Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Answers to Prayer

Returning to the topic of prayer: In an early post, I talked about Joseph Smith’s rather dramatic answer to his first prayer spoken out loud: he received a visitation from God the Father and Jesus Christ. Subsequently, Joseph received other heavenly visitations as a result of his prayers, and those visitations played key roles in the restoration of the Lord’s church on earth.

When I served as a missionary in Germany, we taught a gentleman the gospel. He was thoughtful and studious, and ended up not joining the church. When we spoke to him about his decision, he said he had prayed as he walked through a park in a very calm part of the city we lived in. And, interestingly, he prayed specifically not to have a visitation of any kind. At the time I thought that an odd request for at least two reasons. First, it had never occurred to me that I might have a heavenly visitation as a result of my prayers, and second, I would have welcomed the certainty that such a visitation would have brought.

But my prayers, especially when I was a young man, were rarely answered as I expected, or hoped. As a freshman at BYU, I made a half-hearted effort to scale Squaw Peak behind the Provo Temple in an effort to have an “Enos” experience. (Enos is a young man in the Book of Mormon who prays all day and into the night to gain forgiveness for his sins and hears the voice of the Lord.) Looking back, I’m astounded at the hubris that I should dictate to the Lord how He should reveal himself to me.

That prayer was answered, but days later, and in a rather specific way (to me) so that I knew it was an answer to that prayer, though no one else would have known. It was in that answer, given in the Lord’s way and time, that signaled to me what tender mercies the Lord held for me, regardless of my youthful demands that He present Himself on my terms.

Over the years my prayers have changed from lists of wants (albeit righteous ones, I think) with a perfunctory “Thy will be done” tacked on at the end to seeking greater understanding of His will for me and greater acceptance of what comes in my life and more help in knowing how I can and should respond to events I do not control. I find greater peace in my more recent prayers.

It is not a lack of faith that drives me to less demanding prayers. In fact, I think it is greater faith that does so. My doing so is driven by a conviction that my Father in Heaven loves me, and I can have faith enough to trust his promises that He will care for me in the way I need it the most.

- Paul

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