Near the end of his second book, the prophet Nephi pleads with us to pray. He tells us that we should “pray always, and not faint.” He counsels us not to do anything without asking God to consecrate our actions “for the welfare of [our souls]” (2 Nephi 32:9).
Nephi’s sincerity is credible because prayer has been pervasive in his writings. Long before we read this counsel, we learn what prayer means to him in practical terms, as he tells the story of his family’s migration from Jerusalem to the American continent. Here are a few examples:
- The story begins with a prayer: Nephi’s father, Lehi, experiences a vision after praying “with all his heart, in behalf of his people” (1 Nephi 1:5).
- When the Lord commands Lehi to leave Jerusalem, Nephi’s brothers complain. But Nephi wants to understand “the mysteries of God.” He prays for understanding, and the Lord softens his heart (1 Nephi 2:16).
- When Nephi’s brothers bind him with cords and threaten to leave him to die in the wilderness, he prays for strength to “burst these bands.” He is miraculously delivered (1 Nephi 7:17-18).
- When his brothers subsequently ask him to forgive them, he urges them to pray to God for forgiveness, which they do (1 Nephi 7:20-22).
- Lehi later has a dream which begins with him traveling “in a dark and dreary waste.” After traveling many hours in darkness, he prays for mercy, and he is led to the tree of life (1 Nephi 8:8-9).
- After hearing his father describe his dream, Nephi prays to see the things his father saw (1 Nephi 11:1-3).
- After experiencing a remarkable vision, Nephi finds his brothers arguing about the meaning of their father’s dream. He asks them if they have inquired of the Lord to understand it, and they reply that they have not (1 Nephi 15:2-3, 8-9).
- In the land of Bountiful, while they build a ship, Nephi ascends a “mount” frequently to pray, and the Lord shows him “great things” (1 Nephi 18:3).
- During their journey across the ocean, Nephi’s brothers tie him up again. A terrible storm arises, threatening the lives of the entire family. When his brothers repent and set him free, he prays and the storm goes away (1 Nephi 18:21).
- Nephi shares a heartfelt prayer with the reader, in which he asks God to help him overcome his weaknesses (2 Nephi 4:30-34).
- At the end of his writings, Nephi informs us that he prays continually for his people, by day and by night (2 Nephi 33:3).
Here are some of the principles I have learned from these stories:
- We can receive many blessings in response to prayer, including deliverance from natural disasters, deliverance from other people, guidance, understanding, a changed attitude, and forgiveness.
- Some blessings won’t come until we pray for them.
- We can pray in many different circumstances.
- We ought to dedicate time to prayer regularly.
- When we don’t understand or agree with something, we should pray.
- Much of the work of repentance happens while we pray.
- We can pray for ourselves, but we should also pray for others.
Today, I will strive to apply these principles about prayer from the life of Nephi. I will pray for the blessings I need. I will pray for understanding and for help in achieving an appropriate attitude. And I will pray on behalf of the people I love.