For a long time I had a secret thing about the gospel that bothered me: God wasn’t answering my prayers. I mean, I get that I wasn’t noticing answers to my “vain repetitions”, but I also felt like I had experienced very few moments where I had knelt and asked God for an answer and received one.
Part of the problem was that I had heard a number of other people share that they had received answers to their prayers, right there, while they were kneeling and pleading.. And what added to the problem, I was a bishop and had prayed, repeatedly, about who should serve in what calling and other bishop-related prayers. A couple years into my bishoping and I couldn’t think of any moments where I had felt a distinct answer to prayer while I was still kneeling, waiting for the answer.
Now, before you think, “What a lame bishop. He just guessed about where people should serve and told them it was revelation…”, let me share the rest… I mean, I probably was a lame bishop, but that wasn’t the reason.
In the April 2007 session of General Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott addressed the topic of prayer and shared a thought that brought great relief to me at the time:
“[God] will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them. However, His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. Rather, He will prompt you in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart. Hence, you should find periods of quiet time to recognize when you are being instructed and strengthened. His pattern causes you to grow.” (General Conference, April 2007)
Wait. Did you just say that God will seldom answer me when I’m on my knees? I can’t tell you how nice that was to hear! Years of thinking I was “not doing it right”! Because here’s the thing: I really had felt the Lord’s hand in the callings in my ward and other matters I had taken to Him. I had prayed, almost desperately about who should serve in certain callings. Then, I’d talk with my counselors and ponder all week. I’d drive around and think and pray and wonder. Over the course of the week, I’d receive a little impression about a couple people. I’d talk to my counselors some more. I’d think about these people’s family situations. Would it bless their family? Would it bless the auxiliary, class, or quorum they would lead? Would it bless them, individually? Finally, after narrowing down the list of people who could serve well in the calling, I’d finally feel certain about one of them. I’d visit with my counselors and when we all felt like the Spirit had whispered, we’d extend the call. The answers always came, but almost never while I was originally praying and on my knees.
I know there are many stories of people receiving answers while in the middle of asking and over the years, I’ve noticed a few moments like that in my life, too. But the pattern that Elder Scott shared has been a blessing to me for years…Have you noticed a similar pattern?
By the way, the whole talk is wonderful and worth reading… “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer”…