Alma 38:14 —Forgive My Unworthiness
Shiblon was steady. He was faithful. He brought joy to his father. He was persecuted—including being stoned and bound–and he handled it patiently because the Lord was with him. Many faithful disciples can relate to Shiblon and may take to heart the words of this chapter. For instance, each one can be reminded:
- There is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ
- As ye have begun to teach the word even so I would that ye should continue to teach
- See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom
- Refrain from idleness
After giving the above advice, Helaman provides Shiblon with specific guidance for his prayers. First, he should not pray to be heard of men or to be recognized for his wisdom. Second, he should not say, “I thank thee that we are better than our brethren” but rather say: “O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy—yea, acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times” (Alma 38: 14). It is not very often that we are told exactly what to say in our prayers.
Although the phrase Shiblon is taught to use may not fall under the “we thank thee” or “we ask thee” parts of prayer that we may have learned as children, beginning our prayers with the phrase, “O, Lord forgive my unworthiness,” may put our hearts in a better place to be taught. Perhaps our prayers will be less list-like and more humble pleading.
A change of mind occurs from simply saying and meaning the phrase: “O, Lord forgive my unworthiness.” Prideful and self-centered feelings flee. When we fall on our knees and ask for the list of things we desire, we are focused on that never-ending list. On the other hand, falling on our knees and asking the Lord to forgive our unworthiness can focus us on our dependence on the Lord, our need for His strength and grace, and our need for repentance. This genuine humility can then put us in a place to really be taught, to hope and to trust. We are reminded it is not about us and what we want, it is about the Savior and what He offers.
Elder Ronald Poelman taught, “Knowing we have offended our Father in Heaven, we are afraid to ask his help, feeling that we don’t deserve it. Paradoxically, when we are most in need of the Lord’s influence we deserve it least. Nevertheless, in such circumstances he says to us, as Jesus said to the trembling Peter, “Fear not.” (Luke 5:10.)” [i]
Our Father in Heaven never wants us to feel so overcome with our transgressions and weaknesses that we become hopeless and discouraged. He loves us unconditionally. He asks us to hope. He wants us to know there ALWAYS IS hope. That hope can only come from the Savior. We can be forgiven of our unworthiness because of Him. Remembering this truth when we pray can fill our hearts with joy.
Hopefully, we will follow the counsel to include this power phrase in our prayers. Perhaps, it is faithful followers who need to be reminded the most of this particular counsel.
“O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy—yea, acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times”