What Can We Learn from the Prayers Recorded in the Book of Mormon?

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.

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