The following scripture has always perplexed me:
And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me.
And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.
But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying:
O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.
And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again. (1 Nephi 7:16-18)
I’ve always wondered, “Why didn’t the bands burst as he prayed? Why were they loosed, instead?” I finally understand this scripture, and my understanding comes from personal experience.
Two weeks of miracles
During the past two weeks I have been experimenting with the various gifts I have, and I have been able to work ten miracles—four during the first week, and six during the second week. Now, these weren’t mighty miracles, meaning unexplainable miracles of power, but the type of miracles that skeptics can say were mere coincidences. Of course, all miracles are wrought by the miraculous power of God, but I differentiate between mighty miracles (unexplainable miracles of power) and coincidental miracles (explainable miracles of power.) Here is a breakdown of the list:
1) Gift: Working of Miracles. What I asked for: I asked for one thing specific to happen on a specific day, to solve a specific problem. I also asked for a second specific thing to happen at that same time. Result: within 24 hours of asking, my problem was solved, the first specific thing was given, as well as the second specific thing, at the very last minute. Both things asked for were unlikely to happen, and the first hadn’t happened for many months and the second hadn’t happened in over a year’s time. I asked emphatically, for it was a bit of an emergency.
2) Gift: Faith to be Healed. What I asked for: I asked for a specific healing to address an annoying problem. Result: within 24 hours of asking, my problem was solved. I do not know whether the healing I asked for is occurring or not.
3) Gift: Working of Miracles. What I asked for: I asked for a specific alteration of the weather, to address an annoying problem. Result: The weather was altered precisely as I asked, all day long, except at the very end of the day the weather started to resume its normal course, but I sent up another prayer and it instantly changed again to the precise thing I had asked for.
4) Gift: Working of Miracles. What I asked for: I asked for a specific thing that was impossible to happen, requiring a bona fide miracle of power. This was to address a specific problem that I had. I asked emphatically. Result: the specific problem was resolved in a non-miraculous way, unexpectedly.
5) Gift: Word of Wisdom. What I asked for: a life and death situation presented itself, and my mind went a mile a minute trying to figure out how to get out of it, but I could find no solution, and I needed one fast. Panicking, I turned my attention to the 14 best gifts and decided that the gift of the word of wisdom could get me out of my danger. I then quickly cried to the Lord to empower my gift and give me wisdom to know what to do. Result: Instantly, upon saying the prayer, an image of an object I possessed popped into my mind and then an image of a second object I possessed popped in, and I immediately saw that by using the two objects together in a certain way, the danger would be averted. I offered up a prayer of thanks and then went to work, saving the day. Needless to say, I was astounded by the operation of this gift and praised the Lord for days afterward.
6) Gift: Working of Miracles. What I asked for: I needed a specific and better object, to replace an object that I had, and so I asked for it. Result: Later that same day, it simply appeared in my way, just for the taking. It was perfect except it was the wrong size, so I did not take it.
7) Gift: Working of Miracles. What I asked for: Again I asked for a specific thing to be given to me on a specific day, and also the second thing, just as I had done the week before. But this time I didn’t ask quite so emphatically as before. Result: The first specific thing was again given, but the second thing was not. But it didn’t matter, because my problem was solved by the first thing anyway.
8) Gift: Working of Miracles. What I asked for: Again I asked for the weather to be altered. Result: Again it was altered according to my prayer.
9) Gift: Working of Miracles. What I asked for: I needed a better item to replace an item that I had been using. So I asked for it, being very specific as to what I wanted. Result: That same day a similar item appeared in my way, merely for the taking. In fact, not just one item, but three of the same item appeared. But these things were much too big, and also, they weren’t precisely what I asked for, nevertheless, they were quite similar to what I had in mind. So, I left them alone and did not take any.
10) Gift: Working of Miracles. What I asked for: My means of transporting lots of heavy things decided to self-destruct mid-trip, and I found myself having to figure out how to get to my destination and carry everything by hand, using brute strength. After getting everything loaded onto me, I realized that the load was much too heavy for me and I’d have to stop every so many steps to catch my breath and my quick trip would take hours now. So, I cried to God for the strength of the Lord, so that I could bear all these heavy items easily, and I continued my cries as I trudged along. Result: A few minutes later, two seemingly brand new metal carts appeared in my way, for the taking. I put everything into one of the carts, and went my way with ease, my problem having been solved.
All of these answers to my prayers were remarkable because instead of requiring lots of prayer, they required but one prayer or just continual prayer for a few minutes. The answers typically came within 24 hours, or within minutes or even instantly (in the case of the word of wisdom miracle) and, in the case of the weather alterations, the miracles lasted all day long.
Slow to hear
Historically, it has taken me an astounding amount of prayer to get anything out of the Lord.
And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage. (Mosiah 21:15)
Yea, and it shall come to pass that when they shall cry unto me I will be slow to hear their cries; yea, and I will suffer them that they be smitten by their enemies. (Mosiah 11:24)
The above “slow to hear” curse, put upon the wicked, has been my curse from the very beginning. To give some examples, I prayed for over a year to get the Lord to give me the woman I ended up marrying, and this was even before I began pursuing her. (I don’t “fish” for women, nor do I use the “spear gun approach.” I always opt for the miraculous guaranteed approach, in which I pray for the biggest fish I can find, and at the appropriate time, she jumps out of the water, into my boat.) Another example was when I went on my mission. I never studied the language. No, not one bit. Not in the MTC, nor on the mission. The book they gave me to study the language while in the field, I thumbed through once, and then threw it away. After I got in the field, in my first area, I said to the Lord, “I am not going to study this language, so if you want me to preach to these people, you are going to have to give me the gifts of tongues and interpretation, and then I’ll preach. But I’m not going to lift a finger to learn this language, because I don’t like this language. But I will pray for these gifts, and that is all I will do, until you give me ability to preach in this language, and then, and only then, will I preach.” And so I continued to pray for the gifts all through the months of my first area. When I got to my second area, suddenly I could preach in the language, and that is the only ability the Lord gave me to do (to preach), for that is all I asked for. In other words, I couldn’t talk of other topics, but I could preach in the language, and that was fine with me, because that is all I wanted. And so I stopped praying for tongues and interpretation and started preaching, but it took me months of prayer to make it happen.
But, in the past two weeks, this “curse” seems to be finally lifting, and now an emphatic prayer can get the Lord to act instantly, or quite rapidly, in my behalf. Which leads me to the scripture about Nephi.
Imperfect or weak faith
From the experience I have gained in the past two weeks, it seems apparent that God must respond to any level of faith, whatsoever, in some way, even if the faith is weak or imperfect. As long as there is faith, there will be a miracle of some kind. The ten miracles I worked were not demonstrations of perfect or strong faith, except in the case of the word of wisdom miracle, and also the altering of the weather miracles. But for the others, I didn’t get exactly what I asked for, just as Nephi didn’t get exactly what he asked for. Nevertheless, I had exercised a measure of faith, however imperfect and weak, and because of it, God had to supply something, to help alleviate my situation, just as he had to supply something to Nephi, to alleviate his situation. This then, is the reason why the bands were loosed from off of Nephi, and not broken by his “strength of the Lord” strength. It wasn’t that he had prayed “amiss.” It was simply that his faith wasn’t perfect or strong enough in that moment for that specific miracle to happen precisely as asked. Nevertheless, the very fact that the bands were loosed, in other words, the very fact that something happened as a result of his prayer, bespeaks that he had, in very deed, prayed in faith.
And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. (Alma 37:40)
Later, of course, Nephi’s faith was made strong, even unshaken, for all these daily witnesses (miracles) of imperfect or weak faith tend to make one’s faith stronger and stronger as time goes on, so that later, when Nephi prayed, God performed the miracle exactly as he asked for it.
Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea. (Jacob 4:6)