3 Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship?
4 For he said: Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer, even when I was in the wilderness; yea, thou wast merciful when I prayed concerning those who were mine enemies, and thou didst turn them to me.
5 Yea, O God, and thou wast merciful unto me when I did cry unto thee in my field; when I did cry unto thee in my prayer, and thou didst hear me.
6 And again, O God, when I did turn to my house thou didst hear me in my prayer.
7 And when I did turn unto my closet, O Lord, and prayed unto thee, thou didst hear me.
8 Yea, thou art merciful unto thy children when they cry unto thee, to be heard of thee and not of men, and thou wilt hear them.
9 Yea, O God, thou hast been merciful unto me, and heard my cries in the midst of thy congregations.
10 Yea, and thou hast also heard me when I have been cast out and have been despised by mine enemies; yea, thou didst hear my cries, and wast angry with mine enemies, and thou didst visit them in thine anger with speedy destruction.
11 And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son.
After teaching the Zoramites about the nature of faith and the outcomes of faith, he answers a question from them about how to begin:
Now after Alma had spoken these words, they sent forth unto him desiring to know whether they should believe in one God, that they might obtain this fruit of which he had spoken, or how they should plant the seed, or the word of which he had spoken, which he said must be planted in their hearts; or in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith (Alma 33:1)
It’s not a well-formed question, but it is a sincere one. They seem to be grappling with the concepts he has taught them, trying to connect the dots, and trying to figure out the most effective launching point for their question. Basically, the question boils down to, “What should we do now?”
Alma responds by referring to three prophets–Zenos, Zenock, and Moses–all of whom emphasized the importance of having faith in the Son of God. Alma’s intent in this chapter is to help them understand, as Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:
The first principle of the gospel is not ‘faith.’ The first principle of the gospel is ‘Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’ (A of F 1:4)…. Faith does not exist by itself. Faith requires an object. It must be faith in something or someone” (“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” General Conference, April 1994).
In the passage above, which is the first and the longest of Alma’s references, the prophet Zenos shares a prayer of gratitude which he has offered, thanking Heavenly Father for hearing his prayer in so many different contexts. He acknowledges that God has heard and answered him mercifully when he was:
- In the wilderness – in an unfamiliar environment, facing uncertain challenges
- In his field – in his workplace, fulfilling his temporal responsibilities
- In his home – in a safe environment with his family
- In his closet – alone, away from other people
- In the midst of thy congregations – at church meetings
He emphasizes the fact that God heard him in all of these environments, whether public or private, whether comfortable or uncomfortable, whether in a religious setting or a non-religious setting. Our Father in Heaven cares about all aspects of our lives and is willing to hear us under all circumstances that we find ourselves in. Zenos said that God heard him “because of mine afflictions and my sincerity.” In other words, his heart was receptive, just like the Zoramites, whose “afflictions had truly humbled them,” so they were prepared to hear the word. But most of all, God heard him “because of thy Son.” Zenos understood that the Atonement of Jesus Christ enabled him to access the enabling power of God, and that his faith in Jesus Christ had unlocked that power in his life.
Today, I will exercise faith in Jesus Christ. I will pray not only in His name, but also with an awareness of His power. I will recognize that I can exercise faith in Him under any circumstances, and I will pray for His help and guidance throughout the day, knowing that God will hear my sincere prayers and answer them mercifully.