Context and General Information
- 2 Nephi 4:15-35 comprises what is commonly referred to as The Psalm of Nephi.
- Nephi feels sorrow because he has allowed sin into his heart.
- Nephi remembers and praises the Lord.
- Nephi forsakes his sin.
- Nephi resolves to do better.
- Nephi petitions the Lord.
Nephi Petitions the Lord
This is the sixth and final part of the study of the Psalm of Nephi. You can read:
- Part One – Nephi’s Grief – here
- Part Two – Nevertheless – here
- Part Three – Always Remembering – here
- Part Four – Nephi’s Analysis – here
- Part Five – Nephi Petitions the Lord – here
Before we start this post—a quick recap. First, Nephi grieved as he recognized his sin and the subsequent loss of the Spirit. Nephi’s sorrowing was poignant and genuine, but he didn’t allow himself to wallow in it. Instead, he stated: Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. After making this mental shift – he began to rejoice in the Lord. His rejoicing led him to ask him a few questions that help to buoy him up and motivate him back to righteousness. These questions then cause Nephi to increase his resolve and dedication to righteousness.
Finally, today, we will study Nephi’s petitions and promises to the Lord.
“O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?”
May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!
O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy. – 2 Nephi 4:31-33
So, here is a quick list of Nephi’s requests:
- Wilt thou redeem my soul? – Nephi seeks repentance for his sins. I don’t think this is only some far of request. I kind of think he wants to be forgiven as he asks so that he can again have the companionship of the Lord’s Spirit.
- Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? – Who are Nephi’s enemies – Satan, and in this instance, I think his brothers. It is kind of sad, but at the same time it’s just the truth. Nephi’s enemies (brothers!) have sought his life over and over again.
- Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? – This is another “enemy” that Nephi wants to overcome—his natural reaction to sin. He wants to quash the natural man and become a saint by yielding to the Spirit, so he asks God for help.
- May the gates of hell be shut continually before me – now Nephi doesn’t expect this to just “happen.” He understands that he needs a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
- Wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me – Nephi desires to tread on the Lord’s path. He has sought throughout his life to do as the Lord instructs. He wants to continue in this manner.
- Wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness – Again, Nephi is pleading for added strength from the Lord.
- Wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! – More pleading for support.
- Wilt thou make my path straight before me! – Sometimes the path is hard to find and hard to navigate. Nephi asks for aid. He wants to walk the Lord’s path.
- Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way, but clear my way before me – Nephi pleads for assistance.
These are interesting questions. It might be nice to ponder each of them individually one day, but I don’t really have the time to do that right now. However, this part is really standing out to me:
“…Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.” – 2 Nephi 4:33
I am really feeling this question right now. Sometimes the faithful path seems so difficult – that it is littered with stumbling blocks and obstacles. I understand that these obstacles are part of the path, but it can be hard! I know that these obstacles need to be overcome, but sometimes they hurt us.
I remember going on a hike a few years ago in the woods in Massachusetts. I had lived in Utah prior to living in Massachusetts. Hiking in Utah – at a high altitude and with a lot of elevation gain in hikes – was much harder. Yet one day, on a leisurely hike in Massachusetts, I stumbled on a rock and sprained my ankle.
This rock was in my path. I needed to walk over it, yet it was my downfall.
I understand Nephi’s prayer – that the stumbling blocks be cleared from our path so that our ways are not hedged up.
This concept is really hitting close to home right now. I’ve shared in blog posts before that I’ve been having some troubles with my heart – or at least I think it is my heart.
I’ve had a lot of things that are like stumbling blocks that seem to be “hedging up my path.” And it is a temptation for me to let these things fracture my faith. There are times when I have prayed that this path would simply be easier, rather than littered with “ankle biter” stones.
But the path remains rocky, and I’m reminded of the quote by Marcus Aurelius:
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius
There are times when are path is going to be rocky. That’s just the way that life is. We can pray that the Lord will clear our paths, but it’s important to understand that the Lord’s “clearing of our paths” rarely means that He will miraculously move these stones and make our walk easier.
Sometimes it means that we will find a path around the obstacle.
Sometimes it means that the Lord will teach us how to remove the obstacle ourselves.
And other times, the “clearing of our path” is a new set of eyes – so we can see that the obstacles that hinder our paths are not stumbling blocks, but stepping stones.
And though we may stumble along our path, we can rest assured, just as Nephi did. He closes his psalm/prayer with the most powerful testimony:
“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.” – 2 Nephi 4:34-35
As we walk in our paths of life, we can follow Nephi’s example. We can ask God for help and be open to the answers that He gives. When we ask in faith (and not amiss), He will hear our humble and heartfelt petitions. He will help to clear our paths, or to give us the strength and wisdom to negotiate them.
We can take courage as we remember the God in whom we have trusted. God is our Father. He loves us. He delights in blessings us with his greatest blessings. His glory and His purpose is our eternal life and salvation; His joy is our success. We have no need to fear the trials and difficulties of our lives. As long as we always remember Him and trust in Him, He will be our guide, our rock, our path, and our salvation.