Laman and Lemuel have a really bad reputation, and maybe deservedly so. However, can most of us really say that — in the exact same situation — we would really be so different?
Most of what we know about the shared stubbornness of Laman and Lemuel comes down to one thing: their prideful inability to truly and penitently come to their knees in front of their Maker for guidance and answers.
But, really… How often do we pray to the Lord? How often and regular are our prayers? Do we pray individually in the morning, noon, and night? Do we pray with our spouses? With our children? With our families? Do we study out the blessings of prayer? Do we specifically and vocally seek for the mysteries of God and ask him humbly for understanding?
One of the greatest sources of comfort and confidence on my mission came from prayer, as I’ve long realized the blessings of peace that came when saying at least 5 prayers before leaving the house in the morning. I had personal prayer, companion prayer, scripture study prayer, breakfast prayer, and a prayer before leaving the apartment (not to mention any other preparatory prayers that were said personally or with our companion in planning our day before leaving). We prayed when we left a place, we prayed when we got there. We prayed with the investigators. We prayed over our lunch, and when we left the apartment — and then on throughout the rest of the activities of the day.
Whereas Nephi makes it clear out-the-gate that he is heavily engaged in prayer and supplication to know the mysteries of God (1 Ne 1:1; 11:1-3), Laman and Lemuel readily admitted — to their benefit for being honest — that they weren’t as tenacious in acquiring of the Lord as is Nephi.
And I [Nephi] said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said? — If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you (1 Ne 15:8–11; emphasis added).
Nephi appears to have many experiences of dealing with his brother’s lack of petitioning the divine, for one of Nephi’s concluding messages is concerning the power of prayer and of the influence that comes that keeps us from praying.
And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray (2 Ne 32:8).
One of the many powers and blessings of prayer is of remembrance. Prayer keeps us in remembrance of not only everything that the Lord is and has done for us, but for everything he is and will yet do for us. Prayer keeps us in remembrance of the power of the divine unto deliverance, and it does this — among many ways — by establishing consistent experiences of communication with the divine to gain confidence in asking for and receiving answers. In seeming disbelief at his brother’s inability to seek the Lord and trust in his power of deliverance, Nephi asked,
How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the Lord?
How is it that ye have forgotten…?
Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us…?
Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him (1 Ne 7:9–12; emphasis added).
After Nephi’s reproval of his brethren, their consciences are pricked and they seek his forgiveness. He “frankly forgives” them, in true Nephi style, but it is worthy of observation what his very first call-to-action is for his brethren to remember the great things that the Lord has done for them.
And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness. And it came to pass that they did so… (1 Ne 7:21).
There is a powerful effect that comes to the mind, body, and soul through prayer. One writer observed that
Through prayer I developed a trust in God that has pulled me through some of my toughest trials. Feelings of guilt, depression, and low self-worth faded away with I realized that I am a literal child of God. I felt my Heavenly Father’s love, and the Holy Ghost comforted me when I sincerely asked for help.
For those of us who are not strong in our prayers, today is the day to change that. Right now. This very moment. What has happened is behind us, and today is the best time to start new habits. An old proverb asks, “When is the best time to plant an apple tree? Yesterday. When is the next best time to plant an apple tree? Today.” Whatever our previous strengths or weaknesses with prayer, let us commit — for our own sake — to grow closer to the Lord and His Spirit through prayer.
With prayer, we have literally nothing to lose and everything to gain.