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 encountered resistance when he tried to preach the gospel in the land of Ammonihah. Mormon tells us that “Satan had gotten great hold upon [their] hearts,” and that they refused to listen to him. But Alma understood that he was doing the work of God, not his own work. Therefore, he not only labored diligently in teaching, he also labored diligently in prayer, believing that the effort he put into his prayers would result in blessings for these people he was trying to reach.
Mormon tells us that Alma “[wrestled] with God in mighty prayer.” I don’t know what that means. Enos talked about wrestling “before God,” which sounds more like an internal struggle with yourself. Either way, it is clear that an effortless or a superficial prayer would not have achieved the desired outcome. The Bible Dictionary tells us that “prayer is a form of work” and that “blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them.” For Alma, these prayers sound like an intense process, requiring significant concentration and spiritual exertion.
Another aspect of Alma’s prayer which impresses me is the specificity of his requests. He wanted God to “pour out his Spirit” upon the Ammonihahites. He also wanted them to repent and be baptized. It is true, as Elder Robert D. Hales taught, that “we cannot pray away another’s agency” (“‘Come, Follow Me’ by Practicing Christian Love and Service,” General Conference, October 2016). But it can be entirely appropriate for us to pray that they will make wise decisions.
Elder David A. Bednar suggested some things that we can appropriately pray for, specifically to help us with our missionary efforts. Here are a few:
“Asking for courage and boldness to open our mouths and share the gospel with our family and friends.”
“Entreating Heavenly Father to help us identify individuals and families who will be receptive to our invitation to be taught by the missionaries in our homes.”
“Pledging to do our part this day and this week and petitioning for help to overcome anxiety, fear, and hesitation.”
“Seeking for the gift of discernment— for eyes to see and ears to hear missionary opportunities as they occur” (“Ask in Faith,” General Conference, April 2008).
Today, I will put more effort into my prayers, particularly with respect to my missionary efforts. I will remember that missionary work is the Lord’s work, and that I can only do it effectively if I am aligned with Him and if I have His help. I will plead for specific outcomes as Alma did, and I will also plead for the courage to do my part.