“Drat!” Ben slapped the water in disgust as he watched his scuba man settle at the bottom of his uncle’s swimming pool—again. His two plastic turtles floated just fine, but the plastic scuba diver kept slipping from his hand and sinking like a stone. Ben couldn’t dive to get it, so he had to keep asking his brother for help.
Ben knew that Heavenly Father helped people who had faith. When he had the scuba diver in his hand again, he closed his eyes and said a silent prayer: “Please don’t let my scuba man sink.” As soon as he had said amen, he opened his eyes and dropped the little plastic man into the water. It sank right back to the bottom. “Why didn’t Heavenly Father answer my prayer?” he wondered.
A few days later, Ben came home and found his mom cooking squishy broccoli casserole with slimy sauce. Ben hated broccoli. “Please, Heavenly Father,” he prayed. “Let me have ice cream for dinner instead of squishy broccoli.” But Mom still served broccoli and slimy sauce for dinner. “Why didn’t Heavenly Father answer my prayer?” Ben wondered again, poking a hunk of broccoli with his fork.
One afternoon, Ben’s mom said he had to clean up his room in the next 15 minutes if he wanted to play video games. Ben’s room was a big mess, with toys, clothes, and books all over the floor. Ben wanted to play video games, but he didn’t want to clean his room. “Please let my room be cleaned by magic,” he prayed. Fifteen minutes later when Mom came back to check, the room was still messy. Ben was not allowed to play video games. “Why didn’t Heavenly Father answer my prayer?” he wondered for the third time.
One night Ben awoke in the middle of the night with a terrible earache. His ear hurt so much that he had to go to the hospital. On the way, he prayed, “Heavenly Father, my ear hurts worse than anything has ever hurt me before. I really need help. Please help the doctors find a way to make my ear feel better.” Ben remembered that Heavenly Father hadn’t always given him what he asked for, but he tried to have faith and believe that the pain would go away.
At the hospital, the doctor gave Ben some medicine. It tasted yucky, but Ben swallowed it, and on the way home his ear started feeling better. He knew that Heavenly Father had answered his prayer.
As Mom tucked him back into bed, Ben told her about the scuba diver, the broccoli, and the messy room. “Why does Heavenly Father answer some prayers and not others?” he asked.
“Heavenly Father always answers our prayers,” she said. “But sometimes the answer is no if we ask for things that would be bad for us. He wants us to learn here on earth. What did you learn at the swimming pool?”
Ben thought for a minute. “I learned that some things float and some don’t,” he said. “And that I have a nice brother who will help me.”
Mom nodded. “Then there’s the casserole. I’m sorry you think that broccoli is squishy, but it’s good for you. Why do you suppose Heavenly Father let you eat it?”
Ben sighed. “Because he wants me to be healthy and strong.”
“And finally the messy room,” Mom said. “Why didn’t Heavenly Father clean it for you?”
“I guess because it’s my job, and I need to learn to do it.” Ben sat quietly for a minute, thinking. “But when I asked Heavenly Father to help the doctors to make my ear feel better, the answer was yes,” he said.
Mom nodded. “Yes, it was. But did your ear stop hurting the instant you asked?”
Ben frowned. “No. Why not?”
“Heavenly Father wants us to do all we can to help solve our problems. What did we do?”
“We went to the doctor, and I took the medicine he gave me, even though it tasted yucky.”
Mom smiled. “Heavenly Father helped the doctor to give you good medicine, and He helped your ear to feel better.”
Ben rubbed his ear. “Sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes it’s no.”
“And sometimes it’s ‘not yet,’” Mom added.
Ben hopped out of bed. “I’m going to thank Heavenly Father for helping the doctors to make my ear feel better,” he said. “And from now on, I’m going to try to ask for things that are good for me. Heavenly Father knows how to answer best.”
Mom gave him a hug. “I think that broccoli is making you smarter already!”
“[Heavenly Father] knows what is best for us. … When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence. When He answers no, it is to prevent error. When He withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him.”
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayer,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 31–32.