My wife and I live not too far from the Provo Temple, and so on Sunday afternoons after church I like to take a walk to temple grounds and read the scriptures. I have found that this is one of the highlights of my Sunday and that I have gotten a lot of spiritual nourishment out of doing so.
Today, as I walked to the temple I noticed an individual yelling at the missionaries. I have seen anti-Mormon demonstrators outside of temple square, and also the Hill Cumorah Pageant and so I quickly realized he was preaching about how Mormons are not saved because we do not believe in the savior. One of his main arguments is that we are not Christian because we do not pray to Jesus…
After listening to him and briefly speaking to him, I began to think about why we pray to the father rather than to the son…
I thought about an instance in the Book of Mormon when the Nephites in fact did fall of their knees and worship the savior… In 3 Nephi 11 we read:
13 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
16 And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
17 Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.
A few chapters later, Christ appears before the Nephites and commands the 12 chosen disciples to kneel and pray so that the holy ghost can be given to the people (3 Nephi 19)
16 And it came to pass that he spake unto the multitude, and commanded them that they should kneel down again upon the earth, and also that his disciples should kneel down upon the earth.
17 And it came to pass that when they had all knelt down upon the earth, he commanded his disciples that they should pray.
18 And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.
24 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they shouldpray, and they were filled with desire.
25 And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were aswhite as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof.
26 And Jesus said unto them: Pray on; nevertheless they did not cease to pray.
There is no question that Christ is an appropriate object of our reverence, devotion, worship and even at certain moments our prayers. There have been moments when in anguish or suffering I have called out directly to the savior asking him to help me receive his saving and atoning grace. In these moments, I have felt great peace and comfort and my faith in Christ has been strengthened.
So, why do I…As most Latter-day saints pray to the father in the name of Christ? I thought of several reasons.
First of all, I truly believe that the Father and the Son are one in purpose, unity, mind, intentions. As Elder Holland explained
We testify that He is one with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the Three being One: one in spirit, one in strength, one in purpose, one in voice, one in glory, one in will, one in goodness, and one in grace—one in every conceivable form and facet of unity except that of Their separate physical embodiment
Because of this, I truly feel that praying to the father is also a prayer to the Son and the Holy Ghost. I do not feel a need to separate or look pray to distinct individuals, because in this regard they are fully and completely unified.
Second, Christ is referenced several times in the scriptures as praying for us to the father. If Christ is actively praying on our behalf to the father, I feel like I should do so as well… Moreover, if even the savior is praying to the father, that tells me something about our relationship to the father
In D&C 45 we read:
3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.
In the New Testament Christ explains that he is praying for those that have been given to him by the father
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:9)
Likewise, in one especially tender instance the savior declares to Simon Peter that he is praying for him directly:
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (Luke 22:32)
I pray to the father because of the savior’s beautiful example of faithful prayer to the father. In his Lord’s prayer, the savior addressed the father and urged his disciples to pray likewise
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, John records the great intercessory prayer which Christ made on behalf of his disciples, in it, Christ speaks directly to the father. Likewise, after his resurrection when appearing to the Nephites, Christ again gets on his knees and speaks to the father directly. Returning again to 3 Nephi 19
19 And it came to pass that Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth, and he said:
20 Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.
21 Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.
22 Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.
23 And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one.
24 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.
I love Christ’s reverence towards the father. I love the faith that he shows. This is truly the greatest example of prayer ever recorded.
Perhaps most importantly, I chose to pray to the father directly, because that is what the savior has commanded us to do. Because I am his disciple I try to keep his commandments with all of my heart. In 3 Nephi 18 the Savior most powerfully and directly commanded the multitude to pray unto the father in his name:
12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.
13 But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.
14 Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.
15 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.
16 And as I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in mychurch, among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name. Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you.
17 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them:
18 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
21 Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.
22 And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
23 But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name.
24 Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed.
I pray as I do because of my love and reverence for the savior. He has told us that if we love him we should keep his commandments. When I pray to the father in his name, I am following his example and doing as he has commanded me to do. I honor the savior’s incalculable sacrifice, by seeking to do his will and by turning unto the father in prayer