Pray To Know
Written by John Carson
I love prayer. Now, I cannot say that I am close at being the greatest role model as a prayer warrior, but when I do get into prayer time with my Lord, I consider it a sacred time, rich and full of meaning. I know that my God hears my praise and petitions. I know that my prayers are important to God. I know that it is also a wondrous journey to be able to pray with and for others. But can I know that something is true by praying about it?
Whenever Mormon missionaries come over to share their lessons with me, I am asked to pray about certain issues. I am more than happy to pray to my God, and because I consider prayer as sacred territory, I must approach prayer with reverence and open honesty. My heart is always touched by the fact that these Mormon missionaries really want me to pray with them, and I won’t hesitate to pray to my God in the presence of others. However, because prayer is so important to me, I will not approach the throne of God with a petition that I know is contrary to what He has already revealed to me, and that has to do with truth.
In the Mormon study guide, ‘The Plan of Our Heavenly Father,’ it reads:
You Can Know The Truth
You can know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. You can know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. You can know these things by reading the Book of Mormon, pondering its message and its importance for you, and praying to know that it is true.
Notice that it says, “praying to know that it is true,” not, “to know if it is true.” In other words, the Mormon missionary is trying to get people to use prayer as a conduit for receiving what they, the Mormons, believe to be truth.
Mormons often cite James 1:5-6 in support of this position. It reads:
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering."
Is James chapter 1 actually teaching us that we receive revelation from God through prayer? Mormons would answer, “yes.”
But let’s take a closer look at the context of James’ epistle. Verses 2-4 introduces the context of the message. It reads:
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
Verse 12 reads:
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
Now was this written for non-believers to receive revelation from God about truth? No. You will notice that this epistle was written to Christians, “My brethren (verse 2).” James wrote about believers receiving wisdom in order to endure temptation. James 1:5-6 has nothing whatsoever to do with a confirmation of truth. There is nothing in the context of James 1 to even suggest this view. The passage has everything to do with receiving wisdom from God to endure temptation in order to produce patience.
Mormons believe that those who pray sincerely to know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, will receive confirmation by what they call a "burning in the bosom." Doctrines and Covenants is a book that Mormons believe to be scripture. It reads in chapter 9, verse 8:
- "But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it is right, and if it be right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right."
Is truth dependent upon our feelings? If it is, then we’re in deep trouble because as everyone knows, feelings change. If truth were dependent upon our feelings, then all religions would be true and false at the same time, since there are many members of various groups whose feelings differ about particular doctrines. Sure, I can have assurance about truth that has already been revealed to me… and that certainly has a deep impact upon my feelings about certain issues. For example, I greatly rejoice in knowing that my Saviour loves me. How did I receive this knowledge? By praying that Jesus loves me? Of course not! Jesus loving me is accomplished by Him, and my prayer of praise is a response to what He has already revealed to me.
Since our feelings cannot be relied upon for confirming truth, how then do we receive knowledge about the things of God.
Acts 17:11 reveals that the Bereans:
"…. were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
In other words, God’s truth has already been revealed. It is found in God’s holy book, the Bible.
Is it proper for me to pray to know that what the Mormon missionaries are teaching is true? No. But it is proper for me to pray that God the Holy Spirit would open their minds to receive the truth of His word, which is revealed in the Bible; and that through the revelation of Scripture they may come to know and receive God’s truth as He revealed it.
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Blessings to you,