“And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:”
It wasn’t just a quick prayer that the prophet offered. Nephi prayed, pleaded, all day. He was desperate for his people. After humbly pleading with the Lord, all day long, the Lord spoke to him. I’ve had prayers answered before. Not all prayers are answered within a day or by receiving the words. Sometimes people cross our path who turn out to be the answer to years of prayers. But I have had experiences with prayers answered in the way that this verse describes too. Sometimes the answer comes in the form of reading a scripture that is exactly what I needed to know at that time. Or it comes by help from a friend or a call or message from a family member with perfect timing. There have even been times where I’ll have a thought pop into my head that is the perfect solution to my problem. I believe those all to be the Lord speaking to me. Sometimes, a thought pops into my head so immediate and direct that I can almost hear a voice. I have thought (or heard), “You can do this!” when I needed encouragement. Or, “I’m still here” when I needed comfort. It’s the Holy Spirit who helps us communicate to Heavenly Father and Him to us. All these answers to prayer are called revelation. We don’t pray to a prophet, living or dead. Although the living prophets receive revelation pertaining to us, we are obligated to receive it for ourselves by praying and asking whether or not it is true. So sometimes a simple “Yes” or “No” is the answer I receive from the Lord. Sometimes additional prayers are needed like, “Help me discover how this applies to me”. I bet you Nephi’s people are praying this day too. They’re families lives are threatened by the unbelievers! (Their anticipation for Christmas is quite different than ours today.)
Prayer is a gift given to each human being and if we, sincerely, want to know the answer we will receive it.
“And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.”
The prophet Nephi knew the sign would be given as Samuel said. But, obviously, he didn’t know if lives would be lost before it happened. Do we expect a true prophet of God to know everything? I think they must, also, be on a ‘need to know’ basis with God. Prophets aren’t perfect, either, and maybe their faith also needs to be exercised. I don’t know if that would be for their benefit or ours though? Nephi apparently knew the time for the sign was close enough that all that was left to do was pray in behalf of the believers. Heavenly Father expects us to ask for what we need. To “cry mightily” sounds like pleading to me. If I put myself in Nephi’s place I could think of a couple different things I could ask Heavenly Father for in this desperate time. My first thought is to pray for their safety. I could ask Him to soften the hearts of the wicked so they’ll put off the death deadline until Christ comes. I would ask if there is something else I could do to change their minds. I might also pray that the righteous be comforted and strengthened no matter what happens. I could plead for the sign to be given tonight. I know I would pray that all lives would be spared but that His will be done. I think it is interesting that, in the previous verse, he called the wicked “his people”; here it is the righteous. We love who we serve. It doesn’t matter whether they listen to us or not. A couple days ago, I talked about “tradition” as if it were something negative; or at least something less than righteous. Traditions can be good, bad or somewhere in between. The Christmas season is full of cultural and family traditions. As we establish our family traditions we want them to reinforce and promote faith in God and Jesus Christ. Santa Clause, reindeer and elves are not evil. But remember to teach the meaning of Christmas. Otherwise, children might think it’s the receiving (or the sugar), instead of the giving, that makes them so happy. God gave us His Son and Jesus gave His life for us to be happy.