The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a wonderful thing. It provides the opportunity for all of God’s children to find some rest and peace in this turbulent world. Of course, life is still not always easy but the Savior promises us support in our struggles. He said “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) We can find solace and comfort through the power of prayer.
Prayer is a miraculous gift. We have been sent to Earth to live by faith and yet we have been provided with something so precious as it allows us to contact the Being who allowed us to come here. However, there are some very important things to remember with prayer. Prayers are not an opportunity to place an order and accept things instantly. To begin with, a look in the Bible Dictionary will tell us “Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” Prayer is the means by which we can come closer to God and, as such, bring our will closer to His. We can ask for blessings and if we receive that blessing, it is because the Lord is willing to give it to us and would have if we asked.
Because of these truths, prayer is therefore something which of course should require some effort on our part. If we take a casual attitude to our prayers, then we can expect nothing less than “casual” responses (not that I am suggesting our loving Heavenly Father will care less). In fact, we will not receive great blessings because our desires will not be aligned with our Father’s and so if we don’t receive something we think we need (but it actually is not best for us) then we will feel that Heavenly Father is casual in our attitude to us.
Of course there are times it may feel like we have not been answered. We were teaching our 4-year-old son in our Family Home Evening this evening and I had found this beautiful story in the lesson on Prayer in the Family Home Evening Resource Book. It reads:
It was Saturday morning, and father was home. He had brought some work from the office to complete and went into the study to be alone.
(1) Soon his little daughter came into the room crying. Someone had broken her new doll. Her father told her not to worry: he would fix her doll. She thanked her father and ran happily back to play.
(2) Next his son came in. He asked his father for money to buy a new model boat to take sailing with his friends. His father took time to explain that the boy had already received his weekly allowance two days ago with the understanding that it was to take care of such things.
(3) His teenage daughter came in next. She wanted a new dress for the coming dance. Her father told her that she would have to wait. He told her that if she saved as much as she could herself, he would help her buy the new dress.
(4) His teenage son interrupted the father next. The son was doing his homework and needed help with a problem. His father gave him some suggestions, but did not work the problem for him. A few minutes later, his son returned to say, “Thank you for the idea you gave me. It worked!”
(5) Finally, the youngest child came in. His father looked down at the boy and asked kindly, “What do you want, son?” “I don’t want anything,” the little boy answered as he reached his arms around his father’s neck and kissed him. “I just wanted to be with you.”
I loved this. I wish I knew this story when I was on my mission. One of the most asked questions was around why God didn’t answer them, or why was God not responding to that person they knew. This story breaks down various, reasonable suggestions as to how a loving father works – and it is the same with our loving Heavenly Father.
For (1) the child was ready to receive and the father listened, intervened and supported the children. In this instance, the child does need that help but cannot help themselves and so the father listens and acts.
For (2) the child had to understand responsibility. They were listened to but did not get the response they wanted. If they were to receive it they would quickly become spoiled and presume to receive things whenever they wish. They had to learn to do without the thing they didn’t really need.
For (3) the child again was listened to by this loving parent. This was a blessing that was required, but this child had means wherewith they could contribute. It would be foolish of the parent to give the money or the blessing in full instantly – what would the child learn? They had to put the work in beforehand and the father would make up the rest.
For (4) the child had to work out the answer themselves. If they were given the answer they would not grow or develop. The loving parent listened and gave suggestions but then let the child go away and work it out. As a result, the child was so grateful to the parent and had developed.
For (5) the child clearly loved their father. They only wanted to interact to say how much they loved their parent and were grateful for all he had done for them. I’m sure Heavenly Father would love to receive more prayers like this!
Even if you do not receive responses right away, do not despair. Your Father in Heaven does listen and wants to hear your heartfelt prayers.
Thinking about all this – I was visiting another ward to speak in on Sunday and a sister missionary spoke before me (again). She spoke of prayer and an experience she had over Christmas. All the missionaries were invited on Christmas Day to engage in a 45 minute prayer. As this daunting task lay before her, she planned what she would discuss with her Heavenly Father and was able to pause for answers. This illuminated me. In all my years of, quite frankly, failing to consistently hold meaningful prayers I had never thought of this! Actually sitting down and planning what I would discuss in my prayers. I am a very methodical person so I am hoping to try this out and see if it works!