Although his parents may have wondered if Enos was really listening during the years of family prayers, scripture study, and “home evenings,” he later admitted that the words planted in him during his younger years “sunk deep into [his] heart.” As a father, Jacob blessed his children’s lives by simply talking about the gospel and his testimony in an engaging, nonthreatening way. The result: Jacob trained a prophet of God—who happened to be his son. Do we realize who it is we are really training or teaching or associating with?
As a result of his father’s efforts, Enos’s soul hungered, and he cried unto the Lord in mighty prayer. This was not a routine sort of prayer but a fervent pleading from the depths of his soul. Other key phrases describe his profound pleading: “I did pour out my whole soul”; “I was thus struggling in the spirit”; “I prayed unto him with many long strugglings”; and “I … prayed and labored with all diligence.”
There is a difference between saying prayers and really communicating with Heavenly Father. What do the scriptures mean when they speak of pouring out your soul to God? And when the scriptures refer to “mighty prayer”—how does it happen?
During his service as a mission president in Santiago, Chile, Brother Ogden found himself frequently in the office, staring at the picture board that contained more than two hundred photos of elders and sisters with notes about their time in the mission and where they were presently serving. He spent a lot of time on his knees in that office, pleading with Heavenly Father for guidance in doing the work of his Son. A number of times while praying, he would open his eyes, get up off his knees, stand before that picture board, and pray for each missionary by name. (That would take quite a while.) He wanted to look into the face of each and every missionary, say each person’s name, and ask for blessings on each one.
We need to be specific in our prayers, mentioning the names of people we know who have special needs. They are all around us, in every ward, on every street. The Spirit will tell us for whom we can pray and how we can help them. And when we really connect with the Spirit, there can be a flow of pure intelligence. Sometimes there is a profuse flow of revelation that brings tears to the eyes, light to the mind, or joy to the heart. We find ourselves not just saying words to our God but sharing feelings with our Father.
Revelation often comes during prayer, and when the Lord tells us something, when he gives us some insight into a gospel principle or instruction about how to proceed with something or how to help someone, we need to write it down, not waiting until the end of our prayer—or we might forget it. Brother Ogden’s practice on these occasions is to get up from his knees, grab a notebook and pen, and write about what came into his mind, even if it takes five or ten minutes to write. During that time, even more revelation may come. Then he gets back on his knees and resumes his prayer. Is that heresy, to get up off one’s knees and do something else, thus interrupting the flow of a prayer? We believe that this is part of talking with our Father in Heaven. It is not a one-way monologue; it is two-way communication. If he tells us something, we need to write it down right away.
President Henry B. Eyring relates how he prayed through the night, and the answer came quietly and clearly: “Once … I prayed through the night to know what I was to choose to do in the morning. I knew that no other choice could have had a greater effect on the lives of others and on my own. I knew what choice looked most comfortable to me. I knew what outcome I wanted. But I could not see the future. I could not see which choice would lead to which outcome. So the risk of being wrong seemed too great to me.
“I prayed, but for hours there seemed to be no answer. Just before dawn, a feeling came over me. More than at any time since I had been a child, I felt like one. My heart and my mind seemed to grow very quiet. There was a peace in that inner stillness.
“Somewhat to my surprise, I found myself praying, ‘Heavenly Father, it doesn’t matter what I want. I don’t care anymore what I want. I only want that Thy will be done. That is all that I want. Please tell me what to do.’
“In that moment I felt as quiet inside as I had ever felt. And the message came, and I was sure who it was from. It was clear what I was to do. I received no promise of the outcome. There was only the assurance that I was a child who had been told what path led to whatever He wanted for me.” 4
“All the day long” and into the night, Enos cried to God in heaven. Notice that he had to first resolve his own inner struggle, “for mine own soul,” and then he could reach out to others: “I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites”; after that: “I prayed unto him … for my brethren, the Lamanites.” Once you have reconciled yourself with your Father, you automatically desire to help others. Joseph Smith once said to a group of missionaries: “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. This has been your feeling, and caused you to forego the pleasures of home, that you might be a blessing to others, who are candidates for immortality, but strangers to truth.” 5
Sanctification involves doing all we can to get ourselves saved and help save as many others as we can.