Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I’ve never had a prayer answered. Everybody tells me it can’t be the Lord’s fault, so it must be mine. What am I doing wrong?

New Era

A marvelous answer to a boy’s prayer is the basis for the restored Church. Joseph Smith was trying to decide which church to join. He had attended many of them and was reading his scriptures seeking guidance. The verse in James 1:5–6 told him to turn to the Lord in prayer. The answer he received changed both his life and our lives as well. In addition, the First Vision taught us that prayer was the way to commune with God and receive revelation from him.

Of course, our prayers will not all be answered by visits from Heavenly Beings. Often the answer we need and ask for is just a comfortable feeling that the decision we are making is right. A problem arises when one person tries to tell another how a prayer should be or will be answered. As you have read individual experiences written by different authors in the New Era, you may have noticed that people receive answers to their prayers in many ways. Don’t be discouraged because your prayers don’t seem to be answered in the same way as someone else’s. We can, however, give you some encouragement and suggestions that might be helpful.

Sister Darcee Benge, a missionary in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, wrote us about how she learned that her prayers were being answered. She wrote, “I have always believed that God was there, but like you, I felt that he had never answered my prayers. It wasn’t until later that I realized he had been answering my prayers all along. When I prayed about big decisions in my life like college and a mission, I was waiting for a force through my body and a voice saying, ‘Yes, do this!’ That never happened to me. As the days went by, situations would arise that encouraged me and made my decisions easier to make. When the time came to make a final decision, I felt good about what I was doing, and it seemed like a good idea. I have had many prayers answered in this way. I just didn’t realize it until later. Another thing I have to remember is that what I want isn’t always what God wants for me. I have to trust in his ways.”

The Lord will always listen to our prayers, but we should make a real effort to be prepared, humble, gentle, patient, and to keep the Lord’s commandments (see Alma 7:23). Then we can go to the Lord in prayer feeling confident that we have done as much as we can do.

Continue to be prayerful. Listen to the experiences of others when they have learned to recognize how their prayers are answered. Then when you pray try to get away from the noise and interruptions of everyday life. Feel free to talk to the Lord from your heart. He has promised that he will listen, and gradually you will learn how to hear the answers.

Readers

Sometimes answers are given but we don’t recognize what they are. Recently, there was a problem before me. I prayed and asked Heavenly Father for help. Then I opened my scriptures and read. The verse I read wasn’t an answer, but the thought it provoked was. You might not think that a stray thought is the answer, but it can be. You have to listen to hear it.

Hannah Thompson, 19 Salt Lake City, Utah

We need to be sensitive to the Spirit to find out how our prayers will be answered. There are many ways we can receive answers such as reading scriptures, talking with family members, receiving advice from friends. For myself, I know that God will answer prayers. But we must do our part in receiving the answers.

Elder Sundar Anderson, 19 Bangalore, India

Prayer is a spiritual thing that needs to be done gently and meaningfully. Try kneeling and just concentrating on the Lord for a while and getting all distracting thoughts out of your mind. When you start your prayers, try to talk to Heavenly Father as you would a close friend. You’ll find out that he is.

Esther Bishop, 18 Magna, Utah

I know if we keep the covenant which we have made with God, he will surely answer us at all times. I know if we try as much as possible to always exercise our faith in him, that he will continue to bless us abundantly.

Blessing Ohabughiro, 18 Lagos, Nigeria

I never used to listen, and never thought my prayers were answered. After you’ve prayed, spend time listening. Open your scriptures. Don’t just go off and listen to some music or watch TV. Give the Lord a chance to reply, and, most of all, have faith that he will answer. You’ll know when your prayers have been answered. It feels really good, believe me.

Melanie Cottle, 19 Bath, England

Sometimes it takes time for the answer to come. And sometimes the answer is no.

Shannon Smith, 18 Anchorage, Alaska

We need to pray sincerely and faithfully. Our prayers are answered in many ways. We need to be willing to wait for the answer.

Elder Alfonso Cabudol, 20 Philippines Cebu Mission

Let’s say you ask your parents to meet you halfway in getting a new bike. You would do whatever possible to raise your half. The same applies to prayer. You ask the Lord for something in prayer and you need to do whatever you can to help find the answer.

Nicole Crawley, 13 Council, Idaho

[photo] Photography by Melanie Shumway

[illustration] As a confused 14-year-old, Joseph Smith found his answer: “I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God” (JS—H 1:13). (Painting by Dale Kilbourne.)