When I was a small boy, my brother and I often walked five miles to the ranch where my father worked. In the summer it was hot and dusty. As we trudged along, sweat dripping from our faces, I prayed that around the next bend we would find two horses with saddles and bridles so that we could ride swiftly to the ranch. My prayers were never answered—or so I thought. Now I realize that they were always answered, but the answer was no.
When I was about 12 years old, my father became very ill with bone cancer. I prayed and prayed that he would get well, but he grew steadily worse until finally he died, leaving my mother alone to care for 10 children. I could not understand why the Lord didn’t answer my prayers or why my father was taken from us. We felt that we needed him much more than the Lord did. However, as the years went by I learned that the Lord’s ways are not necessarily the easiest ways. We all missed my father a great deal, but I came to understand that the struggles we endured without him made us stronger and helped to build character in each of us. Although it was very difficult for my mother to rear 10 children alone, because of her great faith in Heavenly Father and her constant prayers, all of us grew to love the Lord and to be faithful members of the Church.
Heavenly Father looks at things from an eternal perspective and answers our prayers individually, according to what is best for us. We never know what will come to us along the pathway of life. The Lord sometimes prepares us by saying no so that he can teach us lessons that will help us become better people. These lessons can make us strong enough to resist temptations. They can help us identify with others who may be even less fortunate than we, which helps us to be more understanding and more willing to help carry their burdens.
Later on in my life, many of my prayers were answered with a yes. One such time was when I received a pocketknife for my Christmas gift. This was a rare and a fine gift for someone in my humble circumstances, and I cherished it with all my heart and took very good care of it. However, in the springtime, a terrible thing happened—I lost my pocketknife! I searched everyplace I could think of but could not find it. The days went by, and each day I continued to search and pray. Some weeks later as I was returning home from school, my brother came running as fast as he could, shouting that he had found my pocketknife. I was overjoyed and so thankful that Heavenly Father had finally answered my prayers.
In this case, my prayers were answered with a yes. Heavenly Father knew that this answer would strengthen my faith. Since that time, I have had many, many prayers answered, but not all have been answered with a yes.
Heavenly Father will always answer your prayers. The answer may not be yes, but if he answers with a no, just remember that he loves you very much and he knows what will be for your best good. As time goes by, you will come to know that his answers are always the right ones for you.