Today, I reviewed all of the prayers I could find in the Book of Mormon. I specifically looked at actual prayers which are quoted word for word, not prayers which are merely mentioned, and not sample prayers given for teaching purposes. I also excluded very short statements directed to God, such as Enos’s question,”Lord, how is it done?”
Here is a list of the 21 prayers I reviewed:
|Reference||Who||Purpose||For Self or Others||Word Count|
|1 Nephi 1:14||Lehi||Express gratitude||N/A||50|
|1 Nephi 7:17||Nephi||Plead for deliverance||Self||36|
|2 Nephi 4:30-35||Nephi||Plead for forgiveness||Self||287|
|Mosiah 4:2||The people of King Benjamin||Plead for forgiveness||Self||51|
|Mosiah 18:12||Alma (the elder)||Prepare to perform a priesthood ordinance||Self||19|
|Alma 2:30||Alma (the Younger)||Plead for help in battle||Self||23|
|Alma 14:26||Alma||Plead for deliverance||Self||26|
|Alma 15:10||Alma||Plead for healing||Others||20|
|Alma 18:41||Lamoni||Plead for mercy (forgiveness)||Self & Others||24|
|Alma 22:18||Lamoni’s father||To know if there is a God||Self||56|
|Alma 31:26-35||Alma||Prepare for missionary service||Self & Others||373|
|Alma 33:4-11||Zenos||Express gratitude||N/A||250|
|Helaman 11:4||Nephi||Request a famine||Others||46|
|Helaman 11:10-16||Nephi||End the famine||Others||240|
|3 Nephi 19:20-23||Jesus||For His disciples to receive the Holy Ghost||Others||138|
|3 Nephi 19:28-29||Jesus||For His disciples to be purified||Others||105|
|Ether 2:18-19||Brother of Jared||Ask for help in fulfilling a commandment||Self||62|
|Ether 2:22||Brother of Jared||Ask for help in fulfilling a commandment||Self||44|
|Ether 3:2-5||Brother of Jared||Ask for help in fulfilling a commandment||Self||252|
|Ether 12:23-25||Moroni||Express doubt||Self||156|
|Ether 12:29-35||Moroni||Express faith||Self||260|
These prayers cover a variety of topics and were offered in a variety of settings, ranging from an isolated mountaintop to a battlefield. Some of the prayers were offered on behalf of other people, but most were seeking blessings for the person offering the prayer. A couple of the prayers were simply to communicate gratitude to God.
What impressed me most about these prayers was their brevity and simplicity. The longest one (373 words) is Alma’s prayer before beginning a mission to the Zoramites. Even that prayer can be read in less than 2 minutes. These individuals “did not multiply many words,” thinking “that they [would] be heard for their much speaking” (3 Nephi 19:24, 3 Nephi 13:7). Each of these prayers had a clear purpose, and the words were direct and sufficient for that purpose.
I recognize that the Book of Mormon speaks of much longer prayers as well. Enos prayed all day and into the night (Enos 1:4). And the brother of Jared talked with the Lord for three hours on one occasion (Ether 2:14). Still, the impression I get from the passages listed above is that most prayers don’t have to be long to be effective, and that sincerity and clarity are more important than eloquence and articulateness. I’m particularly impressed with Nephi’s psalm in 2 Nephi 4, and with Moroni’s expression of doubt in Ether 12. Their openness and frankness is poignant. And even those heartfelt expressions are succinct.
Today, I will follow the pattern set by these prayers in the Book of Mormon. I will keep my prayers simple and direct, focusing on the topic of the prayer. I will remember that the goal is not to convince Heavenly Father with lengthy arguments but merely to express to Him the sincere desires of my heart.