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Prayer of an Atheist: Out Loud and in His Name

As an atheist, I knew nothing about prayer. But when I learned about Joseph Smith and the First Vision, I learned how to get answers from God.

"Thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart." -D&C 19:28

photo by eli defaria

I asked God every night for eight years if he was real, and I never got an answer. Growing up as an atheist, I knew very little about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to believe in them. Because I feared what my parents would think, I kept my prayers silently within my mind—hands clasped beneath my pillow so they wouldn’t see what I was doing.

It wasn’t until I learned from the missionaries about the First Vision that I realized I could make my prayers more powerful. The Church’s new video on the First Vision reflects how Joseph Smith’s experience laid down the template for my own conversion: I needed to pray out loud and in Jesus Christ’s name.

Like Joseph Smith, I had never “made the attempt to pray vocally” (Joseph Smith—History 1:14). I was never taught to speak with God using my voice in addition to my thoughts. This same principle is found in Doctrine and Covenants 19:28: “Thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart.” This isn’t to say Heavenly Father won’t hear our silent prayers; he just wants to hear us speak with him out loud as well. For me, talking with him out loud made all the difference; as I began to vocalize my prayers, I finally felt like I was actually speaking to someone instead of just thinking to myself.

In addition to learning to pray out loud, I learned from the First Vision video how important Jesus Christ’s role is in our communication with Heavenly Father. The only words God spoke to Joseph Smith during the First Vision were, “This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17). Jesus Christ is the one who spoke with Joseph; he is God’s messenger. Additional insights can be found in the new First Vision video: Jesus Christ steps down from Heavenly Father’s side, coming closer to Joseph and visually showing his role as mediator between man and God. This imagery reminded me how essential it is to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, for it is through him that we commune with God.

The story of the First Vision taught me that I needed to pray vocally and in the name of Jesus Christ. Once I began to do so, my prayers were more powerful, and my relationship with God was strengthened. Whenever we have questions, we can pray to Heavenly Father, and he will answer our questions. We just have to be patient and willing to truly communicate with him—out loud and in Christ’s name.

Watch the Church’s new video on the First Vision.


—Olivia Snow, Mormon Insights

feature image by arkady lifshits

Find more insights

Read various accounts of the First Vision.

Watch “The Hope of God’s Light,” a short video about another atheist who found God’s light.

Read “How Prayer Can Change Your Life” for personal stories about how prayer can change lives.

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