“Prayer Is the Key,” Ensign, Jan. 1976, 2
Recently someone posed the question, Why should we pray?
We should pray because prayer is indispensable to the accomplishment of the real purpose of our lives. We are children of God. As such, we have the potentiality to rise to his perfection. The Savior himself inspired us with this aspiration when he said:
“I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” (3 Ne. 12:48.)
No one shall ever reach such perfection unless he is guided to it by Him who is perfect. And guidance from Him is to be had only through prayer. In our upward climb, this mortal experience through which we are now passing is a necessary step. To obtain perfection, we had to leave our pre-earth home and come to earth. During the transfer, a veil was drawn over our spiritual eyes, and the memory of our premortal experiences was suspended. In the Garden of Eden, God endowed us with moral agency and, as it were, left us here on our own between the forces of good and evil to be proved—to see if, walking by faith, we would rise to our high potentiality by doing “all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us].” (Abr. 3:25.)
The first instruction the Lord gave Adam and Eve, following their expulsion from Eden, was to pray. (See Moses 5:5.)
During his mortal ministry, Jesus taught “that men ought always to pray.” (Luke 18:1.)
To the Nephite multitude he said, “Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name.” (3 Ne. 18:19.)
In this last dispensation, two years before the Church was organized, the Lord, in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph, said:
“Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.” (D&C 10:5.)
Later he added:
“What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place.” (D&C 93:49.)
The experience of the brother of Jared dramatizes the seriousness of disobeying the commandment to pray.
From the tower of Babel the Lord led the Jaredite colony to the seashore where they “dwelt in tents … for the space of four years.
“And … at the end of four years … the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.
“And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him. And the Lord said unto him: I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins; but thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man; wherefore, if ye will sin until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.” (Ether 2:13–15.)
The sin of which he was guilty was neglecting his prayers.
The foregoing scriptures give adequate reasons why we should pray.
There seems to be no limitation as to when, where, and what we should pray about.
“… in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philip. 4:6.)
“Cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save. …
“Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
“Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
“Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
“Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
“Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them. …
“But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
“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 34:18, 20–24, 26–27.)
“Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name,” said the Savior, “that your wives and your children may be blessed.” (3 Ne. 18:21.)
“Pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private.” (D&C 19:28.)
“Call upon the Lord, that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth.
“Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth, that thine enemies may be subdued; for thine is the honor, power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.” (D&C 65:5–6.)
Prayer is the key that unlocks the door to communion with Deity.
“Behold,” said the Lord, “I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20.)
A similar promise, as Jesus gave it to the Nephites, is:
“Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” (3 Ne. 18:20; italics added.)
To us of this last dispensation, the promise is thus stated:
“Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you.” (D&C 88:64; italics added.)
The sacred records are replete with proof that such promises are fulfilled.
Prayer brought forgiveness of sins to Enos. (See Enos 1:4–5.)
The prayers of Alma senior sent an angel to bring his son Alma to repentance. (See Mosiah 27:14.)
Prayer brought the Father and the Son to visit the Prophet Joseph Smith. (See JS—H 1:14–17.)
Prayer brought the sea gulls from the lake to help save the crops of the pioneers.
Not every prayer brings a spectacular response, but every sincere and earnest prayer is heard and responded to by the Spirit of the Lord.
The manner in which answers to prayer most frequently come was indicated by the Lord when he said to Oliver Cowdery:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:22–23.)
To all of us in this last dispensation, the Lord has given the promise “if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.” In seven different revelations, the Lord repeats this promise verbatim—D&C 6:5, D&C 11:5, D&C 12:5, D&C 14:5, D&C 49:26, D&C 66:9, D&C 75:27.
In D&C 88:62–64, he further says:
“I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near—
“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
“Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you.”
To the truth of these promises, I bear my own testimony; I know they are true.
I know that prayers are answered. Like Nephi and Enos of old, I was born of “just” and “goodly” parents. Early in my childhood I was trained to kneel at my bedside morning and evening each day and thank my Heavenly Father for his blessings and petition him for his continued guidance and protection. This procedure has remained with me through the years.
In answer to prayer as a child, I found my lost toys; as a youth, in answer to prayer, I was led to find the cows in a thicket. I am familiar with the feeling spoken of by the Lord when, to Oliver Cowdery, he said:
“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?” (D&C 6:23.)
And when he further said:
“Behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
“But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought.” (D&C 9:8–9.)
I know what Enos meant when he said, “the voice of the Lord came into my mind again.” (Enos 1:10.) By this means I have received in sentences answers to my prayers.
I have witnessed the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise that “whoso shall ask … in my name in faith, they shall cast out devils; they shall heal the sick; they shall cause the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk.” (D&C 35:9.)
I have put Moroni’s promise to the test and in answer to my prayers I have received a divine witness that the Book of Mormon is true. I further know that by praying “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ,” one may “by the power of the Holy Ghost” receive a knowledge of “the truth of all things.” (See Moro. 10:4–5.)
I bear my personal solemn testimony that prayer is the key that unlocks the door to communion with Deity.