I have been pondering prayer and receiving answers to prayers this past week.
I think of the things I prayer for… greater faith, love, holiness, wisdom, discernment, God’s grace, courage, patience, the joy that only God can grant along with the basic daily needs my family and I stand in need of each day… and I think of the times my answer was not what I expected.
The thing is, I know that God answers prayers. I know that God loves me and that He loves those I love. I know God truly knows me; he knows me better than I know myself. God knows what is best for ALL of His children. However, we can’t help it. We often have unrealistic, romantic ideas and expectations of what God’s answers to our prayers will be.
We are often unprepared for the answers we receive from God. I think God has 3 answers for His children: 1. Yes! 2. Not yet. 3. I have something better in mind. These answers often surprise us. Sometimes it feels like we didn’t get an answer at all. Sometimes the answers look more like problems. Sometimes the answers look like loss, disappointment, affliction, conflict, or sorrow. These answers cause deep soul wrestling or brings to our remembrance our short comings, doubts or fears. Sometimes the answer is a lesson; many of the greatest gifts and deepest joys that God gives come wrapped in painful packages.
There are some prayers that we can expect a consistent answer from God. For example, if we ask God for greater, deeper love for Him, we will be given opportunities to repent, to rely on the Atonement of Christ and to forgive others (Luke 7:47). If we ask God for greater love for others He will give us opportunities to serve and some of those opportunities may even be inconvenient or irritating (Luke 10:29). If we ask God to be nearer, to feel His hand in our lives, the answer may feel like a broken heart. Remember, God is near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). If we ask God for a deeper experience with His grace, we may get an answer that challenges our pride and humbles our hearts (James 4:6). If we ask God for greater discernment and wisdom, we may get a stream of options or experiences that will give us practice in distinguishing good from evil (Hebrews 5:14). If we ask God to help us increase our faith we will be blessed with situations where we discover that we must trust the Lord’s promises, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). If we ask for our joy to made full, we may be blessed that cause earthly joys we once thought would give us all we ever wanted become empty and hollow and a loss that pushes us toward the Lord, push you to search for a better relationship with Christ (Philippians 3:8).
Elder Richard G. Scott taught, “Often when we pray for help with a significant matter, Heavenly Father will give us gentle promptings that require us to think, exercise faith, work, at times struggle, then act. It is a step-by-step process that enables us to discern inspired answers” (Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer, April 2007).
I am beginning to realize, that with regards to answers to prayers, I need to expect the unexpected. When God answers my prayers I often find His answers confusing. Circumstances take unexpected turns, health gets worse, finances get more difficult, spiritual and emotional struggles emerge that don’t really seem to be connected. I’ve been in a place where I am seeking answers and I feel like I am moving backward. I have cried out in painful confusion and frustration. I fail to see that God truly is answering my prayers. I just expected the answer to be easy, to look and feel different. I have even been tempted to not ask god for greater joy. I mean, who wants an unpleasant answer to a prayer of joy?
I have learned that God seldom gives the answer all at once. I have discovered that He gives answers in small packages, a little at a time, that if followed in faith will lead to the next portion of the answer until I have discovered the “big picture.” This process requires me to trust, to exercise faith. It is hard. However, I am beginning to notice significant personal growth as I move through God’s purposes and direction.
I admit, it is hard when my heart felt prayers are not answered the way I want or expected. It is hard to understand why my efforts to exercise deep and sincere faith and obedience to the commandments and the promptings of the Spirit do not grant the desired result. My experience has taught me that I cannot be sucked into the “why me?” thinking that often creeps in when the answer is not what we have been dictating to the Lord. After all, Jesus promised, “Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). The Savior also taught, Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you” (D&C 88:64). I think we often overlook that expedient part. Jesus also taught that the path to full joy would be hard (John 16:33). WE should take that path. I don’t want low, shallow, thin joys. I want FULL joy! I need to remember I am going to have to work to truly gain such joy. Life is so much better when we accept and embrace that what God does in my life is for my ETERNAL good.
Answers seldom come while I am still on my knees. I must seek quiet moments so that the Spirit can prompt me and lead me.
President David O. McKay testified, “It is true that the answers to our prayers may not always come as direct and at the time, nor the manner, we anticipate; but they do come, and at a time and in a manner best for the interests of him who offers supplication.”
- When looking for God’s answer to prayers, expect the unexpected.
- Be thankful that God sometimes lets you struggle for a long time before the answer is clear. It is in the struggle that your character grows and your faith increases.
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