35 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded….
37 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon their friends and their families also, that they were not confounded….
39 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord according to that which had been spoken by the mouth of Jared.
40 And it came to pass that the Lord did hear the brother of Jared, and had compassion upon him, and said unto him:
41 Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families.
42 And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.
(Ether 1:35, 37, 39-42)
The Bible Dictionary teaches us that “the object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to bless us, but there are some blessings that He will not give to us until we ask for them.
Jared and his brother lived at the time of the Tower of Babel, when the Lord scattered the people and confounded their language (Genesis 11:1-9). They navigated through this chaotic time with a series of specific prayers. Specifically, Jared asked his brother to pray for three things:
- Not to confound their language so that they could understand each other.
- Not to confound the language of their friends and families.
- To reveal to them where they should go.
In each of the three cases, Moroni tells us that the Lord had compassion on them and answered the prayer.
I’m interested in the incremental nature of their prayers. Only after receiving an answer to each prayer were they ready to go on to the next one. Probably, until their immediate need was met, they weren’t even able to focus on the next need. I also think it’s interesting that the Lord gave them what they requested and no more. After the first prayer, He could have said, “I won’t confound your language and I will also grant this blessing to all of your friends and family.” But he didn’t. He granted each request as it came, providing blessings to Jared and his brother as they needed them and recognized the need to ask for them.
What purpose did these incremental answers serve? I can think of at least two:
- It gave them more opportunities to pray in faith. Rather than receiving everything they needed at once, Jared and his brother had multiple opportunities to exercise their faith as they requested God to grant the next blessing they needed.
- It gave them time to understand what they needed before the need was fulfilled. If all of the blessings had been given at once, they might not have appreciated the value of those blessings, and they might not have even learned why those blessings were needed. When we face challenges, diagnose our needs, and pray for specific blessings, we are still dependent on God, but we are more spiritually mature because we are more aware of the ways that He is blessing us.
Today, I will exercise my faith by asking for specific blessings. I will be grateful for the process by which I can ask and receive answers to my prayers. I will be grateful for a Heavenly Father who hears me and has compassion on me. And I will also be grateful that He lets me grow by giving me time to understand my challenges and ask for help before providing the blessings I need.