One night I was sending instant messages on the Internet to Amber, a friend of mine. I can’t recall how we got started, but we were discussing God and my religious beliefs.
“I’m telling you, Ben, I’ve tried to pray before, and it doesn’t work. I just feel like I’m talking to the wall,” Amber wrote.
Relying on everything I had been taught since Primary, I responded, reassuring her that God does hear and answer His children who humbly approach Him. As I was reassuring her, I started to feel less sure myself. I began to feel guilty since I had never actually gotten down on my knees and prayed about all these things. The conversation progressed, and I became increasingly distressed at my lack of a personal testimony. My spiritual progression had been on the back burner for too long.
As a lifelong member of the Church, I sometimes took the gospel for granted. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that being in the Church was good, and I made sure I went to church every Sunday. However, I always depended on the testimonies of others to confirm that the Church was true. I always tried to be faithful, but I did not actively seek to apply Moroni’s promise to myself. Life was too complicated, and I thought there would be plenty of time for me to gain a personal testimony of the Church at some later point.
As I talked with Amber, I realized even more clearly what I was doing. I was neglecting the more spiritual things in my life in favor of trying to keep up with my hectic schedule. When was the last time I had read the scriptures? When was the last time I had a meaningful personal prayer? When was the last time I seriously thought about going on a mission?
Preoccupation with trying to calm my life’s storm by myself had taken away from my focus on building a testimony and having faith in the Lord. Ironically, a solid testimony would have served to make everything else in my life fall into place.
“Amber, don’t give up on praying. He will answer you,” I wrote, while thinking that I should follow my counsel.
Before I went to bed that night, I got on my knees and prayed. I asked to know if the gospel is true and if Heavenly Father was hearing my prayer. I wanted to know Him and feel His presence in my life. I realized then that I simply couldn’t wait any longer to gain a testimony of Him, especially during my turbulent teenage years. I prayed for a long time and knelt in silence for even longer, listening and feeling for the Spirit.
Nothing happened right away, but after I had sufficiently loosened my heart and made a concentrated effort to listen amidst the quiet darkness, I felt a sensation of peace throughout my upper body. As I held on to this defining moment of joy, I knew His Spirit had touched me. Finally, I had a personal testimony of Him that I could share with others. Even though I knew my life would still be hard and full of uncertainties, knowing that He was there for me made all the difference.