One of the concerns the poor of the Zoramites had was that they could not worship in the synagogues they had built. The upper class had kicked the lower class out. Therefore these people wanted to know how to worship. Alma taught them that they were not confined to pray in one place or once a week. He cited the scriptures to them and taught them that they could pray anytime and anywhere.
In Alma 33:3-11, he cites Zenos who wrote that we can pray in the wilderness, in the field (at work), in our homes (as a family) and closets (personal prayer) and in our congregations (at our church meetings).
Zenos also teaches us an important part of prayer … sincerity. The Lord will hear our sincere prayers.
The Brazen Serpent
One of my favorite types or symbolism in all the scriptures is that of Moses raising the brazen serpent in the wilderness for all the Israelites to see. The children of Israel had been bitten by fiery serpents and would die if they did not look at the brazen serpent. The serpent is a type or symbol of Christ. All those who believe and look unto him shall live. In Alma 33, the Zoramites ask Alma how they can begin to exercise faith. Alma helps them remember this great type and exhorts them to do the same – to begin to believe in Christ.
A Spiritual Commandment
This scripture can be likened to us in these days too with just about any commandment. We must look always at the spiritual side of the commandments. In D&C 29:34 it states that all things are spiritual unto the Lord. Just as was the commandment to look on the brazen serpent was a commandment that physically saved the people, it was really a spiritual commandment. This teaches me that even though a commandment may be for protection from physical harm, the Lord has given that same commandment for the welfare of my soul. He is always concerned with the spirit first, the body second. Other references include D&C 101:37, Luke 12:22-31, Mark 8:35-36, Luke 10:38-42.
The Lord is constantly trying to teach us. All commandments are given for the benefit of our spirituality and coming to him. I need to look at the spiritual implications of all commandments, for this is what matters most. The spirit will continue to live forever, but the body will die soon and be laid down under the Earth only to raise and match the beauty of my spirit in stature and attractiveness.
Faith and Action
The brazen serpent did not heal the Israelites. It was their faith in Moses and the Lord that healed them. The important lesson learned by the Israelites was that they needed to believe in and follow the Lord and the Lord's prophet.
As Alma 33:20 points out, "there were many who were so hardened that they would no look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would no look is because they did not believe that it would heal them."
The point Alma was trying to make to the Zoramites was that they need to believe in Christ. If they would simply believe that Christ would come (Alma 33:22) and exercise faith in Him through prayer, then they too would be spiritually healed. They were not required to do some spectacular, complex ritual. All that the Israelites had to do was look and they would be saved. All that the Zoramites have to do is pray and their testimonies would grow. And going back to the point on prayer … the Zoramites did not have to pray on a specific day in a specific place. As Alma had taught them, they could pray anywhere and anytime … virtually as easy as looking on a brazen serpent.
Now to bring this back to applicable use today. How many things are we asked to do that are so simple that we do not do them? Would we "rather harden [our] hearts in unbelief, and be slothful" in keeping these simple, yet vital commandments? How easy is it for us to kneel and pray? How easy is it for us to take a few minutes each day and read from the scriptures? These simple things will save us and put and keep us on a path to discipleship.