This is a something I’ve really been wondering about lately. When we pray, it is to Heavenly Father and in the name of Jesus Christ. We can feel the Holy Ghost and receive promptings, and we pray to Heavenly Father. I’m not sure if you’ll get what I mean here but what’s Jesus’ “thing?” I’m assuming it’s the atonement, but does He also hear our prayers? I’ve prayed my whole life but I guess I never really thought about who I was praying to and I just assumed it was both of them.
Your assumption is correct. We offer our prayers in Jesus’ name because of His role in the Atonement. Recently, Sister Carol F. McConkie shared how “we engag[e] all three members of the Godhead in our utterances” when “[w]e pray to our Father in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” She speaks of all 3 members of the Godhead, and for the name of Christ she gives the following:
“We pray in the name of Jesus Christ because our salvation is in Christ, and ‘there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.'(Acts 4:12) We come unto the Father in the sacred name of Jesus Christ (D&C 93:19-20) because He is our Advocate with the Father and He does plead our cause.(D&C 45:3-5) … Sincere prayers offered in the holy name of Jesus Christ are an expression of our devoted love, our eternal gratitude, and our steadfast desire to pray as He prayed, to do as He did, and to become as He is.” (The Soul’s Sincere Desire, October 2016 General Conference).
Sister McConkie is here echoing a much older teaching. Adam was commanded to offer sacrifice and he obeyed. “After many days,” the scripture records, Adam is instructed on the purpose of this practice. “This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.” (Moses 5:6-8) Because Jesus Atoned for us, we are commanded to repent and call upon God in His name. Because Jesus redeemed and reconciled us to God, we are to act in His name (see also D&C 1:20).
Without the Atonement of Christ, our relationship with Heavenly Father is quite strained! Imagine, for a moment, a world permanently separated from God. The blessing of resurrection alone goes a long way toward that needed reconciliation. Jacob taught “if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to … the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 9:8-9) President John Taylor gives us a frightful list of blessings that are lost without the Atonement:
“Through [Christ] mankind are brought into communion and communication with God; through His atonement they are enabled, as He was, to vanquish death; through that atonement and the power of the Priesthood associated therewith, they become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, and inheritors of thrones, powers, principalities and dominions in the eternal worlds. And instead of being subject to death, when that last enemy shall be destroyed, and death be swallowed up in victory, through that atonement they can become the fathers and mothers of lives, and be capable of perpetual and eternal progression.” (Mediation and Atonement, page 141).
Mark well that first blessing. Jesus Christ, through His Atonement, has brought us back into communion with the Father and thus we are brought back into communication with God! Take it away and we lose our prayers! How grateful we are for the Atonement! But why must we invoke the name of Jesus?
President Taylor explained that when God makes a covenant, He includes some token (a symbol or gesture) to memorialize it. Returning to Adam, God gave him the token of sacrifice to memorialize the Lord’s covenantal sacrifice. After receiving the explanation of this token, Adam was given yet another token, which was the the name of the Son. (Ibid. 106-7).This token will continue to be in use until “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, … And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
I suspect that there is more on this subject that the Lord wishes to yet reveal. Continue to obediently ponder the significance of the name of Jesus as a token of the reconciliation, redemption, and sacrifice of the Atonement. After many days, as it was with Adam and his initial symbol, more will be revealed on why the Lord has asked us to call upon God in the name of the Son.