacob’s wrestling with “a man” when he was given the new covenant name of Israel, and he saw the vision of the angels on the ladder that reached to heaven. At the top of the ladder he saw God and received the fullness of the blessings of Abraham. That sounds very much like a sode experience (Genesis 28:13 32:24).

In another place Mormon described mighty prayer as a group prayer. He wrote:

6 Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God (Alma 6:6).

This idea of a “mighty prayer” being a communal prayer is consistent with the Savior’s instructions to the Twelve as they are reported by Moroni:

1 The words of Christ, which he spake unto his disciples, the twelve whom he had chosen, as he laid his hands upon them—
2 And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles.
3 Now Christ spake these words unto them at the time of his first appearing; and the multitude heard it not, but the disciples heard it; and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost (Moroni 2:1-3).

Near the end of 3 Nephi, we find the disciples praying in the way they were instructed by the Savior.

1 And it came to pass that as the disciples of Jesus were journeying and were preaching the things which they had both heard and seen, and were baptizing in the name of Jesus, it came to pass that the disciples were gathered together and were united in mighty prayer and fasting.
2 And Jesus again showed himself unto them, for they were praying unto the Father in his name; and Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said unto them: What will ye that I shall give unto you? (3 Nephi 27:1-2).

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FOOTNOTE

{1} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, p. 1026; second edition p.710-11 .

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