3 Nephi 13:5-8

Brant Gardner

There are no significant differences between these verses and the parallels found in Matthew 6:5–8.

These instructions will introduce the Lord’s prayer in the next verses. The introduction sets up the need for correct humility before God in prayer as opposed to prayers offered as public demonstrations. It is not a condemnation of public prayer, but of the motivations behind it.

If the one who prays in public desires that people recognize that person as particularly pious, then they are offering the prayer for their own benefit, and are not truly desiring communion with God. The admonition to pray in secret is again not a suggestion that there should be no public prayers, but that the purpose of prayer is communion, which can be done in secret where no other person could see or hear it. God sees. God hears. That is the purpose of prayer.

Vain repetitions might include some of the stock phrases we all learn from our culture, but that was not the intent of these verses. Many prayers in the ancient world were more akin to what we might compare to a magic spell. They were formulas that were designed to suggest that using that formula would require God to hear, and act on the subject of the prayer. God’s desire for our prayers is that they be more communication, and less an attempt to suggest that God ought to do our will.

Book of Mormon Minute