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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, Chapter 22: Prayer—A Commandment and a Blessing

Chapter 22: Prayer—A Commandment and a Blessing

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, (2013), 275–85

During 2014, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith

We are commanded to draw near to Heavenly Father in prayer.

It is a commandment from the Lord that we seek him constantly in humble prayer. When the Savior was with his disciples he taught them to pray and he set the example before them in frequent prayers to his Father. We may be sure, since it is a commandment from the Lord, that there is virtue in prayer, and when we seek the Lord it should be in the spirit of humility and reverence. …

… It is the duty of parents to teach their children to pray as soon as they commence to understand. Let them form the habit of approaching their Father in heaven, and with the understanding of the reason for prayer. If this habit is formed in childhood, it may remain through mature years, and the man or woman who has earnestly sought the Lord and thanked him for blessings, may expect that the Lord will not forsake them in the hour of need.

I will say that my review on this particular chapter will be very short. I agree that prayer is very important. We will not disagree there. My problem is that the God of Mormonism—the one to whom the prayers are offered—is not the God of the Bible. See my review in Chapter 1: Our Father in Heaven. With that being said, while God hears everyone, I believe the prayers of the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, and even Mormon would be better suited if directed to the Living God of the universe and not a wrong version of Him.

“It is the duty of parents to teach their children to pray as soon as they commence to understand.”

I wonder if we ever stop to think why the Lord has asked us to pray. Did he ask us to pray because he wants us to bow down and worship him? Is that the main reason? I don’t think it is. He is our Heavenly Father, and we have been commanded to worship him and pray to him in the name of his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. But the Lord can get along without our prayers. His work will go on just the same, whether we pray or whether we do not. … Prayer is something that we need, not that the Lord needs. He knows just how to conduct his affairs and how to take care of them without any help from us. Our prayers are not for the purpose of telling him how to run his business. If we have any such idea as that, then of course we have the wrong idea. Our prayers are uttered more for our sakes, to build us up and give us strength and courage, and to increase our faith in him.

All in all, I agree with this paragraph. Prayer is our lifeline to God. He wants us to petition Him for our every need. The Bible commands us to pray without ceasing. And we have been taught to pray “thy will be done.” I have to admit, this is a difficult discipline, but without a successful prayer life, it is impossible to live according to God’s will. I, for one, admit my shortcomings in this area and continue to lay all my requests before God as if everything depended on Him and not me.

Prayer is something that humbles the soul. It broadens our comprehension; it quickens the mind. It draws us nearer to our Father in heaven. We need his help; there is no question about that. We need the guidance of his Holy Spirit. We need to know what principles have been given to us by which we may come back into his presence. We need to have our minds quickened by the inspiration that comes from him; and for these reasons we pray to him, that he may help us to live so that we will know his truth and be able to walk in its light, that we may, through our faithfulness and our obedience, come back again into his presence.

It is such a shame that the God of Mormonism along with its false version of the gospel gets in the way of words like these. In any other context, the reader would think he or she is reading an Evangelical Christian rather than a Mormon president.

Few things in life are as important as communing with Deity in prayer. The Lord has drawn over our minds a curtain of forgetfulness so that we do not remember him and our association with him as members of his family in the premortal life. Prayer is the avenue of communication which he has provided for us to commune with him again. Thus, one of the chief purposes of our mortal probation is to see if we can learn with the spirit of prayer always in our hearts so that when the Lord chooses to speak, we shall hear his voice in our souls.

Here Smith’s Mormonism does get in the way, as his presupposition (premortality) comes through. For a critique from an earlier chapter (3) of this manual, click here.

The season for prayer is always.

“And a commandment I give unto them (that is, unto the parents in Zion), that he that observeth not his prayers before the Lord in the season thereof, let him be had in remembrance before the judge of my people.” [D&C 68:33.]

I do not suppose that we have read that verse in this section any too much, and I wonder sometimes if we realize how important this command really is. No man can retain the Spirit of the Lord, unless he prays. No man can have the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, unless in his heart is found this spirit of prayer. …

It is misleading to say that “no man can retain the Spirit of the Lord, unless he prays.” Does the Holy Spirit go in and out of a person’s life based on obedience/disobedience? According to the Bible, no. When a person is baptized by the Spirit, there can never be any abandonment by God. Of course, there is also something called “filling of the Spirit” and displaying the “fruits of the Spirit.” It is possible to have God in our lives even when we don’t live completely for Him. Thus, when Paul said in Eph. 5:18b “to be filled with the Spirit,” the literal meaning is “be being filled.” This is a constant mindset. But even when we are not “filled,” God’s Spirit still resides in the believer’s life. On the other hand, Mormonism teaches that there can never be an assurance that a person is truly forgiven of all sins–past, present, and future.

We should plead with Heavenly Father for all our righteous desires.

We should plead with [Heavenly Father] for faith and integrity and for every godly attribute, for the triumph and success of his work, for the guidance of his Holy Spirit, and for salvation in his kingdom. We should pray for our families, for our wives and children, for food and shelter and clothing, for our business concerns, and for all our righteous desires.

I pray that the blessings of heaven may be and abide with us and all men.

O that the heavens might pour down righteousness and truth upon all the world!

O that all men everywhere might have a listening ear, and that they might heed the words of truth and light which come from the Lord’s servants!

O that the Lord’s purposes among all people in every nation might speedily be fulfilled!

I echo these prayers.

I pray for the members of the Church, who are the saints of the Most High, that they may be strengthened in their faith, and that desires for righteousness may increase in their hearts, and that they may work out their salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord [see Philippians 2:12; Mormon 9:27].

Notice, work “out” and not work “for” our salvation. The Evangelical Christian can agree that working out our salvation is important (see Eph. 2:10; James 2:20,26).

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