On Prayer and Power
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Moroni 2:2 -- What constitutes mighty prayer? Once ordained by Jesus Christ himself, why was it necessary for the 12 Disciples to pray mightily before they would have power to give the gift of the Holy Ghost? And what does this mean for me, in my personal ministry?
First, mighty prayer. The Gospel Topics section on prayer says, "We are truly able to pray in Christ's name when our wishes are the wishes of Christ." References are John 15:7 ("If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you") and D&C 46:9 ("He that asketh in the spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh").
I think that mighty prayer is prayer that is directed by the Spirit and that arises out of desires that are focused on serving God with pure motives. I also think that most of my prayers aren't mighty because my mind is so easily distracted and my fallen nature keeps tainting my motives. Neither rote prayer nor distracted prayer is mighty, even if I'm asking for the very things the Lord wants to give me. Fervent prayer, directed at getting God to give me something I think I need, isn't mighty either. Mighty prayer is focused on bringing my heart into harmony with God's and on bringing God's designs into fruition. I think that "wrestling with God in mighty prayer" (Alma 8:10) is a process by which we get to that place where we desire His will and are able to ask in faith, that it might be given.
Now, why did the 12 Disciples need to pray mightily before they had power to do what Jesus Christ had given them both the authority and the commission to do?
The first thing that comes to me is that there is a difference between power and authority. It seems like authority is granted, but spiritual power is developed. It also seems like the call to exercise spiritual power is one of the ways that God helps us to grow. He authorizes and commissions us to fill a role that is bigger than our abilities. And He promises to fit us to the task. But we get to do the work of mighty prayer, of confronting our selfish motives, our prejudices and everything else that corrupts our approach to the problem, and to humbly ask for His help. The process of mighty prayer changes us, attunes us ever more clearly to the will of God, and unclogs the channels to spiritual power.
I think what surprises me most here is the implication that it isn't just miraculous healings or the like that calls for spiritual power as well as authority. It's also ordinances as common-place as baptism (Mosiah 18:12) or the gift of the Holy Ghost. These are also miraculous, but in a way that is easy to overlook because the miracles are inward and, if the miracle occurs, it might only be immediately perceived by the recipient.
What this means to my ministry is this: I believe that the Lord wants me to minister with power as well as authority. And that means that I need to practice mighty prayer in all my efforts to serve Him. It means, for example, that in my calling as ward music director, I need to get on my knees, connect with Heaven, and petition help to get both my insecurities and my ego out of the way in preparation to choose hymns and organize musical numbers. A quick bowing of my head and a rote request for the Spirit to be with me is not mighty.
I would like to be blessed to see the sublime potential in every form of ministry, to serve with the power that arises out of mighty prayer.