A way to overcome evil

God has given us a way for us to overcome the evils in our world. The people of Alma understood it and showed us how to do it.

And Alma established a church in the land of Sidom, and consecrated priests and teachers in the land, to baptize unto the Lord whosoever were desirous to be baptized. And it came to pass that they were many; for they did flock in from all the region round about Sidom, and were baptized. (Alma 15:13-14)

So Alma had established the church of God and baptized many and in a later verse of that chapter there is an interesting phrase suggesting they had great success:

…Therefore, after Alma having established the church at Sidom, seeing a great check, yea, seeing that the people were checked as to the pride of their hearts (Alma 15:17)

So the verse says “the people were checked as to the pride of their hearts”. Some of the definitions of “check”: to restrain, control, reduce or diminish. How did this reduction and restraint of the pride of the people come about? That is explained in the same verse.

…[they] began to humble themselves before God, and began to assemble themselves together at their sanctuaries to worship God before the altar, watching and praying continually, that they might be delivered from Satan, and from death, and from destruction— (Alma 15:17)

They humbled themselves and met together at church often. I believe the last part is also extremely significant: they were “watching and praying continually”. What does it mean to “watch”? That was my question today so I did some cross-referencing and found a few other scriptures that shed some light. Matthew 26 records the Savior’s counsel to his apostles to “watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”. Amulek teaches in Alma 34 that we should be “watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil”. Luke writes Christ’s words, “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching”.

This may be obvious to some but for my purposes here I want to be clear, I found these definitions of “watch”: to be alert, on the lookout, to keep awake, remain vigilant, to be careful or cautious.

Combining the definitions of watchfulness with the usages of the word in the scriptures and the words in Alma 15:17– the people of Alma were continually vigilant and alert, praying to be delivered from the influence of Satan, they were awake (spiritually) and cautious at all times. They were careful and watchful not only in regard to temptation but also regarding those things which would cause them death (spiritual death?) and destruction.

Fast-forward about 3 years later, and we see the fruits of their efforts:

“…the church had been established throughout all the land—having got the victory over the devil, and the word of God [was] preached in its purity in all the land, and the Lord [poured] out his blessings upon the people.” (Alma 16:21)

Cry Unto the Lord

There’s a large number of scriptures related to prayer that use the word “cry” in place of “pray”. The use of this word is interesting given the varied yet similar meanings of it. It suggests that these are the kind of prayers that might involve speaking out loud, that they might contain a degree of desperation and that they are probably full of tears. Possibly above all else, they are heartfelt and sincere prayers. This provides some insight into the level of these prophets’ reliance on the Lord. Here’s some examples:

King David, though he had fallen in sin, his heart was broken and he cried unto the Lord for mercy, “Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.” (Psalm 86:3)

“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” (Psalms 30:2)

“O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.” (Psalms 30:2)

The prophet Jonah, “…I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” (Jonah 2:2)

The words of Alma regarding his people, “…they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.” (Mosiah 21:14)

The Apostle Paul writes that Melchezidek “…offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;” (Hebrews 5:7)

As Nephi concludes his writings he speaks of his prayers for his people, “…For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.” (2 Nephi 33:3)

Job, renowned for the magnitude of his patience and suffering, simply states “…he heareth the cry of the afflicted.” (Job 34:28)

Amulek recounts the words of Old Testament-era prophet Zenos, “Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship?

For he said: Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer, even when I was in the wilderness; yea, thou wast merciful when I prayed concerning those who were mine enemies, and thou didst turn them to me.

Yea, O God, and thou wast merciful unto me when I did cry unto thee in my field; when I did cry unto thee in my prayer, and thou didst hear me.”

“…And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son.” (Alma 33:4-5, 11)

I’m certainly not a prophet, just an average guy trying to navigate a life that is sometimes amazing and great, sometimes very difficult and painful. But I have seen the Lord respond to my cries, and He’s done so in ways that leave me in awe of His mercy and miraculous power. He has strengthened me when I’ve been sick, shown me the way when I’ve been lost and lifted me up when I’ve been down. He has filled me His with love, comfort, confidence, compassion, and his voice has been like a verse from the hymn, How Firm a Foundation:

Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

I know that the Lord hears and answers all of our prayers, and I believe He sends an extra portion of help and comfort to us when we literally cry unto Him in our struggles, our disappointments and our mistakes, as well as when we cry unto Him for a needed blessing or healing.

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