Prayer, our Enemies, and the Poor
Some verses in Alma have been on my mind a lot lately. The general flow and message is inspiring and challenging and there are many other little nuggets throughout. I was thinking about how flocks are mentioned here and how important those must have been to people living the law of Moses and their repentance process.
I indented a few of the verses where I saw a kind of chiastic pattern. It seems to emphasize crying unto God against your enemies and even the ultimate enemy, the devil. It’s difficult for me to think of who my enemies might be, because I can’t think of any. Maybe the principle of praying for enemies allows you to have compassion on them.
Perhaps I can find some politicians to pray for ;-) We talk of the sustaining support that church leaders need, but do we offer that same, desperately needed, sustaining support to public servants? (even though they may be doing evil things) I think of Ammon who came to serve King Lamoni who would kill his own servants on a regular basis. A tyrant became a humble and good man because a true follower of God expressed real charity instead of the rest of the people who criticized the Lamanites and would preferred to go to war and kill them. Where are we on that spectrum?
If the Book of Mormon has taught us anything, it’s that people can and do change, but usually it is because of the faith of others who love them enough to bring about miracles. I don’t think stewing in hatred gets us anywhere. We can vehemently disagree with policy but still love the individual, in fact, we must.
Anyway, just some thoughts on the first half of these verses…
Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.
And now, my brethren, I would that, after ye have received so many witnesses, seeing that the holy scriptures testify of these things, ye come forth and bring fruit unto repentance. (Alma 34:17-30)
I think the most profound part of these verses is where Amulek (who is speaking here) says that all our prayers are vain and even we are dross if we:
- Turn away the needy and naked
- Visit not the sick and afflicted
- Impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need
How often do we encounter people that are needy? It’s so easy to judge them and assume that they’ve brought their misfortune upon themselves. Maybe they have, but that’s their struggle, just like we all have struggles. Visiting the sick and afflicted doesn’t cost a thing, only our time. What if we went out of our way to keep something in our cars or bags to be ready to extend help if we come across those in need.
I don’t carry around a lot of cash, and in the past we’ve made these homeless packets that had a little food, water and personal hygiene supplies. Lately I’ve just taken a few five and ten dollar bills and folded them individually into little cards so they are easy to give out and so I can give more depending on the desperation of the person. I’ve thought of purchasing some single person tents and sleeping bags for shelter and warmth. Maybe during lunch I can take a moment to talk to some of these people and find out what some of their general and individual needs are.
What else can I/we do? What are some ideas as to how we can help people out there? I know there are many charities and what not, but what about the people that cross our paths? Maybe there’s a reason we encountered them that day.