What Does It Mean to Pour Out Your Soul to God?

Several times in the Book of Mormon, people pray with such intensity that they are described as “pouring out [their] whole [souls] unto God.”

  • After Enos’s sins were forgiven, he “began to feel a desire for the welfare of…the Nephites.” As a result, he says, “I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them” (Enos 1:9).
  • While serving as the high priest, Alma faced disciplinary problems in the church, he was deeply troubled, and afraid of taking the wrong action. He tried to enlist the help of the king, who told him this was a church matter and refused to get involved. Finally, “when he had poured out his whole soul to God,” he received guidance about what he should do (Mosiah 26:14).
  • When Ammon saw the dramatic conversion of King Lamoni and his wife, “he fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God” (Alma 19:14).
  • Both Captain Moroni and Helaman poured out their souls in prayer during the Great War between the Nephites and the Lamanites (Alma 46:17, Alma 58:10).
  • When Nephi returned to Zarahemla from his mission to the northern lands, he was horrified at the degradation of society in his absence. In response, he climbed onto a tower in his garden which was beside a public highway and began to pour out his soul to God in full view of the people passing by (Helaman 7:11, 14).
  • Before Mormon resigned as commander of the Nephite armies, he did everything he could for them, including pouring out his soul “in prayer unto…God all the day long for them” (Mormon 3:12).

As I’ve pondered these passages, I’ve had the following thoughts:

  1. Pouring out your whole soul means holding nothing back, being completely honest and completely engaged. It implies total focus, with no distractions or misgivings, a complete absorption in the experience.
  2. This is not an easy state to arrive at. In all of these stories, the individual was motivated to pour out his soul by a set of extraordinary circumstances. In the cases of Enos and Mormon, it was associated with day-long prayers.
  3. Nephi’s example shows us that we can pour out our souls even in public places. Our public prayers need to be sincere and heartfelt just like our private ones.
  4. In Alma’s case, the “pouring out” came only after he had exhausted other possible solutions and knew that only God could resolve the challenge he faced.

Amulek told the Zoramites to “pour out [their] souls in [their] closets, and [their] secret places, and [their] wilderness” (Alma 34:26).

We need to do the same. President Russell M. Nelson has given the following counsel:

Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.
Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will “pour out [my] soul unto God.” I will pray long enough to be completely focused. I will pray sincerely and honestly, holding nothing back. And I will pray with intensity, engaging fully in the experience.

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