3 Nephi 18: 19-20:
“Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name; And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.”
When you “always pray unto the Father” in Christ’s name, there will be an inevitable closeness between you and Him. You draw closer to those with whom you associate. Praying always triggers that association. As with everything else, it is dynamic, not static. You move closer or you move farther apart, but you do not remain static.
What does “whatsoever ye shall ask” include? If you think Christ is inviting you to turn the Father into a short-order cook, jumping to your will, you do not understand this process. However, this is how some people view prayer. It is a list of wants, desires and aspirations to be imposed on the Father.
What does the limitation “which is right” do to modify “whatsoever ye shall ask?”
What does the phrase “whatsoever ye shall ask, which is right” mean?
Who determines whether a request you make “is right?” What about those occasions when the Lord invites someone to “ask anything of Him”? (See, e.g., 1 Kings 3: 5
; 3 Nephi 28: 1
–if you do not understand this concept it is explained in Beloved Enos
. It occurs in a very specific setting.) Is there any limit to what might be asked at that moment? What does that suggest about those persons this offer is extended?
The purpose of this teaching by the Lord is to invite harmony between those who ask, and the Father, who gives. Inspired requests to Him are intended to come to you by revelation, so you may understand what you should ask. Then, when you have conformed your will to His, what you receive is according to His will, and not your own.
Throughout, the Lord is leading those who will follow into a condition of unity with the Father and the Son. The goal has always been the same. The teachings have always been the same. The Lord’s great Intercessory Prayer taught the same concept. (John 17: 1-26
.) The ability to be “one” with them is not accomplished by men persuading God to follow man’s will. It is accomplished in the same manner as Christ accomplished it. That is, by conforming to the will of the Father even when it is painful, or terribly burdensome. (See, e.g. D&C 19: 18-19
; 3 Nephi 11: 11
The whole meaning of this promise is captured in the qualification that it must be that “which is right.” If you acquire an understanding of what “is right” then by asking for it, you submit to the Father’s will. Even if you would shrink from it, beg that it may pass from you, and cower at the thing required of you. When you “ask of the Father in Christ’s name” for whatsoever “is right” despite your desire for things to be otherwise, you are going to become one with Them. Then you will be like Them. At this time you will learn the great truth that the will of the Father IS indeed “whatsoever is right.”
Joseph Smith explained it: “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints.”
The way heaven knows a man has arrived at that point is by the offered prayers. When they seek to do the will of the Father, and the requests are “what is right,” then the heavens cannot withhold anything from that man. Indeed, the Lord will prompt the right questions by what the Lord says to that man, so that the knowledge of that man will reach into the heavens. (See Ether 3: 9-20
Therefore, you must not only “pray always unto the Father in Christ’s name,” but you must also grow in understanding, humility and meekness so you may “ask the Father” for that “which is right.” This is a process. Christ is explaining it in His sermon.