In Genesis 4 there is a potentially confusing passage. After reporting that Seth had a son named Enos, the author writes, “then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26).
Joseph Smith’s revision of this passage adds a critical word: “Then began these men to call upon the name of the Lord,” his version reads, “and the Lord blessed them” (Moses 6:4). It’s not that no one had ever prayed before; it’s that when these people began to pray, God answered them.
Amulek urged the Zoramites to “begin to call upon his holy name” (Alma 34:17). Mormon testified that “the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name” (Helaman 3:27). And Aaron instructed a Lamanite king to “bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive” (Alma 22:16).
What’s the significance of calling on God’s name? I think the meaning is simply that we should use His name when we pray. Addressing Him by name personalizes the interaction and clarifies whom we are addressing.
Jesus taught that we should also reference His name when we pray. “Ye shall call upon the Father in my name,” He said to His disciples on the American continent (3 Nephi 27:7, 9, see also Moroni 2:2). Many years earlier, He had given the same instruction to the brother of Jared. (See Ether 4:15.) Even earlier, an angel had taught Adam and Eve this same pattern of prayer. (See Moses 5:8.) I think the implications of this instruction are profound. When we include the Savior’s name in our prayer, we are declaring that we believe He is supportive of the prayer that we have offered, that we believe it is in harmony with His will. We are, in effect, approaching the Father with the Savior beside us, acting as our advocate every time we pray.
From the time I was very young, I have begun my prayers by saying, “Heavenly Father” and have concluded each prayer with the words, “in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” Today, as I offer individual and family prayers, I will pay particular attention to those words. I will remember that God responds when we call upon His name with sincere hearts and when we speak to Him in the name of His Holy Son.