As I read in the Book of Mormon one day—1 Nephi chapter 1, actually—I was touched (and a little chastised and humbled) by what I discovered. In this opening chapter, Lehi had just listened to other prophets preach repentance and prophesy about what would happen to the people of Jerusalem if they didn’t humble themselves and repent of their wickedness.
When Lehi came home from this, he immediately began praying for the people. The ones who didn’t believe as he did. The ones who’d turned their backs on God. The ones who would eventually mock him and even try to kill him for his beliefs.
As I imagined that scene, I was struck by how charitable Lehi acted.
It is natural when we see others who purposely turn their backs on God and, in the name of social progression, rebel against His commandments (traditional marriage, morality, purity, kindness, honesty, etc) to want justice to be exercised against them. To want God to teach them a lesson so they can see the error of their ways.
But like Lehi, we should never let thoughts of justice or retribution overcome thoughts of mercy.
Lehi chose the higher road.
So should we.
Lehi fell to his knees, but he didn’t pray that the wicked would be condemned and suffer for their sins. Instead, he prayed that God would be merciful to them. That He would soften their hearts to repent and receive God’s love. That they would find their way back to the path that led to joy, not destruction.
We will meet many in life who don’t like us. They’ll call us bigots when we aren’t. They’ll mock us for keeping God’s commandments. They might be the opposite political party. Or they won’t agree with any of our leanings and desires for the country, state, or neighborhood. Maybe they outright mock our sacred beliefs. In short, they will be our enemies.
If we allow justice to guide our thoughts, then we will feel vindicated in wishing for their downfall—be it physical, financial, spiritual, or whatever.
But if we exercise mercy like Lehi did, we will choose the higher road and pray for our enemies.
Merciful & Charitable Prayer
We will pray most earnestly for those who have turned their backs to God, and plead for them to accept a second, third, or twentieth chance to soften their hearts and return to Him.
Charity, which is the pure love of Christ, will lead us to pray for a president we maybe didn’t vote for.
Merciful charity will lead us to pray for a neighbor who continually lets his dog poop on our yard even after we’ve asked him to refrain.
Charitable mercy will lead us to pray for those who oppose our religious views.
Mercy will lead us to pray even for terrorists who seek destruction of the innocents.
Merciful charity will lead us to pray for the refugees who suffer from the same terrorists…and seek to help them.
In short, charity will lead us to pray for mercy for the sinner, downtrodden, naked, hungry, or destitute—not cry out for their demise.
Destruction might come to the wicked. After all, it is a consequence of sin. But it will not be our prayers that call down those lightning bolts from heaven. God is the only Judge of who will be destroyed and who will not. And the scriptures are full of examples of Him pleading for His children to repent and come back to Him.
He is ready to receive all of us—even the vilest of sinners—as soon as we turn to Him.
He will embrace us immediately.
The very moment we choose to repent.
It is our job to plead for mercy for the sinner, and then do our best to be a helping hand and a second chance to those around us.
To lift, not put down.
It is our sacred duty to be a tool or instrument in God’s hands to bring about temporal and eternal salvation to as many souls as possible.
To save, not judge.
That is what Lehi did. After praying for the people of Jerusalem, he put his desires for their welfare into action and went out and preached repentance, offering second chances to put their lives in order and return to God. He wanted to save the people from the fate he’d seen in his vision. Lehi didn’t sit back and say, “They deserve to be destroyed. Look at all the bad things they’ve done.”
This is a great lesson for us.
No individual or nation is ever past redemption.
Think of Jonah and the wicked city of Ninevah. After he cried repentance unto them, the whole city experienced a mighty change of heart and repented of their sins. The destruction prophesied for them did not come to pass. Instead, they were filled with joy and God’s healing peace.
We should work our hardest to save other, never giving them up for lost.
Even when those Lehi tried to save mocked “him because of the things which he testified” (1 Nephi 1:19), he kept trying to convince them to repent and believe in Christ…to believe in His redemptive and saving power. And even when they outright rejected him and “sought his life, that they might take it away” (vs.20), Lehi still prayed for them.
He chose the high road.
So should we.
Merciful & charitable prayer brings us closer to God. It changes our own hearts so that we can do godlike things and lift others (even our enemies), bringing joy like nothing else can.