They Did Not Multiply Many Words – 3 Nephi 19:24

24 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.
(3 Nephi 19:24)

I ended yesterday’s post by saying that “my prayers need not be limited to words alone.” Today, I’m pondering a verse which illustrates this principle.

On the second day of the Savior’s visit to the American continent, He commanded the people to kneel and pray. As they prayed, He went a little way off and knelt Himself to pray to His father. Upon His return, He saw that his disciples continued to pray to Him. In the description provided in the verse we learn at least two important things about these prayers:

  1. They did not multiply many words.” I don’t think this means that their prayers were short. The chapter gives the impression of an extended experience which took some time. Instead, I get the impression that these prayers had a lot of space, that the people didn’t feel the need to fill up the space with unnecessary words, that there was room for both talking and listening, but also for feeling.
  2. It was given unto them what they should pray.” I don’t think this means that they were simply reciting words that were dictated to them. Instead, this phrase conveys to me a collaborative experience, in which they were tutored by an omniscient God through His Spirit as they strived to say as perfectly as possible what they felt. Clearly their will had not been set aside, because the following phrase clarifies that “they were filled with desire.”

These prayers seem to me to be consistent with Jesus’s hope, as expressed in His prayer, “that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one” (3 Nephi 19:23). It sounds to me that these prayers are characterized by unity: the people aligning themselves with God and seeking His help to say the prayers they really wanted to say. I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s description of how the Holy Ghost can help us to truly pray:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaningswhich cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26).

Today, I will strive to pray as these Nephites prayed. I will “not multiply many words,” but will leave space in my prayer to listen and to feel closeness with my Heavenly Father. I will allow the Spirit of the Lord to help me understand what I should pray for, so that I can truly pray for the things which I most desire, but which I may struggle to articulate.

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