“For Your Father Knoweth What Things Ye Have Need of Before Ye Ask Him”

Joseph F. McConkie, Robert L. Millet

Zenos prayed: “And again, O God, when I did turn to my house thou didst hear me in my prayer. And when I did turn into my closet, O Lord, and prayed unto thee, thou didst hear me. Yea, thou art merciful unto thy children when they cry unto thee, to be heard of thee and not of men, and thou wilt hear them.” (Alma 33:6-8, italics added.)

“Your Father Knoweth What Things Ye Have Need of Before Ye Ask Him”

The Prophet Joseph Smith understood this principle clearly. His petitions were fervent, his motives pure, and the blessings of heaven regular. Daniel Tyler an associate of the Prophet, recalled an important occasion: “At the time William Smith and others rebelled against the Prophet at Kirtland, I attended a meeting … where Joseph presided. Entering the school house a little before the meeting opened and gazing upon the man of God, I perceived sadness in his countenance and tears trickling down his cheeks. A few moments later a hymn was sung and he opened the meeting by prayer. Instead of facing the audience, however, he turned his back and bowed upon his knees, facing the wall. This, I suppose, was done to hide his sorrow and tears.”

“Your Father Knoweth What Things Ye Have Need of Before Ye Ask Him”

What purpose is served, we might inquire, by asking God for something when he already knows our needs? For one thing, the spiritual discipline associated with getting in tune with the Spirit, suppressing our own selfish desires, putting away our own agenda and opening our souls to the will of God-this method of prayer, of prayer in Spirit, exposes us to the realization of our true needs. The Lord will bless us in terms of our needs, not just our wants.

When we are inspired by the Holy Ghost Our prayers become instructive; we learn something from them, generally about ourselves. As we, through the Spirit, begin to gain the mind of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:16) we begin to think as God thinks and feel as he feels.

Paul wrote that the Spirit “helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings witch cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27; compare Teachings, p. 278.)

A modern revelation likewise instructs us that “he that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh” (D&C 46:30). The process whereby we become absolutely honest before God, honest in terms of that for which we should pray, is the process by which we come to gain answers to our prayers.

Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4