The Priesthood Keys and True Prayer
Mortal man’s relationship with God is spiritual. We cannot see him with our eyes, hear him with our ears, touch him with our hands, smell him with our noses, or taste him with our tongues right now. Mortal man cannot comprehend God by the five senses. As Paul said:
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. . . the things of the Spirit. . . are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:9-14).
Since we are out of God’s presence, our relationship or “fellowship” with God is strictly spiritual for now. One said it well: “We are not temporal beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a temporal experience.” Our only means of fellowship with him is prayer and revelation by the power of the spirit. As we seek to come into greater fellowship with God through prayer and revelation we come into greater fellowship with him gradually, line upon line, precept upon precept, growing from grace to grace in light and truth.
There is an order to prayer just as there is order throughout his house. True prayer is different than mechanical prayer. True prayer receives answers. D&C 124:95, 97 contains some interesting insight. Joseph is commanded to show Hyrum and William keys whereby they could ask and receive:
That [Hyrum] may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him
Let my servant William Law also receive the keys by which he may ask and receive blessings. . .
What are the keys whereby we may ask and receive?
[Joseph] spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them with their husbands, that the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask the Lord and receive an answer. . . (TPJS, 226).
The four priesthood keys of spiritual power are the keys to asking and receiving an answer. They are the four keys of true prayer. They are given to us in a very specific order.
There are a hundred scriptures to this effect. This is the first key of prayer. Investigators don’t need to turn any of the other keys to get an answer to prayer. They don’t need to repent, stop smoking and drinking, let alone get baptized or confirmed. All they have to do to get an answer is to turn the first key of the priesthood by asking in faith. If they will sincerely ask with real intent having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of the gospel unto them. (Moroni 10:4-5). That is all they need to do to obtain an answer.
When the Lord answers, he reveals to the investigators that the missionaries are “true messengers.” The Holy Spirit carries the testimony of the missionaries to the heart of the investigators with power and they will know the truth. As simple as it seems this miraculous answer to prayer comes only if they turn this first key and ask in faith. If they do they will have taken the first step of spiritual fellowship with God.
Once they have the witness of the spirit they have two choices: 1) They can reject it, either immediately or later; or 2) they can receive it, then take the next step of fellowship by turning the next key -- exercising their faith unto repentance, starting to live more righteously, then entering the waters of baptism and making a covenant with God to keep his commandments.
Through this preparatory gospel they turn from sin to righteousness by seeking to keep the commandments. They have greater fellowship with God, more favor with him and greater power in their prayers.
Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. (1 John 3:21-22).
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. (1 Peter 3:12).
Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. (1 Nephi 17:35).
. . . Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord -- therefore he was favored of the Lord, for the Lord heard his prayers and answered them, and he took the lead of their journey in the wilderness. (Mosiah 10:13).
This is the second key of true prayer, the key to asking and receiving an answer -- the Lord favors the righteous, for he hears their prayers and answers them. These are his children who obey his commandments and enter into the waters of baptism with full purpose of heart to take upon themselves the name of Christ.
Once investigators are growing in faith and righteousness and in fellowship with God, we see the Holy Ghost, the third key, beginning to bless their lives:
And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit. . .
He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh. (D&C 46:28, 30).
The third key of the priesthood is the Holy Spirit, and the third key of prayer is to ask in spirit. As we grow in faith we will live more righteously because true faith always produces fruit, works and righteousness. As we grow in righteousness we are worthy to receive more of the spirit, meaning more light. Just as the spirit will not dwell in an unholy temple (see Helaman 4:24; Alma 34:36), so the spirit will grow and increase in a temple becoming more and more righteous and worthy. (See D&C 50:24). Remember, however, this is a gradual process. (See D&C 50:40).
Amulek gave an interesting warning to the saints, admonishing them to avoid being sealed in their wickedness by Satan. A profitable insight can be gleaned by restating his negative warning as a positive injunction without changing the meaning. Notice the notion of a long process at work here, either for good or evil:
For behold, if ye have not procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold ye have become subjected to the spirit of the Lord, and he doth seal you his; therefore the Spirit of the Lord hath filled you, and hath found a place in you, and the Lord hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the righteous. (See Alma 34:35).
As we grow in spirit, our prayers are influenced more and more by the light expanding within us. We grow in the knowledge of God, the knowledge of that which is just and true (see Mosiah 4:12), and our thoughts and requests to God become more and more in harmony with his holy mind and will. Asking in the spirit is the third key as we grow in our fellowship with God.
As we persevere, growing spiritually in light and truth, we will eventually reach the point where we obtain the fourth key. As part of obtaining the fourth key we can reach a point where we receive a very specific promise of the Lord:
. . .and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. (Helaman 10:5).
This is the fourth and grand key of prayer, the sealing power, wherein the Lord promises us that whatever is asked will be granted because he knows we will never ask for anything contrary to his will. That which we bind or seal on earth will be bound and sealed in heaven, and that which we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Whoever we bless God will bless and whoever we curse God will curse. All things shall be done according to our word.
The sisters have the right through the fullness of the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood and personal worthiness to receive the Second Comforter and this ultimate promise of the Lord.
Joseph Smith told the sisters of the Church:
If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates. Females, if they are pure and innocent [the same requirements apply for men], can come in the presence of God. . . (TPJS, 226-7).
This second Melchizedek Priesthood key is reserved only for those children of God who receive all four parts of the temple ordinance, including the preliminary entry into the patriarchal order of the priesthood known as the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Then proving themselves to be true and faithful in all things, they eventually have this fourth key sealed upon them by revelation and the spirit of prophecy through the power of the Holy Priesthood and the Holy Spirit of promise, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. (See D&C 131:5; 132:19).